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How Number Sense Can Help Your Math (and How to Develop It)

number sense: Mathematical equation using apples

Number sense is the ability to easily understand numbers and number relationships. A sense of numbers means you can use mental math and navigate problem-solving equations.

How a Basic Number Sense Is Built

Building number sense at the 1st-grade level starts with showing students how one number can be the answer to several different math problems. To do this, you would show these first-grade students how to use simple computations, like addition and subtraction, to get the same resulting number:

number sense: Simple computation like addition that get the same resulting number

number sense: Simple computation like addition that get the same resulting number

number sense: Simple computation like subtraction that get the same resulting number

number sense: Simple computation like subtraction that get the same resulting number

Second-grade students can get a slightly more advanced sense of number systems when they see these same numbers can also be multiplied and divided:

number sense: Example of an equation where same numbers can also be multiplied and divided

number sense: Example of an equation where same numbers can also be multiplied and divided

Example of an equation where same numbers can also be multiplied and divided

Example of an equation where same numbers can also be multiplied and divided

Another teaching strategy educators can use when building number sense skills is showing kids what numbers are in real life. This could be simple as going to the grocery store and having them pick out six apples. You can then take away two of these apples and ask how many are now left. This is an especially effective way of developing math skills in hands-on learners.

Advancing Your Number Sense

Developing a number sense beyond the 1st and 2nd-grade level involves more complicated math concepts. This may involve learning math definitions and theorems, understanding magnitude quantities and multi-step equations, and recognizing patterns.

Here's an example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers:

Example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers

Example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers

Example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers

Example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers

Example of a math problem that requires a strong sense of numbers

The Importance of Having a Strong Number Sense

A basic understanding of numbers is the building block for a lifetime of effective math comprehension. When elementary teachers instill a strong understanding of numeric functions like addition and subtraction in their students, they help them break down and place value on numbers. This will allow them to eventually tackle the multi-step equations they'll face in classes like algebra, geometry, and calculus.

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