Teaching Subtraction

Teaching subtraction to young learners can be difficult. Unlike addition, where items/time accumulates, subtraction can represent taking something away, as well as the difference between two numbers. This can conceptually be difficult for young children to understand. Then, when you get into subtraction problems with borrowing, such as 45 – 27, you have to borrow a ten to do subtraction in the ones column, and children can be equally confused!

Most parents of public school students have felt the frustration of trying to help a child with homework when the teacher insists they use “new math” or Common Core Math. But with quarantine, now parents across the country are feeling the pressure of picking up where school left off!

In this post, I’m not going to cover all the different aspects of subtraction, such as when you’re borrowing and you encounter a 0 in the tens place. Oh no! But I’ve included 2 simple videos that may help your child get started on borrowing. If you don’t have tens sticks to represent the tens, you can use pens or pencils. You can use little blocks or erasers (or really anything tiny) to represent ones. Get creative and have fun!

April 18th, 2020|

Teaching At Home

As an educator, I subscribe to a lot of teacher sites and blogs. Over the past week, my inbox has steadily been filling up with email after email directed at parents who are now staying home. These emails are typically offering to instruct parents how to teach. While that is helpful for some, that content may not be realistic for all parents, and may even be overwhelming. A lot of parents are working from home, dealing with the transition to their new setup, and do not have time to learn how to become teachers. But here’s where parents have a leg up: every parent is their child’s first teacher. Any parent can do the basics, and going back to basics is not a bad thing. Children need review and continued practice to maintain skills. Below you’ll find my three tips for homeschool success.

Have a Routine

With the days stretching on and each hour blending into the next, it is so easy to get off track with a routine. But children crave routine (even though they may not realize it, or vocally crave it the way they do snacks). It gives them structure and also a sense of responsibility. That’s not to say you can’t have days of spontaneous fun or unstructured time. But to get the best results from at home learning, you should set up a daily routine and STICK TO IT! If your child knows they can get out of their 30-minute reading time at 10 am, your routine will fall apart. You should have designated time set aside for academics each day. Be sure to factor breaks in between subjects and don’t ask your child to sit and work for more than 45 minutes at a time. Keeping a schedule each day will help your child know what to expect and provide predictability and structure during a time when circumstances feel like they’re anything but. Other aspects of a daily schedule you may consider are time for house chores and going outside for some fresh air. Getting outside is just as important as academics. It is beneficial for your mental and physical health. If you don’t live in an area where you can easily access the outdoors, you may want to drive to a state forest or hiking area. It’s a great reset and your family will feel refreshed. 

Keep it simple

The basics of learning are important to review. These include mental math facts like numbers that add to make ten, doubles facts, and multiplication/division facts. They also include sight words and reading fluency for young readers. And don’t forget the basics of writing, such as paragraph form and checking your work. These are all fairly simple to teach and can be done with games too!

If your child is a more advanced student or in the upper grades, they probably have assignments from school. But reading, writing, and math can be done at home without internet access. Summarizing an article, writing an opinion or persuasive essay, or doing a mini research project on a topic of choice does not require anything but paper, a pencil, and some books. If your child has a sense of humor, ask them to write a 5 paragraph persuasive essay (intro and conclusion included) on something completely ridiculous like why they should be allowed to have a pet porcupine. They could also write up a broadcast on something completely made up and record it. Get creative and have fun! 

Make it fun

Practicing basic facts does not have to be boring! There are so many resources online and games for the basics that I mentioned above, but even if you don’t have internet access, there are so many simple games you can put together at home. 

  1. Go Fish
  2. The Memory Game

For both of these games, you can use the same set of cards. For sight word practice, write each sight word on two index cards. For math facts, have one index card with the math fact, such as 6×5, and the matching card with the answer, 30. 

  1. Bingo

Your child should create the bingo cards for the players. The bingo cards will feature the math fact answer, or the sight word. They can also make the calling cards. The calling cards will also be sight words, or for math, they will be the math fact. This activity in and of itself is good practice. 

