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Math Soft Spots in Child's Understanding

The DreamBox curriculum is focused on Number and Operations, as well as Number Sense. This content is so core to elementary mathematics that it takes up about 80% of classroom math instruction. With a new school year upon us, assessing what student’s understand about numbers is a priority for teachers. I thought I’d share some soft spots I look for as I begin assessing young children’s understanding of mathematics in the fall:

    Counting items more than once or two at once

    Young children sometimes fail to make a one-to-one correspondence between number names and objects, and sometimes count two objects for a two-syllable number name such as “sev-en.”

    Counting one past the actual number of items

    Young children often have difficulty tagging items (touching and saying a number name) and partitioning (moving aside counted items) simultaneously. This often leads to saying one extra number name.

    Being misled by perceptual clues

    Six items spread out may appear to be more than 7 items close together.

    Confusing cardinal and ordinal numbers when counting

    “Give me 6 please” may result in handing over the sixth item.

    Reading a written number doesn’t ensure an understanding of the number as a quantity

    Some students develop an early association with the number name and the written form, being able to say “thirty-six” when looking at “36,” without necessarily thinking of a quantity of 36.

    Thinking of a number as a group of symbols side by side rather than as an entity

    132 may be literally thought of as a 1-3-2, rather than a specific quantity, one hundred thirty-two. 132 may be confused with 123.

What soft spots would you add to this list?

As Director of Education Programs at DreamBox, I’ll post regularly about teaching young children mathematics. We can share ideas, questions, and challenges through our blog postings. I look forward to hearing from you!

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