Learning Math & Understanding Math

Date: Mar 18, 2013

Today, I sat beside Jay Jay and see him doing his term break math homework.

In school the teachers taught him a lot of method. Count up, count fingers, number bonding, etc. But he seems to be struggling in a certain type of math questions…

Jay: “it’s very hard…”
Me: “Which one?”
Jay:”2 plus something equal to 20. What is that something?”

And I saw him count up from 2. And he added 18 using his fingers.

So, I told him. Didn’t you learn the Good Friend song? He learned that from the CMA class.

“One nine two eight three seven, four six five five makes a ten…”

Why don’t you use that to solve the math number bonding of

2 + __ = 20

At first, he was a bit puzzle what I meant…

Later I explain to him that the 2 have to add to a number bigger than 10. So, he needs only to find the single digit of the missing bond. And to do so, because it is a good friend (10) song, the answer is eight (8) in the single digit.

So the answer is

2 + 18 = 20

Instead of using finger to count, he can use the song to remember and do the mental arithmetic fast.

He understood what I said and then, he finished the whole page at much faster pace. Instead of using the finger to count.

So, for question such as

__ + 14 = 20

I taught him that since 14 has a ten in there, you need only to find the best friend of single digit “4”. Which is six (6). So he got it and be able to solve the math fast by covering the (1) in the tenth digit and figure out which good friend is missing.

For questions such as

7 + 8 + 4 = __

It would be easier to draw a line below 7+8 and write the partial answer of 15 and then proceed with finger counting 15+4 which equal to 19.

At first he was struggling on how to find a three way addition answer.


1. For the beginning, you really need to sit beside your kid and watch how he solve the math. What he learned from school does not necessary mean that he understand math. Watch him, observe him and if he struggle, ask him how he trying to get the answer, and figure the best way to make him understand in layman.

2. Sometimes if he says he knows and understand, that does not mean that he really understands. You will need to give a few more drills from time to time to see if he remembers and he understands.

3. Most of the time if he has got it. He will skip a lot of steps. But since he is P1 at learning stage, make or force him follow the steps. Such as regardless how easy is the question, must always under line the first part of the equation to show work. And write the answer below. And proceed to solve the rest of the equation.

4. You are the parent and don’t always think that teaching is not your job. Most if the parents will tends to check the answer at the end of the exercise but not sit thru and observe how your kid complete the exercise. In my opinion, even the answer is correct but you may not know how he got the answer and whether it not he got the answer using the better method. So some kids will need this sort of help during their growing times. As a parent if you can afford the time, always stay beside them and watch over them. Don’t have to be with them 100% all the time but at least 20% to see the process.

I also learn a lot of new stuffs when I was doing the home work with him. Like that hope that Jay Jay’s thinking process can be trained so that next time it will be easier on the parents role.

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