  1. Black Jack or 21 

This is a super fun game for mental math. My students love it! You have to get to the number 21 (or any number you choose) without going over. Your child will have to add mentally and not use counting up or their fingers! 

Reading Fluency

For reading fluency, you can find free reader’s theater scripts online or if you have a children’s book of plays at home, you can use that. These are so fun and help build fluency because you have to read the same lines over and over. You can practice reading in silly, different voices and reading with expression. You can switch parts too. Get the whole family involved! It’s even more fun once your child develops fluency with their part. They can then find household props and act it out. Record it to play back and have a laugh!


The first thing that comes to mind for most people is journaling, but for some kids, that’s not very fun or they don’t know what to write about. After all, there’s not much to say about your day inside the house. You and your child can answer a “would you rather” question and write three reasons for your choice. Then compare! You can assign your child a writing prompt a day. You can also use story starters if your child likes to do creative writing. For example, give your child an index card that reads, “As I was walking through the woods on a bright, crisp morning, I suddenly stumbled. When I looked down to see what had caught my foot, I saw a brass handle attached to what looked like a small square door…” They’ll be so excited to tell their version of the story! You can set a timer and write for 20 minutes. Then check in. Your child might be ready to write for longer!

I hope these tips are helpful, but if you are not able to sit and work with your child, which is completely understandable, I offer virtual tutoring that’s structured to fit your child’s needs. Contact me to learn more about how I can support you child.

March 19th, 2020|

Three Strategies For Completing Summer Assignments

When I was in middle school, I was assigned a summer reading list, from which I had to choose a few books, and a summer math packet. First of all, I did not like reading (not until Harry Potter). Secondly, I hated math. School was not easy for me. My ADHD had a way of manifesting itself in ways that didn’t help my academic success or my social life. I was often distracted during instruction time, missing directions and important content. Then I would rush to get my work done, leaving obvious mistakes. I also was distracted during social situations and often missed important social cues. Not to mention, I went to a strict Catholic school where perfect behavior was the expectation (I usually failed). You can imagine by the time summer rolled around, I was thoroughly exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to get outside and run around in the sun and play in the waves. I wanted to give my brain a rest. I did not want to take my medication and I certainly did not want to do school work. NO THANK YOU! But I was probably the child who needed it most. I specifically remember the summer before 5th grade when we had a math packet that was perfectly planned so that if we did a little each day, we would be done before the start of the school year. My parents left that task up to me and so I pretended to do it and then ultimately had to face completing the entire thing in the last week of summer. It was a very tear-filled week. I also would pretend to read, only for my parents to find I couldn’t for the life of me tell them what I’d supposedly read about (I’m a terrible liar). For some children, like myself, being organized and responsible doesn’t come easy. But as a parent, you can help make the challenge much easier!

I understand summer work can be hard. That is why I offer fun mental math fluency lessons and classes as well as reading and writing support. However, between summer camp and work schedules and finding time to relax with family, this may not be an option for everyone. If tutoring is not an option for you, there are a few simple strategies to help your kiddo minimize the frustration of summer work. 

Establish a routine.

Avoidance is the biggest issue with summer work. Kids just want to enjoy summer and have a break from school. Pretty soon that first week of summer turns into a month and nothing has been done to get started on the work. At that point, since your child is not used to doing school work, the idea of getting back into it is even more daunting. They may have already regressed and forgotten some of the content in the math packet. Not only that, but there is less time to do it. The best thing you can do is help your child establish a consistent routine. It’s perfectly fine to take a couple days of the week off from work, but doing the work consistently and incrementally is much better than waiting until the last minute. Figure out how much there is to do and divide it up by the number of days your child has to work on it. I advise keeping weekends work-free. You may also have a family vacation planned. Factor that in as “no work” time. And lastly, don’t make excuses! If you’ve got a fun day trip to the city planned and you’re starting first thing in the morning, know that, and make sure you plan time for work or pack it in the car. 

Timing is everything!

