## Kids and Addition and Subtraction

If you are a first or second grade teacher or the parent of a first or second grader, you have undoubtedly observed that children find addition easier and more natural than subtraction. Children struggle with subtraction even when they learn “fact families” (1+3=4, 3+1=4, 4-1=3, 4-3=1) that ostensibly help them understand the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Given that children continue to find subtraction difficult despite the use of time-honored practices, I suggest that teachers and parents de-emphasize fluency in subtraction until their children become fluent in addition. Once children’s knowledge of a sum is solid, the related subtraction is easy for them. In other words, fluency in subtraction is dependent on fluency in addition.

The educational implication is that teachers and parents must de-emphasize fluency in subtraction in grades one and two and heavily emphasize addition. Permit children to learn sums first and then deduce differences from their knowledge of sums.

It is imperative that children have, in long-term memory, all the combinations of numbers up to and including 10.

*Example*: Students need to know all the combinations of 9 – 0+9, 1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5, 5+4, 4+5, 3+6, 7+2, 8+1, 9+0

There is an easy and fun way to get children fluent in addition – math games! Children are intrinsically motivated to play games and to play them well. If they learn arithmetic in the process, they learn it for their own use. When teachers or parents instruct children to complete worksheets or pressure them to do well on timed tests, the children’s motivation to learn comes from external sources, and workbook pages, dittos, and timed tests aren’t nearly as much fun!

Here’s one of my favorite math games for first graders and second graders:

**Add-em Up**

What you need:

2 players

2 dice

counters

Add-em Up game board for each player – take a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and cut it in half horizontally. Write the numbers 1 through 12 at the bottom of each paper.

Players place a counter above each number.

Player #1 rolls the dice and adds the 2 numbers. He/she may then remove the counter over the sum from the game board or the counters over any 2 numbers that add up to that same sum.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and a 4. He/she may remove the

counter above the 7 or the counters above any

combination for 7, such as 1 & 6, or 2 & 5, or 3 & 4.

Players take turns rolling the dice and removing counters. When a player cannot remove counters that match the sum rolled or a combination, he/she loses that turn.

Play continues until neither player can remove counters. The player with the most counters removed wins.