10 New Math Terms Every Parent Needs to Know

These days, kids don't learn to "borrow" or "carry" numbers. Get up to speed with how math is taught in schools with the definitions of essential math terms.
Jul 18, 2019



10 New Math Terms Every Parent Needs to Know

Jul 18, 2019

If you're the parent of an elementary schooler, you've probably already figured out that your child's math class is different from math class when you were young. Kids today are engaged in hands-on activities, technology, and small group teaching. They're not learning to "borrow" numbers and "carry the one." In fact, one of the major changes in how math is being taught now involves the use of language. Your child is probably using new math terms daily and focusing on building number sense, decomposing numbers, and using different models to show her thinking. She’s using 100 charts, ten frames, and building fact fluency every day — terms that may leave you scratching your head and wondering why you can't figure out a 1st grade worksheet. (Trust us, you're not alone.)

But understanding what your child is being taught in class will help you to have deeper conversations about his learning, and stay informed of (and be able to help with) his daily lessons. Below are 10 frequently used terms your child may be exposed to in math class that will help you stay tuned in — and that's a (math) fact.

1. Mental Math: This is the ability to see, solve, and calculate math problems in your mind without the use of a pencil, paper, or calculator. It’s very important to build strategies for your child to increase their mental math skills.

2. Number Sense: Think of number sense as your child's overall understanding of numbers and flexible thinking about them. (Read more about number sense in our helpful article.) The ability to understand, relate, and connect numbers to each other and see numbers in many different ways. Developing your child’s number sense is imperative to mathematical success. 

3. Decompose: This is the ability to break apart numbers into smaller parts. For example, your child will learn in kindergarten and first grade to decompose the number 10 — this number can be broken apart into the numbers 9 and 1; 8 and 2; 7 and 3; etc. See an example below:


4. Ten Frame: A mathematical visual to help your child “see” numbers and understand the concept of tens and ones in place value. A ten frame is made up of two rows of five squares to show the number 10. (Try this ten frame printable — designed for parents! — to help master the concept so you can help your child with homework and worksheets of her own.) See an example below:



5. 100 Chart: This teaching tool (see example below) helps your child see numbers patterns, skip count, and visualize number sequences from one to 100.



6. Fact Fluency: The ability to recall math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) automatically. Your child has fact fluency when she has memorized and can recall a fact within about three seconds. You can use flash cards and other math games — like these ideas to make learning math facts fun.

7. Regroup: The act of making groups of tens when adding and subtracting two-digit numbers (or greater). You will not hear words such as “borrow” or “carry” when your child is learning to add and subtract larger numbers. The idea of regrouping is to combine 10 ones and regroup them to be one ten. This concept helps to use place value and deepen your child’s understanding. Learn more about regrouping as an easy strategy for adding and subtracting.

8. Part-Part-Whole: The idea of understanding a number can be broken into parts. Your child can see the relationship between a number and its corresponding parts. Part-part-whole can be used to support the inverse relationship of addition and subtraction, as well as multiplication and division. A part-part-whole mat is a wonderful visual model to help your child begin to see and understand numbers at a deeper level. See an example below:



9. Array: An arrangement of objects, numbers, or pictures in rows and columns. Arrays are used to support the concept of multiplication and help your child visualize equal groups. See an example below:



10. Area Model: A model used to help your child multiply and divide large numbers. The area model shows how to multiply or divide each place. Your child is able to see the product or quotient in separate steps. Learn about more models and strategies used in multiplication and division.

With this knowledge base of new math terms, you'll be in a better position to help your child if she needs it — and understand the concept yourself. And if you still need help with those worksheets, check out these five free resources for parents who are stumped by math homework

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