How Can I Teach My Child to Do Math Faster

Updated on March 04, 2014
M.M. asks from Amherst, OH
22 answers

My 2 nd grader is slow in Math. With the introduction of common core I feel she ll find it more difficult . I am looking for suggestions on how to teach the strategies of being faster...any workbooks ,enrichment classes that can help?

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answers from Seattle on

Faster to pick up on what is being taught? Or faster at doing the actual problem?
I have never cared how fast they do things, just that they do them right. If your daughter understands what she is doing, but doing it slowly, then I wouldn't worry about it.

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answers from Chicago on

the only way to make it go faster is to practice the math facts practice practice practice. make up games, do quizzes and there are lots of games out there to play with math facts. you can find them online and in teachers stores like the chalk board. but that is the only way to make it go faster and easier. if she is shaky on the basics she will struggle forever. (trust one who has math phobia lol)

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answers from Washington DC on

If you focus on speed, as it's own goal, you'll keep being frustrated... and so will your daughter.

Instead, (especially with the introduction of CCSS which focus on strong conceptual understanding, application, and problem solving, not rote memorization), focus on helping your daughter to really understand what the numbers and operations MEAN. As she starts to see the SAME equations over an over she'll start to recognize them and won't need to spend the time reasoning her way to the solutions... that's where the speed comes from... not from memorizing a table of facts.

Real speed... the kind that's useful and meaningful as an indicator of mathematical skill and/or aptitude, is about FLUENCY, not just velocity!

Almost ANY 2nd grade math workbook will help her get more practice with addition and subtraction (which is all that is required in the second grade Common Core) She should be able to composed and decompose numbers (think of 42 as 30+12 so that she can subtract 8, then put 30 and 4 back together... kind of like the old borrowing and carrying... but a different, more mathematically sound way of conceptualizing it)... but that will get faster, when she has the basic facts more fluently.

Is she fluent in the doubles? 1+1 2+2, 3+3, 4+4 etc?
Once she is, she can start recognizing double sums. "Oh, 8 is a double!" "14 is a double!"
Then doubles plus 1s or doubles minus 1s in the same way. 3+4, 6+5, 7+8
"Oh 15 is 1 more than 14" or "15 is 1 less than 16"
These ideas don't come from memorizing a chart, they come from getting lots of conceptual practice with the numbers and operations.

I hope this helps.

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answers from Boston on

I'd echo what Gidget says. I'm not sure speed is a great goal. It's not a good strategy for dealing with math & science, where precision and method are so valued. And have you spoken to the teacher about this being a problem for your daughter, and is she falling behind the rest of the class? It's essential to be sure that your expectations are reasonable.

Sometimes kids who are pushed just get frustrated and back away. There are so many ways to work math into daily life - cooking is a classic one although she hasn't done a lot of work in fractions so I wouldn't push that yet. But adding up the number of ingredients and learning to use measuring cups is a great technique. If the "1 cup" measure is already dirty, have her figure out how many "half cup" or "third cup" scoops are needed to equal one cup. Try doubling or halving a recipe to adapt it to your family or to a party. Make it FUN! At the grocery store, talk about your budget and how much things cost, and ask her to help you figure out what will happen if your total is at $47.00 and you buy one more item for $3.39 (or even $3 if you want to use whole numbers). Give her lots of time to figure it out, and take a pad of paper with you so she can figure things in writing and not by doing them in her head. If she's having a play date with 3 kids, have her figure out how much stuff you need for snacks for 4 kids. If you limit TV, have her count the number of half hours to make the limit for the day or week. Or figure out how many commercials there are in a half hour, and how long each one lasts, add those up, and determine how many minutes of a 30 minute show are actually commercials, then subtract it to determine the actual minutes of programming - this is educational anyway as you both learn about how much marketing is done to kids during a typical half hour! Just don't tell her it's all about math or she will resent being drilled at home as well as at school.

But as others have asked, what is your concern? That she doesn't know her math facts? Or that she doesn't do the problems quickly? Also you should know that aspects of common core are being looked at, based on recommendations of the NEA, so there may be some revisions of some of that.

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answers from Detroit on

Is is just the basic facts you want her to be faster in? That really has nothing to do with the Common Core. At least in Michigan, our standards before were for 2nd grade to be fluent in single digit addition and subtraction. It would also be VERY advantageous for her to know different ways to have a sum of ten. Take 10 pennies. Use a cup to cover some and have her figure out how many are under the cup.

There is a fun site called that you can do addition and subtraction. You can also choose the level. My students like it.

If she is thinking of strategies for other problems, I wouldn't worry too much about her speed. If she is looking at the problem from different angles or figuring out her strategies, that is what she should be doing.