Most kids do their best work first thing in the morning when they are fresh. Make your child’s summer work part of the morning routine. It’s tempting to just let it all go in the summer, but inevitably, the work just piles up. Unfortunately, if there is work assigned by your child’s teacher, it will have to be done at some point and it’s better to form a habit than to do it haphazardly. If you do it in the morning, then your child has the rest of the day to be free without the work looming ahead. Not to mention, after a full day of sun and play, your child will not be at their sharpest and will likely be too tired.  Choosing a time and space when your child is least likely to argue about work or when there will be few interruptions is best. Set up a weekday routine. It might be: wake up, tidy your work space, eat breakfast, do 10 minutes of math, take a 2 minute break, do 10 minutes of reading.

Support your child.

If your child feels like the only one who has to do work, they may end up feeling resentful and be more likely to create distractions and excuses. While your child works, choose to do an activity that helps you take care of your responsibilities while also remaining available if your child needs help. Working on a project, fixing something, folding laundry, doing food prep, weeding the garden, and cleaning are all great tasks to choose from. An alternative is doing your own reading. You are modeling the activity you want your child to do and they can see that it is important. Showing your child that everyone has responsibilities makes them feel like they’re not on their own. 

For some children with learning disabilities, summer work is especially challenging. The content may be at grade level, but above your child’s ability. If your child needs remedial support, it is best to use summer time getting help. Struggling through a math packet or book that is beyond your child’s ability is stressful and not a good use of time that could be well-spent building foundation skills. If your child has a learning disability, contact me to set up a consultation.

July 9th, 2019|

Free and Easy Math Resource

It’s time for my monthly blog post! This month I’ve decided to share with you one of my favorite math resources: Math Aids. This website allows users to create worksheets for essentially any math skill for free. You can customize each sheet and they’re great for basic skill practice.

Worksheets should be used a supplemental tool to quality math instruction and child-centered math discovery and exploration. The purpose of a worksheet or workbook is not to instruct or introduce a skill, but rather to allow the student to gain proficiency with practice. Here are some of the reasons I love this website:

  1. You can determine the number of problems you want on the sheet. I have some students for whom too many problems on a page is visually overwhelming. Even for children who don’t have a learning disability, seeing a page loaded with math problems can be daunting. With this website I can customize the number of problems for many of the worksheets.
  2. It’s not all about the numbers! I like that Math Aids is not just a resource for computation math problems, but also offers word problems. More than half the children I work with face a reading based learning disability. Some of these students are quite proficient in math and have a strong number sense, but when it comes to applying those skills to real world situations or word problems, they are at a loss. I can use this website to create word problem practice.
  3. It has a wide range of math concepts. Math Aids has worksheets for simple mental addition to Algebra II. This allows me to get resources for all of my math students in one place. I work with kiddos as young as 6, and as old as 17. Their ability levels vary quite a bit and as my students progress and face new challenges, I can quickly make worksheets to fit their changing needs.

This website is a super tool for homeschool parents and teachers, but it can also be useful for parents of children attending traditional school. If you know your child is struggling in a particular area, it’s worth checking out Math Aids to find some practice work to supplement the one-on-one work you are doing with your child at home.

December 7th, 2018|

Simple, Free, Printable Math and Reading Resources

Parents often ask me where I get my amazing resources and tools. I use a mix of hands-on tools and activities, pencil and paper work, and of course, games! When I’m teaching a new concept, my hands-on tools are a go-to so my students can engage with the new skill in a multi-sensory way. From there, it’s pencil and paper practice to solidify the concept. My students know what comes next: games! Game are a great motivator for many students and they give children the opportunity to practice their new skill, feel successful, and have a great time while doing it. I sometimes create my own game boards and card games, which can be time-consuming. But if I can find a resource that someone else has already created beautifully, I’m definitely not reinventing the wheel.

In a previous post titled, “Building Mental Math Fluency“, I shared some of the hands-on tools and games I use. However there are plenty of simple, printable games and practice sheets you can download that make your job as a parent or teacher much easier. Two of my favorite sites are The Measured Mom and This Reading Mama. Both sites are easy to navigate and feature a wide range of printables for skills from basic mental addition and subtraction to consonant blends. I particularly like The Measured Mom‘s simple bingo and board games for phonemic awareness skills and a variety of phonics skills.

