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All Places > Explore > Parents as Partners > Primary Learners (Gr. 1-3) Curriculum Supports > Blog > 2015 > April > 21

kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgbasic_math_tips_460x260.jpgKevin Williams is the Program Consultant for K-8 Numeracy with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, and a senior tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.



Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about “returning to the basics” when it comes to math education.  The fact of the matter is that our current Ontario Mathematics Curriculum for grades 1 to 8 does focus on the basic math facts – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There is no arguing that knowledge of the basic facts is important and supports children later on with more complex problem solving and larger number computations.


Mastery of the basic facts means that your child can give a quick response to a basic operation question.  Now much like every math concept there is a developmental process with this, and the time it takes students to achieve mastery will vary.  Another difference from when you and I learned our basic facts, which was most likely based on a lot of drill and memory work, is that today’s approach is based upon the research based approach of helping students develop reasoning strategies, and seeing relationships in numbers and operations.  It’s strategy, then memory!



Here are some tips to help support your child's learning of basic math facts:


    1. die.gifPlay board games with dice: In regular board games with multiple die have your kids calculate how many spaces to move adding the two (or more) values on the die.  You can change this up by having your child subtract, multiply, etc.

    2. Play card games like “Higher Number”:  Remove the face cards and put the rest of the cards face down in a pile. Each player takes two cards and adds the numbers. The player with the higher sum gets the other player’s cards. Keep going until the cards are gone. The player with the most cards is the winner. You can play the same game with subtraction - this time players subtract one card from another and the person with the lower difference (answer) gives up his or her cards. The player with the fewest cards at the end is the winner. You can play the same games with multiplication and division. (For more, see Doing Mathematics with Your Child: K to Grade 6)

    3. Use One More/Two More Than Strategy: Have your child focus on facts that have addends of 1 or 2.

                                                                           For example: 7 + 1 = 8;  8 + 2 = 10

    4. Use Doubles Strategy: Kids will learn their math facts faster if you use the doubles strategy – in other words have them add two numbers of the same value.

                                                                           For example: 1 + 1 ; 2 + 2 3 + 3; 4 + 4 etc…

      ♦ Doubles facts can help with multiplication, specifically with the two times table.  For example, 4 + 4 is the same as 4 x 2, 8 + 8 is the same as 8 x2. For multiplication, the two times table can be a good place to start as it connects nicely with children knowing their doubles facts from addition.

    5. Use Making 5 / Making 10 Strategy: Kids can add and subtract easier if they create friendly numbers like 5 and 10. Help your child break down the numbers to create these friendly numbers.

                                                                           For example: 4 + 3 is easier if you break down the 3,
                                                                           moving 1 over to the 4  (4 + 1 = 5), and then add 5 + 2 = 7

    6. Multiplication Magic: For the Nine Times Table, teach your kids this cool trick. Using their hands, kids can find the answer quickly by putting down the finger that corresponds with the number that 9 is being multiplied by. 
                                                                          For example, for 4 x 9, the fourth finger on the left hand goes down,
                                                                          what is to the left of that finger is the first number of the answer (3)
                                                                          and what is to the right is the second number of the answer (6).
                                                                          Therefore, 4 x 9 = 36!

    7. It’s Really Half the Work! Remind your child that since 4 x 3 is the same as 3 x 4 there are really only half the facts to know!

iStock_000005399984XSmall.jpgKids who are bodily-kinesthetic learners like to learn by touch and feel, and they may not want to sit still long enough for a traditional spelling lesson.

Here are some hands-on activities you can try to get them spelling:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Cut out letters from felt or sandpaper. Have your child practise spelling and feeling the words.
  • Kids can use "wipe off" crayons on a plastic placemat to write the words and wipe them off again.
  • Have your child draw pictures around a word that say something about the meaning of the word.
  • Use letter tiles from Scrabble or Boggle to form words.
  • Have your child trace words on your back or on the carpet with their finger. Have them say each letter that they trace.
  • Use alphabet magnets, stampers or cards to spell words.
  • Roll out pieces of clay and have your child take a sharp pencil and print a word in the clay.
  • Have your child type out words on a keyboard.
  • To teach spelling rules like, "I before E, except after C," and "E before I when the word says the sound a as in neighbour and weigh" use cards on which a variety of these words are written. Have your child sort the words into piles and look at what rules apply-- I before E or E before I.

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about the words your child is learning at school and try to use words your child would hear every day.

iStock_000005399984XSmall.jpgIf your child is a visual learner then they can usually remember a word once they see it. But there are ways to help improve any child's visual skills by using simple strategies.

