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Number Bonds

The new National Curriculum was published in September 2013 and it has placed greater emphasis on children knowing number fatcs. One of the most important sets of number facts are 'Number Bonds'. The phrase, number bonds is alien to anyone in the UK not involved in teaching maths to young children. It is a something most parents have never even heard of until their children start KS1 maths. It is a phrase that fills parents with dread, because they believe it is a form of maths they do not understand. They worry that they will not be able to help their children to understand number bonds. However, those parents need not worry because number bonds involve simple addition and subtraction. A number bond is just a pair of numbers that add up to another number.


Examples of Number Bonds.

The number bonds for 7 are – 0+7, 1+6, 2+5 or 3+4. A child who learns these sums add up to 7 will quickly see that if you reverse them to 7+0, 6+1, 5+2 or 4+3 they also make 7. Number bonds provide a mental picture of the relationship between 2 numbers. These mental pictures are the key to enabling your child to do mental arithmetic. Knowing addition number bonds means that your child will understand subtraction with ease. If they know that 3+4 = 7 they will quickly realise that when they see 7-4 = ?, the answer is 3 because by a process of elimination 3 is the missing number in this number bond. It helps children to see that subtraction is a mirror image of addition. They begin to see the patterns in numbers and to learn mathematical principles rather than having to memorise each individual sum. Number bonds are the foundation blocks your child needs to progress with maths. Once they know all of the number bonds for 1-10, they will have the information they need to subtract using the numbers 1-10.


The best way to teach number bonds is to use games. Which games work best is dependent on the age of the child and their understanding of numbers and their relationship to each other. The more familiar children are with numbers the easier it is for them to learn any form of maths. So, the number one rule is to make numbers a daily part of even very young children’s lives. Singing counting songs, showing them cartoons with number recognition and counting weaved into the story help a lot. However, far more effective is to build numbers into play. For example, using blocks.


Block Games for Number Bonds

To teach the number bonds for 3 lay out 3 blocks on the floor and ask your child how many blocks there are? Then tell the child you are going to move some blocks, move 2 aside and ask the child how many blocks you have moved. When they answer correctly ask them how many blocks are left?. Finally move the 2 blocks back into the original pile and ask them:-

How many blocks are in the pile now?

By doing this you have just shown your child that 3 – 2 = 1 and 1 + 2 = 3. Repeat the process removing and adding back just one block and you have just reinforced the other part of the number bond which is 2 + 1 = 3 and 3 – 2 = 1. When your child can follow this block game and answer correctly you will have successfully taught your child one of the number bonds for the number 3.


Other Games For Number Bonds

For older children rolling 2 dice and asking them to add the dice together is a good way for them to practice their number bonds. As is getting them to help you to lay the table, but only give them enough plates for some of the guests. Then ask them to work out how many more plates are needed and tell you. If you have 10 guests give them 7 plates and let them tell you they need 3 more.


Reinforcing Number Bonds Using Everyday Situations

Learning number bonds is key to a child’s future maths success. The children that do best with learning number bonds have the support of their parents and the rest of their family. They are given the chance to practice basic addition and subtraction, which is really all number bonds are, in their daily life.
An example of this is arranging a family party and asking your child to work out how many guests are expected in total. They will know that your sister’s family consists of 4 people your own family has 5 people in it and that Nan and Granddad together make 2 people. So with the aid of a piece of paper, their own fingers, M&Ms or blocks can add 5 to 4 to make 9, then add 2 to that to make 11.
You can carry things even further by asking your child to work out how many sandwiches are needed. For example 11 people are coming, but Granddad does not eat sandwiches, so 11 – 1 means you need enough sandwiches for 10 people. For each person who eats sandwiches you need 2 each, so 10 + 10 = 20 sandwiches.
Telling a toddler they have 2 feet when you put on their shoes is a way of helping them to understand that 1 + 1 = 2.


Below you will also find web based activities for helping your child to learn their number bonds.