Boosting Number Sense
Second grade is traditionally thought of as a review year. The weighty academic subjects of reading, addition, and subtraction taught in 1st grade need to be mastered in 2nd. So while 2nd grade teachers still use fun, hands-on tools and games to reinforce math concepts, you can expect more worksheets, homework, and tests.
Fortunately, the first month or two is generally devoted to reviewing addition and subtraction — a lot of knowledge gets lost over the summer. Teachers won’t attempt to start double- and triple-digit subtraction until all the kids in the class are again fluent in their math facts.
Counting Short Cuts
Part of each day is typically spent with computation practice. Teachers may have kids “compete” against themselves by completing addition and subtraction worksheets. At my daughter’s school, 2nd graders work through successive levels of addition and subtraction fact sheets at their own pace. Once they complete a page without any errors, they put a sticker on their chart and move up to the next level. This individual approach also helps the teacher assess which children may need extra help.
Teachers also encourage children to think in terms of the connections between numbers. That’s why you’ll probably see a lot about fact families in 2nd grade. These are groups of three numbers that work together in various combinations to create addition and subtraction facts — 4, 6, and 10, for example. When kids see these numbers together, they can create an addition sentence of 6 plus 4 equals 10. If asked for the result of 10 minus 6, they can easily find the correct answer of 4.
Once kids feel confident with their number sense and computation skills, teachers can move onto the concept of “regrouping.” This is a general term used to describe moving groups of ten from one column to the other when adding or subtracting. It’s also known as “carrying” in addition and “borrowing” in subtraction, terms that are probably the ones you were taught. Teachers typically start with carrying over, the easier of the two concepts. One trick teachers use is to have students draw a box around a carried-over digit, to help them keep the supplemental number from changing the meaning of the original number. With lots of practice, carrying and borrowing become second nature.
Despite all the worksheets, computation and new challenges of 2nd grade math, teachers still strive to help their students go beyond the basics. Helping kids see the meaning behind the math will help them grasp tricky concepts, boost their computation skills and confidence, and prepare them for the challenges of multiplication and division to come in 3rd grade.
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