Here are some tips on getting them spelling:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Write out words that they are having trouble spelling and leave the letters that are giving them trouble blank. Have them fill in the missing letters. For example, if they have written becuase, write bec se and have them fill in the blanks. This shows them the part of the word they are having trouble with and helps them learn that part.
  • Highlight tricky letters in a word.
  • Write problem letters in a different colour.
  • If they are having trouble with a particular word, have them write down several ways of spelling it and ask them to pick the way that looks right to them. Usually they are right.
  • Have them sort words by visual pattern. Like words that drop the final e when adding-ing (hoping, joking, caring, hiking).
  • Make a word wall on the fridge or in a notebook that they can reference for writing. Add words that give them trouble so they can look to the wall when they can't remember the spelling of a word.

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about the words used in class and use age-appropriate words that your child will recognize.

Alligator_pie.jpgSome kids like to learn by sounding out and listening for patterns. Here are some tips on helping them learn to spell:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Sound things out. Some kids may have difficulty telling the difference between sounds such as b and p, d and t. Exaggerate these sounds and enunciate them clearly.
  • Use picture cards so they can attach an object to the word and have them say the word carefully.
  • Using short words like dog, ask your child what sound they hear at the beginning and what sound they hear at the end.
  • Write down words that have hard-to-hear sounds, like the first r in library. Practise enunciating those sounds. Here are some examples: library, surprise, February, probably, environment.
  • To learn silent letters, have your child pronounce the silent letters as they write the words. For example, pronounce the underlined letters in these words: parliament, scissors, judge, and combed.
  • Clap out or tap out syllables in a word.
  • Have them listen for rhyming patterns, like: battle, cattle, rattle.
  • Spell words out loud. Like: M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i.
  • Sing songs with rhymes and have your child fill in the missing rhyming word. For example, try "Alligator Pie" by Dennis Lee. "Alligator pie, alligator pie. If I don't get some I think I'm going to ."

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about which words your child is learning and use words that are age-appropriate and familiar for your child.

builder_rocket_boy_644x362.jpgIs your child a natural builder?

Does she love to make things out of Styrofoam and rusty springs she finds on the ground? Does he raid the recycling bin for the perfect toilet roll part for his new robot?

If any of this sounds familiar, your child’s passions and talents may lie in the worlds of engineering, architecture, inventing and more.

So is there anything parents can do now to help nurture these interests and prepare their little builders for later opportunities?

“While all kids are natural builders, inventors and creators, this passion should be encouraged and fed in order to develop further,” says Patricia Zawada, director of Creative Encounters with Science, a non-profit science/engineering/technology program for kids at the University of Guelph.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and author of "Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential," says fueling your child’s passions can help kids build happy lives down the road, but cautions parents not to see this process as an end point or golden ring.

boy_robot_230x286.jpg“Nurturing our kids' true potential isn't about making sure they meet some predetermined standards,” she says. “It's about helping them develop the skills they need so they can create a life that is meaningful and satisfying to them.”

Zawada explains the benefits of building and offers tips for parents who want to help encourage their kids in this interest.


Benefits of Building for Kids:
  • Improved problem solving/informed decision-making skills;
  • Increased sense of accomplishment and improved confidence;
  • Spatial skills (2D & 3D)
  • Increased creativity and ingenuity;
  • Improved awareness of science, engineering and technology.


Ways To Stimulate Your Builder:


  • Building Kits: Lego NXT, Snap Circuits, Keva Structures;
  • Crafts: Use materials around the home to create various one act structures, for example, a marble sorter, catapult or "Paperless" Airplane (made of anything but paper);
  • Videos: Pick a machine kids are curious about,, washing machine, television and find a video on YouTube on how it’s made.
  • Parent/Child Projects: Can include improving everyday tasks around the house, e.g. fixing leaky faucets;
  • Reverse Engineering: taking things apart and rebuilding them;
  • Science Camps & Clubs: Many camps ae run out of local universities by undergraduate students who are enthusiastic about engineering and inspiring youth.


Parents Should Encourage:
  • Interest in how things work;
  • Designing & brainstorming before building;
  • Failed attempts being just as important as successes;
  • Trying new things and stepping outside of comfort zones;
  • Using limited materials or recycling;
  • Ways to improve & grow;
  • Girls to get involved in building as well (women are underrepresented in technology, science and engineering).


Some Final Tips:

Kennedy-Moore offers two more tips for parents working on building projects with kids:

  • Don't take over;
  • Focus on process, not outcome.