Monday, August 24, 2020

How to do a simple multisensory subtraction drill

 None of us want our child to struggle with math facts. We hope that skills like subtraction will come easily to them, or plan to drill at home to help give them an advantage in the classroom.


If your child doesn’t learn through traditional means, it can be disappointing, and a little scary.  You might scan the app store hoping to find a clever solution, or order some flash cards to drill with. What is really going to help them?

If your child needs to learn subtraction facts, I’d like to share the method that I use with my own children at home. Even if your child struggles with a specific learning disability (SLD) like Dyslexia or Dyscalculia, this method will help them move forward in mastering this basic math skill.


How to be successful in learning subtraction facts

A couple of keys that will help make this activity a success.

1. Take your time. Forcing your child to try to practice faster only makes them more nervous and confused. Let your child move at their own pace and build confidence.

2. Use multiple senses.  This whole drill is meant to give visual, tactile, and verbal input. Be sure to have the child touch, talk, and look at each part of the equation at the same time after they have  worked the problem. Especially for children with SLD’s, connecting multiple parts of the brain makes a huge difference.

3. Be quiet.  As parents we desperately want to help, and that can lead to a flood of “hints” and helps. Ultimately, that’s distracting. Practice being quiet while your child works, so they can think. Only give very intentional instructions.


What you’ll need for this subtraction review

-flash cards

- small items such as beads, candy, or raisins

-either number manipulatives or a piece of paper and a pencil


How to review subtraction Facts

Watch how to do this drill with a child.

Download a free cheat sheet for this drill from my TPTstore.


Sort out just the subtraction fact cards that have a minuend (top number) of 5 or less, and have your child work on these first.

Spend 5-10 minutes per day working on math facts. Don’t worry about meeting a specific goal. Just be consistent in practice and wait for the mastery to come. It may take a little longer, but the results will be more permanent and well worth the wait.

Wait for your child to ask to do the problem without the manipulatives. Don’t pressure them to take this step too early. Once the child is eager and confident, you can allow them to simply supply the answer, but treat it as a privilege.  If they make a mistake, have them use the manipulatives to go back reinforce the correct answer.

Once your child can easily remember the answers to the problems within 5 (largest number is 5 or less), add in the rest of the problems up to 10. Later on you can add in even higher numbers if desired. However, subtraction within 10 (largest or top number is 10 or less) is all that your child really needs to be successful in math.


Take the rush out of your subtraction fact practice, give your child a concrete way to practice, and work at it a little bit each day. You’ll soon find that your child is successfully committing subtraction facts to memory, and the stress will evaporate for both of you.

Would you like to have a math tutor on call this school year? Check out the Parents Math Toolbox, a video based tutoring service provided by a tutor who has Orton Gillingham math training and high school teaching experience.

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I can't wait to hear what you have to say! Thanks for sharing.