Helping Children with Arithmetic: The Early Grades

by blackspanielgallery

Online classes were not good for education, especially arithmetic classes. Now it is time to help students get caught up.

Children often need help learning arithmetic. This is a more serious problem today than in prior years. When many schools went to an online learning format the results were too often less than needed in proficiency in the foundations required to move on to the next grade. Arithmetic skills fell behind the needed levels.

There is a place for online learning, it is a great tool for motivated students. But not everyone is self-motivated. This is especially true when the subject is mathematics. It would benefit many students if their learning of the skills were to be augmented so as to catch up with the level needed, if not surpass that level.

How Is Arithmetic Best Studied?

First, read a book on overcoming math anxiety.  Having a young child read the book may not be totally profitable.  A parent should read one, or more, such books, then make a plan for each child to follow, incorporating the things found in the books.  There is no need to explain why the plan is as the parent has made, just observe that it is followed.

What Kind of a Learner Is the Child?

Some children can grasp the arithmetic concepts as presented in a textbook, while others need an aid.  In the case of visual learners, having a resource filled with illustrations that show what is happening may suffice.  But other children need to be more physically involved.  For those needing to actually handle something in order to grasp a concept use manipulatives. 

How Do Manipulatives Work?

If a child has a weakness, such as an understanding of addition or subtracting, there are a number of manipulatives available.  Some are designed for the very young children, such as having plastic objects like fish that can be moved from one pile to another.  Older children might not like too babied of a manipulative, so tiles might serve them better.  Tiles come as individual unit tiles, strips of ten, squares of one hundred, and blocks of one thousand.  Trading a strip of ten for ten individual tiles can be used for such things as carrying or borrowing.


This is just a single example, there are others.  Manipulatives can be found all the way to algebra.


The economical approach is to purchase a package with various grade appropriate manipulatives.  Also, having a manual on the use of the manipulatives is helpful.  Many manipulatives have multiple uses.

Find a Book to Help

Learning math skills using manipulatives requires understanding how to get the most out of the manipulatives available.  Purchasing the best manipulatives and knowing how to use them for multiple purposes is important.  It is possible to learn from instructions included with the items bought, but those instructions may concentrate on one use and be inadequate to get the most out of the product.  Perhaps a good book on using mathematics manipulatives can help address any mathematics weaknesses. 

What Is Important?

Having a child work at the needed level is important, even if there is a need that the child remediate after having fallen behind.  But saying this to the child can generate a feeling of failure.  Use words like “It is time to get ahead of where you are,” will better serve the child’s esteem than saying “You need to catch up.” 


Making the work fun and exciting can also be a benefit.  Have a willing participant and you have an engaged, willing learner. 


Remember What the Books on Overcoming Anxiety Have in Common

Mathematics, arithmetic included, requires different study skills than most other subjects.  Rote learning will not do.  One must practice.  This is common to most books on overcoming math anxiety.  Simply reading a mathematics book is not the way to study mathematics.

What Can Be Done?

It may be difficult to determine if a child is a visual learner or a hands-on learner as quickly as is needed.  The good news is that using manipulatives serves both groups.  And, since these are in addition to a textbook, there is a positive potential for all students to be gained from incorporating manipulatives into the study program.

This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 


The introduction image is allowed because it is my book.  Actually, in this case, I authored the book shown.

Updated: 07/20/2022, blackspanielgallery
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Veronica on 07/24/2022

You are so right. Opposition to using a number line for subtraction over traditional methods was fairly standard but some children need these methods . I am no mathematician altho I have a functional maths ability. Being married to a genius mathematician has made me lazy as my husband has done all our household maths for 43 years.

blackspanielgallery on 07/24/2022

Yes, learning base 10 then using base 60 is confusing. When I taught the two mathematics courses for elementary teachers I had opposition from the students to learning how to use other bases. This opposition was from our future teachers that I had as students. Not only is base 60 useful, but so is base 2 in understanding computers.
I tried to tell my students that rote learning needed to have justification with it, so being able to explain "why" is important. That understanding is from working in other bases. In base 4 we carry or borrow the next power of 4, and so on. I even tried to tell them to use tiles to visualize, but they resisted. In the U. S. we have an education problem, which starts with many teachers being underprepared to explain to those processing deeper thought.

Veronica on 07/24/2022

I live here in a family of mathematicians and as a teacher of young children I seem to have devoted my life to finding ways of helping children with maths.

Regarding numberlines, they are especially useful for time problems as children find these difficult as the numbers go up to 60 minutes. ... not 100.

blackspanielgallery on 07/23/2022

Thanks for adding your insights.

Veronica on 07/23/2022

PS - One of the best things for children who need help is a 100 square. This is good for adding and subtracting 10s and thereby learning number facts.

Veronica on 07/22/2022

Fab examples of resources, by the way

Veronica on 07/22/2022

I agree. For example, my 9 year old grandson is a genius mathematician but he is still a child so enjoys the " play " aspects of using dice , numberlines, watching times tables videos on you tube etc .....

blackspanielgallery on 07/21/2022

I recall from the early 50s how we learned fractions by watching the nun hold cardboard pies and show fractional pieces. Some students need to see something concrete, others do not. Using simple objects can help those that need visualization, but probably will not harm the others who can think more abstractly. Still others must hold the objects and act out such things as adding fractions, So, manipulatives serve all types of learners, or so it seems to me.

Veronica on 07/21/2022

Certainly with pupils aged 5 -7, I always started them playing on number lines moving along using dice

blackspanielgallery on 07/20/2022

Yes, number lines are great. I even use them toltiplication by a negative number reverses the inequality.

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