Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 87.  Today we are taking a look at The Power of Addition in Building Fluency in Subtraction.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a subtraction focus lately here on the podcast and over at my vlog, The Recovering Traditionalist.  In a recent video I discussed three things that help make subtraction not so hard for students (I’ll link to that video over buildmathminds.com/87).  One of them is that we need to spend more time building students’ addition fluency, not their subtraction fluency.  Why is that so important?

Well on page 9 of Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni’s book Mastering The Basic Math Facts in Addition and Subtraction, they say it perfectly:

“Addition facts are the primary emphasis through this book because of our focus on building math fact fluency.  When posed with a subtraction math fact, the most efficient way to solve it is by knowing the related addition fact.  When the recall of addition facts is automatic and students understand the connection between addition and subtraction facts, their fluency with subtraction facts naturally increases.

Lessons to develop students’ understanding of related subtraction facts are included in each chapter.  In addition, you will find suggestions throughout the book of activities to build subtraction fact fluency.  To attain fluency with subtraction facts, students need ongoing opportunities to practice the facts and explore their connections to addition facts.”

When you see 15-7, do you know that 15-7 is 8 or do you really think in your brain that 7 + 8 would make the 15?  Are you using your addition facts to help you with the subtraction facts?  A lot of people do, but a lot of people also see them as isolated facts.  Sue and John (and many other researchers) have noticed that when kids have addition fluency and they have built the connection between addition and subtraction, they are more fluent with subtraction.  

It can be challenging to help kids build that connection between addition and subtraction, though, so that’s one thing I love in this book is they give you subtraction activities that go along with each type of addition fact you are working on.  For example, if you are working addition doubles, they have included activities that also build students’ understanding of the subtraction facts associated with those addition doubles.

Another place you can learn more about how to build that connection between subtraction and addition is over at my vlog.  This week I just released a video about how to build the connection between inverse operations.  So building that connection between addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and division.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.