Rhyming Bingo from The Measured Mom


Board game for the long ‘i’ sound from The Measured Mom

Vowel teams are particularly challenging for young readers to learn and This Reading Mama has got me covered with practice sheets and games. I’m also a huge fan of her “Roll & Cover” games which come ready-to-print on topics from simple addition to place value and beyond!

Fun addition game from This Reading Mama

September 10th, 2018|

Building Mental Math Fluency

Mental math fluency is one of the most important basic math skills a child needs. Finger counting, skip counting, and using pencil and paper are inefficient ways to do simple calculations. When your child is faced with a more complex math problem, such as long division, it can be distracting, tiring, and lead to errors if they have to constantly stop and figure out small calculations. Also, building strong mental math skills helps your child deepen their understanding of numbers and how they work together.

Fluency develops from strong number sense (how numbers work together) and practice with mental addition and subtraction. There are a few easy ways to accomplish this and your child can quickly learn to add and subtract sums in their head. From there, your child can then move on to master multiplication fluency with a strong foundation and confidence. Start with the basics of numbers that make 10 and doubles facts.


Make 10

Knowing which numbers combine to make 10 is a very useful skill. It translates to adding larger numbers too. For example, if your child knows that 4+6=10, then figuring out 54+6 is not so challenging. Using the skill of making 10, your child will understand how far away the next multiple of ten is from a starting number. So if you are at 54 and you know that 4+6 makes 10, you know the next multiple is 6 away. Your child can use this thinking to break a problem apart into simpler components. For example, if the problem is 54+8, you can think “I know that I can use 6 of the 8 to get to the next ten, which is 60. Then there are 2 left. 60+2 is easy! The answer is 62”.



If you know your doubles facts, you can quickly and easily solve pretty much any simple math problem. Work first with your child on memorizing doubles facts (1+1, 2+2, 3+3, 4+4, and so on). Then from there, you can practice addition problems similar to doubles facts, such as problems in which one of the addends is one more or one less that the other. Point out that the problem 3+4 is similar to 3+3. If 4 is only one more than 3, then the answer will be one more than the doubles fact 3+3.



This works for 3+2 as well. Once you know how to do this, you can move onto facts where the addends are two away from each other, such as 3+5. The idea is to make a connection with a math fact you do know, and work from there. Once your child practices this enough, they will start to see the connections and patterns and their math fluency will grow.


Making It Happen

I have found that the best way to build mental math fluency in these two areas is using flashcards and games. Another great tool for visual learners and hands-on learners is Cuisenaire rods. These simple colored blocks are useful in showing number relationships. The kit comes with a booklet detailing many activities for higher order math as well. 

Games and flashcards make rote memorization fun and challenging in an exciting way. Your flashcards should feature the “make 10” or doubles fact on one side and the answer on the other. For example 6+__=10 is on the front, and 4 is on the back. You’ll want to have the fact in the opposite order as well on another card: 4+__=10. You can make flashcards for problems similar to doubles facts as your child progresses, such as 4+5, or 4+3. Practicing flashcards daily is the best way to become fast and fluent.


Some great, simple games to play include Go Fish and the Memory Game. With Go Fish you can change what makes a “pair” to numbers that make 10 (take out the face cards), or you can play it so that a pair is a double fact with one addend 1 more than the other (4 and 3 could be a pair, or 4 and 5 could be a pair). Have your child say that fact and the answer when they make the pair.


For the Memory Game, you can have the problem on one card and the answer on another. For example, if you’re doing all doubles facts, have all the facts (1+1, 2+2, 3+3, etc.) on cards and put the answers on separate cards. Place all the cards face down on the table. Players take turns flipping over two cards and trying to match the problem with its answer.


There are plenty of ways to get creative with math fluency. Think about your child’s learning style and interests and brainstorm some creative ideas to modify these activities or create your own! If your child is an artist, for example, let them make the flashcards colorful or interesting if it will help them remember better. If your child is struggling to develop mental math fluency despite your best efforts and you suspect there may be some learning challenges present, contact me to set up an assessment and get your child on the path to success!

April 6th, 2018|
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