How to Easily Carry the One in Addition

Learning to carry the one in addition can be a confusing concept for some kids but one they really need to master. Some math programs teach carrying in 2nd grade. Others put off the learning of carrying until 4th grade fearing that it teaches memorized steps rather encouraging a deep understanding of place value. These programs focus on various methods involving multiples of 10 instead. Unfortunately for some kids these methods can be confusing.

Some teachers fear that learning carrying too early will prevent kids from developing a good understanding of place value. But place value, expanded forms of numbers, and carrying can be taught in tandem for kids who struggle to understand concepts like partial sums and compensating that are often used in earlier grades for double digit numbers. Some math programs still teach carrying as the main method for dealing with double digit numbers.

If carrying is something your child needs to learn but they're struggling to understand, there is an easy way to teach them. If your child already knows they can turn 10 pennies into a dime, they can more easily learn how to carry the one.

Saxon Math is a math program that introduces carrying in 2nd grade. It's designed with struggling math learners in mind. Instead of teaching kids to carry using tens and ones, the focus instead is on dimes and pennies. Dimes and pennies are actual objects kids can visualize, while tens and ones can be a bit more abstract. To teach, use several dimes and pennies. Draw a large table with columns for dimes and pennies on a sheet of paper that looks like this.

Draw a table with columns for dimes and pennies on a sheet of paper that looks like this. You'll put coins onto it. Also draw a smaller version of this table in a notebook to write out the problem.
Draw a table with columns for dimes and pennies on a sheet of paper that looks like this. You'll put coins onto it. Also draw a smaller version of this table in a notebook to write out the problem.

Come up with a math problem and write in a notebook. Use the same dime/pennies column setup in the notebook. Start first with math sentences that won't require carrying (ex. 32 + 25). Put 3 dimes and 2 pennies on the top of your sheet. Put 2 dimes and 5 pennies on the bottom. Your math problem will look like the picture below.

This is what your sheet will look like when coins are placed
This is what your sheet will look like when coins are placed

Make sure your child adds up the pennies first. Let them know this is also called the ones place. Have them write the answer in the pennies column in the notebook (don't write on the coin sheet because you'll need it for several problems). Then have them add the dimes and let them know this is also called the tens place. Have them write the number of dimes in the notebook. All the coins will add up to 57. Show them that they have 57 cents altogether by counting the dimes by ten and adding on the value of the pennies.

This is how the problem 46 + 25 will look in the notebook. Have your child write the number of pennies they've found off to one side until they better understand how to solve these problems
This is how the problem 46 + 25 will look in the notebook. Have your child write the number of pennies they've found off to one side until they better understand how to solve these problems

When your child is comfortable doing problems like this by themselves, you can move onto numbers that require carrying. Come up with a problem like 46 + 25. Arrange the coins on the sheet. Again have your child add the pennies first. When they're done ask them if they have enough pennies to make a new dime. In the problem 46 + 25, there will be 11 pennies.

Have them replace 10 of the pennies with a dime and bring the new dime over to the dimes side of the sheet. Tell them that the remaining one penny will be put as the answer in the pennies column. Have them write the leftover number of pennies in the pennies column in their notebook. Then have them count all the dimes including the carried dime. Have them write the extra dime as a small one above the dimes column in the notebook.

Spend a few days working on problems using actual dimes and pennies. Then spend a few weeks doing problems with your child using the setup in the picture above with the dimes and pennies columns. Remind them often that the pennies column is also called the ones place and the dimes column is also called the tens place. Once your child is able to set up problems on their own into columns and solve problems by themselves, stop using the dimes and pennies columns altogether.

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