# Students That Can't Add Or Subtract At All

## The Beginning...Mastering Basic Addition Facts

Why can't some kids add even the simplest math facts?

Some students are system learners or more right-brained than left-brained. The whole number system doesn't make sense to them and they are not great at simply memorizing math facts.

Unfortunately, adding doesn't have a very clear system to it.

At first it is important to just get them to come up with an answer. This is normally accomplished by using their fingers.

Sadly, most struggling students when they are learning to add insist on counting the first set of fingers, as well as, the fingers they are adding on.

*For example, 4 + 3, they lay out four fingers on one hand and three fingers on the other hand and then they use up a great deal of time and energy counting all seven fingers – "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7".*

*So start by discouraging them from counting the first number (4) and just hold up enough fingers for the added on portion (3 more fingers) – "4, 5, 6, 7".*

If you can do this, you cut the time it takes to complete one math fact by almost half.

**You Need to Help Them See the System for Doing Math.**

Go to *Addition page* for more information.

## The Solution — Teach Them Strategies

**A number plus zero is the number.**

*eg., A trillion plus zero is a trillion — kids love this.*

(Divide by zero is undefined but for the purposes of beginner's if there are 5 bags and you put zero apples in each bag you have zero apples.)

**Plus one is the next number on the number line.**

*Say things like "What number comes next?" "What number comes after 4?"*

**Adding & Subtracting 2s, 3s and 4s use the points on the number.**

(

*counting up sample*)

*(counting down sample)*

**Subtract Bigger Numbers**

*eg., 9-7, 8, 9 is two dashes or fingers.*

**Subtract using the Math Ladder technique**

*(sample)*

Be cautious of using 'cheat aids'. If they always have a ruler, a number line or a math-fact chart taped to their school desk, they will begin to depend on the ruler or aid to get the correct answer. So what happens when there is no ruler or aid available?

For more strategies, go to our Basic Math Strategies page.

## Never Give Up — There is Always a Strategy.

**Sometimes It's a Matter of Approach**

For example, to subtract from ten or less.

eg., 10 - 6. A student could look at their 10 fingers and fold under 6 fingers.

The remaining 4 fingers would be their answer: 10 - 6 = 4.

**Sometimes It's a Matter of Adjusting that Approach**

There is always a student that even this method eludes. So instead change your approach, tell them to look at their 10 fingers and hold up 6 fingers.

The folded-under fingers are their answers: 10 - 6 = 4.

**Sometimes It's a Matter of Technique**

The first step is to get them started adding and subtracting, even if this means using their fingers. Later, you can use other techniques:

eg., **count up**, **count down**, **magic nine**, **doubles**, the math ladder, regrouping, related facts

## Subtracting Stress — Adding Success

Teaching Resources for Math for Basic Facts — worksheets, lesson plans, etc.

### Basic Math Facts Worksheets

See the Math Skills Section for additional information.

Website Index

### The System is the Solution

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