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answers from Washington DC on

We do Kumon. They focus on the basic calculations and teaching kids how to do math not just on paper, but in their head. There's some memorization and they teach through repetition. They cover all the things that American math leaves out nowadays. It's a lot of work, but my dd is the fastest in her class by far. They also won't let kids move to the next level until they've mastered all skills in the previous level and they have a systematic method for each math unit, (ie. basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, multiplication of large numbers, division, fractions, decimals...etc)
My dd started in 2nd grade with Kumon is is 10 now. I do feel bad for some of the other kids...they really never learn their math that well because the school just moves on the the next unit whether or not the kids know it.

Also, the American schools now focus more on story problems and solving problems multiple ways. But unfortunately, they never ensure the basics are under their belt.

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answers from Springfield on

I teach Remedial Math at the college level. Right now it is very important for her to know her math facts - addition and multiplication facts for 0 - 10 plus a few common ones bigger than 10 and the corresponding subtraction and division facts. It's going to be a huge help to her if she just knows these without having to think about them. That way she can really focus on the lesson her teaching is teaching and not get slowed down be what 2+7 is.

I have never taught math at the elementary level, so please keep that in mind. Does her teacher want her to work faster? I would be cautious about encouraging her to work quickly. That can be very dangerous in math. Math is a very detail oriented discipline. You have to really pay attention. Read a problem too fast and you could miss a really important part of the problem.

Math is much more about understanding than it is about speed. If you understand why things work the way they work, that's half the battle. So I would encourage her to think about what she's doing and explain it to you using her own words. It drives me crazy when my students can't tell me very simple things like what half of 50 is or a third of 90. They should be able to logically understand basic concepts like if Suzie mowed 1/3 of the lawn that means 2/3 of the lawn still needs to be mowed. I'm sorry all my examples were related to fractions. But they are so important, and most of my students hear the word "fractions" and want to run away screaming.

I don't know a lot about Common Core, but my co-worker and I (both former high school math teachers) were looking at it at various grade levels. We chuckled because math tends to not change too much. When we were teaching high school we both witnessed several changes in "standards" and "benchmarks." Math teachers can usually count on things pretty much staying the same.

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answers from Hartford on

Do you want her to do them "faster" or correctly?

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answers from Las Vegas on

Khanacademy, which is a free website, has many tutorials.. also, I think math is one of those things, where repetition plays a big role, at least for me.. recently, at 49, yes that old :) I have been taking an Algebra class whereby we've needed to review basic arithmetic, which at first I was slow at, particularly fractions.. however, after doing them over and over and of course, having a great teacher, I can now do them VERY quickly. but again, it's taken repetition, which is why I like Khanacademy... on the site, there are all ranges of math... so wherever your child is at, they will have something for him... check out it, I think you ll like the site..

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answers from Dallas on

I am a regular substitute in elementary school and it is good that you are addressing this now vs later. The further up they go without the basic concepts, the harder school will be for the student.

I don't think it is so much to learn to be fast as it is to be efficient. We do give timed test for simple addition and subtraction about once a week to see how children are progressing. This is NOT a "test" and we explain it as a fun way to see how your are doing. Some children who don't do well will cry and it will ruin their day, others strive to be the first one done. Just last week, I stressed it was subtraction and 1 child came to be midway crying that she wanted to start over because she added instead. I explained to her.. the mistake was that she added the problems instead.. BUT... she got all of them correct.

We stress the UPS check and explain method on word problems. Showing work is part of the grade. If you can't show your work and explain, then we don't know how they got the answer.

A couple of math programs the children love are FastMath and SumDog. I don't know if they are available for the public.

Jumpstart has a series of games that our daughter loved growing up and it helped a lot with math.

Also, most schools have an enrichment program for about 4-5 weeks after school is out. You can take classes in a subject you need help in and you can also take fun classes like cooking, art, etc.

Our school offers a FREE afterschool tutoring for small groups which lasts about 45 minutes to an hour after school.

I would shy away from the big box tutoring companies because they are in the business to make money. Our district wants the children to learn the basics the way they are taught IN the school. Some children who go to the big box to learn faster do learn faster and then when they get to school they are confused because they can't do it the way it is taught which is the way they are graded.

Lots of practice, make it fun

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answers from Detroit on

look online.. math websites.. we like

the common core is not harder math.. but it just says what the kid should learn in each grade..

my 2nd grader is supposed to add double digit numbers with carrying and subtract 2 digits. with borrowing.. there are lots of story problems too..

soon they move to measuring fractions and some other more fun math topics.. for the first 10 weeks they did nothing but adding .. math facts up to 9+9..

my kid is slow too..and she does nto know her math facts...
countingon fingers is slow..

