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Making Sense of Numbers


Math plays a crucial role in developing the critical thinking and reasoning skills needed for future success in all walks of life.  Fall is quickly approaching and kids will be heading back to school and back to math class often with their minds still in “vacation mode”. To some kids, math is a fearful subject.  It’s not that they hate math. They hate being confused and intimidated by math.  Lack of ability often isn’t the problem but it is lack of confidence that can destroy a stu­dent’s performance in the math classroom.


But when fall comes back around, they will face another year of rote memorization of math tables, equations and drills, and the frustration of not “getting it.”  Frustrated kids lead to frustrated parents desperately looking for a solution.  What is a parent to do?


            There are steps you can take with your child to aid in overcoming the fear of math and reaching an understanding of its fundamental concepts.  The answer lies in developing “Number Sense.”  When kids start to grasp the connections between numbers, the anxiety of failure fades, confidence soars and confusion is transformed into clarity.  As problems become solvable, math actually becomes engaging, and even fun.


At Mathnasium – The Math Learning Centre, we aim at developing “Number Sense” by focusing on three key pillars.  Each of these pillars provides an orderly way for students to learn the basic structure of mathematical thought, leading to what we call Number Sense.  The key pillars include:


1.     COUNTING: the ability to count from any number (integers or fractions), to any number (up or down), by any number.

2.     WHOLES and PARTS:  the whole equals the sum of its parts.

3.     PROPORTIONAL THINKING: reasoning in groups.


To develop counting skills, parents can utilize the following exercises to help children learn to count from any number, to any number, by any number.  These exercises should be done both forward and backward.

·         Count by 1’s, starting at 0 (0, 1, 2, 3…),

o    then starting at any number (e.g., 28, 29, 30, 31…).

·         Count by 2’s, starting at 0 (0, 2, 4, 6…),

o  then starting at 1 (1, 3, 5, 7…),

o  then starting at any number (e.g., 23, 25, 27, 29…).

·         Count by 10’s, starting at 0 (0, 10, 20, 30…),

o  then starting at 5 (5, 15, 25, 35…),

o  then starting at any number (e.g., 37, 47, 57, 67…).

·         Count by ½’s, starting at 0 (0, ½, 1, 1 ½…),

o  then by ¼’s starting at 0 (0, ¼, ½, ¾…),

o  then by ¾’s starting at 0 (0, ¾, 1 ½, 2 ¼…).

·         Count by 15’s, starting at 0 (0, 15, 30, 45…).

·         Count by 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, 10’s, 11’s, 12’s, 20’s, 25’s, 50’s, 75’s, 100’s, and 150’s, starting at 0.


The benefits of this type of counting practice are strong addition skills and ultimately, the painless mastery of multiplication facts.  These strategies can be started as early as kindergarten; however, they are appropriate for any person of any age who needs help with basic mathematics concepts and skills.  The trick is to do these exercises both orally and visually, with little to no writing.    


About the author


Karim Premji opened the first Mathnasium Learning Centre in Markham, Ontario in the fall of 2011 with great success.  He earned his Bachelor's of Applied Science in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto in 1995 and went on to a successful career as a telecommunications systems designer. Karim is an engineer with the soul of a teacher and his desire to help students of all ages and grade levels achieve fluency in math led him to Mathnasium. His goal is to foster a love for mathematics in his students by offering a non-threatening, fun yet disciplined environment where students can come everyday to immerse themselves in math.


Take advantage of our back-to-school promotion (reference coupon here).



4981 Highway 7, Unit 10

Markham, Ontario

L3R 1N1

905-940-MATH (6284)