The idea of number pairs and triads in math helps kids to make sense of
the work they are doing.
The youngest of children understand that 5 + 5 = 10. This is a good place
for you to start because it is easy to see and, therefore, concrete: five
fingers on one hand plus five fingers on the other hand equals ten fingers
A next big step comes with the understanding that numbers can be paired
differently to make ten. Thus, children learn the various pairs (1 + 9,
2 + 8, 3 + 7, etc.). Ten, the third number that makes these triads, is
a building block of math in many cultures, so it is a good piece of information
A solid understanding of addition generally precedes that of subtraction.
Help your child to see that the same pairs in an equation such as 7 + 3
= 10 can be manipulated to make two subtraction equations: start with 10,
subtract one of those numbers (3) and the answer is the other number (7).
Once your child begins working with multiplication, the same principle
is true when you compare multiplication and division equations. Take the
three numbers, manipulate them, and you can turn multiplication triads
into division triads: 9 x 7 = 63 becomes 63 (division sign) 7 = 9.
In working with your youngsters this way, they must thoroughly understand
concrete examples before they move on to abstract ideas with numbers. In
recognizing this, you help to ensure that they are not just parroting answers
to you; there is true understanding behind what they are saying.
Above all, try to find ways for math games to be an enjoyable activity
with your children. For example, a first grade teacher colleague tells
me that she used to play a game called Contact with her grandmother. In
that game, the challenge was always to come up with combinations of numbers
that added up to 15. As a result, she had an enjoyable time playing with
her grandmother and she has always maintained that solid understanding
of these combinations.
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís
Advice for Parents.