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answers from Los Angeles on

Make it fun. Workbooks are going to be boring and she's going to dislike it even more. You could see if there is a Kumon center near you and sign her up for classes there.

Personally, I like teaching through games. Number Rings is a really great math game, as it uses addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You can start off using only addition and subtraction and add the other functions later when she's ready.

Math Dice can be good too. Here's a link to a few different ones (Think Fun games are usually very good quality, fun, educational, etc)

I've never heard of this game, but it came up on an Amazon search for "Math Games" and I know that Learning Resources is a great brand. Plus, 211 customer reviews, most of which give it a 5, some 4's and only a couple worse:

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answers from Chicago on

Learning resource center has some terrific games.



answers from San Francisco on

The only way I know of to gain speed in math is the same as reading - Practice, practice, practice!



answers from Los Angeles on

OOOHHHH home math games! Two of my favs!

1. Beat the commercial: She MUST watch TV for 1 hour with commercials. Math flash cards go by the tv - each commercial she must beat the commercial by getting them all right.

2. Stick Me Up: Place facts on sticky notes and put them up around the house. Question on the front and answer on the back. Move them around the house until she knows them all!

Make math FUN! and she will love it forever.




answers from Boston on

I have a conceptual learner with a very slow processing speed and dyslexia. While she understands things very fast she has difficulty getting her knowledge down on paper. Perhaps mental math games will be fun for your child. It does not have to be anything official. You can cook with her and ask her how many 1/4 cups she would need to make a cup and half, or take a bag of M&Ms and do addition and subtraction with different colors, or ask her to add prices in the grocery store to keep track of how much you are spending, etc. Our school did have 2 minute tests where they had to finish as many of 100 problems as possible. I used those tests and we would verbally go through them. Like others said, it is more important that kids understand how to do math than that they can write it down fast. Here are some games, and you could google others:


answers from Norfolk on

It takes practice, practice, practice!
Make it fun - make games of it.



answers from San Francisco on

Is she accurate? Does she understand the concepts? or is it just speed that your are trying to address? Speed in math might not be that much of an issue for a 7 year old. While I commend you for proactively wanting to help her in the face of the coming changes, I wouldn't worry too much.



answers from Beaumont on

She might be a tactile learner like my son. He was great when he could put his hands on pennies to help him figure out word problems or times tables. I'll be that would help. Also, introduce simple math in everyday language so she can see that there is some use to math. I myself had a hard time learning something I felt was useless. If you showed me real life application I caught on quicker. Good luck...



answers from Las Vegas on

We purchased the Kumon workbooks from the Barns and Noble. It says the kids should work in their books 15 - 20 minutes everyday.

I wasn't wonderful about making her do it and sometimes only had her do 3 pages on the weekends.

My husband started punishing her with a page of math every time she did X. I asked him what he was doing and told him you can't punish with math. He said to watch him and he did. He said if she was going to continue she would just be really good in math...and she is!

We all have very tough skin in this house and she just laughed. She received a report card with all 3's (A's).



answers from Los Angeles on

My son got really fast with the 1 minute timed tests. 100 problems in 1 minute. Maybe google them.


answers from Detroit on

Kudos to you for addressing this issue.
I volunteer at my daughter's 4th grade class and there are kids there that struggle with the most basic math (We are working on these kids). The struggle gets more obvious as the grade Ievel climbs higher and then it becomes a self esteem issue. I view Math like a foreign language. You have to understand the basics to be fluent in it.
My home has 2 girls. One academically exceptional but hates math and another who struggles with ADHD and autism. My point is that if my girls can learn Math then I want to think that everyone can as well.
Here's my tips (not exactly in perfect order)
1.) Practice Daily. (Not 2 hrs a day but at least 5 problems)
2.) Start with a multiples chart. Basically a grid of 12 by 12. First line is for 1s, 2nd for 2s, 3rd for 3s (3,6,9,12...) etc. Not only does the grid help with addition but it also prepares for the concepts of multiplication, division and fractions.
3) How does you child learn? Youtube has very helpful videos if she is a visual learner. There are also CDs that help through song if she's an auditory learner. There are also all kinds of manipulatives (legos, beans, beads, etc) to help understand the concept. Even counting quarters is a great way of learning multiples of 25.
4) There are a ton of online resources. Some have already been recommended. I personally like the pen to paper so my favorite site You can actually create a weekly worksheet with your daily 5. It also has some tutorial.
5) Get your student in a habit of checking their answer. The most common mistakes are preventable by doing so.

I used to also think that speed was not important. But the truth is, every test is timed and the more complicated Math gets the more steps it has. Yet true the practice still has to be precise.

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