Mom-to-Mom Support/My 4th grader is having difficulty with math

My 4th grader is having difficulty with math


My 4th-grade daughter is struggling with math. She has the greatest trouble in equations that ask her to solve a problem like N – 245 = 407 and usually ends up subtracting 245 from 407… We are both getting so tense and frustrated with math!

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question!

I’m sorry to hear that you and your daughter are getting frustrated with math. One important factor when teaching math is using concrete examples whenever you are teaching an abstract concept. Using hands-on activities can help her visualize the concept.

For instance, put aside the equation N – 245 = 407 for right now. If you start at a lower equation [because it’s easier to represent using objects], such as N – 6 = 4, you can use pictures and objects to represent the numbers. The number represented as N would be ten. Under the ten, draw ten objects, or use ten objects. Under the six, use six objects to represent this number. Under the four, use four objects to represent this number. Move the objects around, showing her that 4 + 6 = 10, 6 + 4 = 10, 10 – 4 = 6, 10 – 6 = 4. Once she understands this, take out one of the numbers and substitute the N. In each equation, move the N around so that she can understand that the N is the missing number but so that she can see the answer, as well as the N. Using the other two numbers, she can deduce what the N represents. (In an equation like this, you want to do the exact opposite of the sign).

Once she understands this, begin a new small equation for her to solve with your help. Perhaps it could be something like N – 5 = 3. Encourage her to think it through, and talk it aloud with you, using objects. Give her more examples and practice until you think that she has it. Once she understands the concept, she can move on to the larger equations that can’t easily be represented with objects.

God bless you and your family!
Laura Corrigan

About Laura Corrigan

Laura Corrigan is a mother of five. She was homeschooled through high school and received her teaching certificate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has also homeschooled her own children.