Student Reflection: Struggles with Subtraction

by Natalie Bodmer

This week presented one of the biggest challenges yet. My student, just like many children, goes through many ups and downs in a very short amount of time. At first he was really excited about finishing his homework because it was a packet of math questions that he was confident he could finish in a few minutes.

He was doing great and working through all the problems without any mistakes. All of a sudden we got to the page that had the subtraction problems on it and his mood drastically changed. He said that he didn’t want to do that page and that he hates subtraction. He finished the whole packet and only had the 2 pages of subtraction left.

He tried to get out of doing them at all, and when I told him that he was going to have to finish those 2 pages he got very upset and put his head down. He started to do the problems and was constantly saying how much he hated school and this math packet and how he didn’t want to do it. I tried to make compromises with him and explain another way of doing the problems, but nothing worked or was getting through to him. I did not give up, finally, I got him to listen long enough that I could explain another way of doing subtraction by thinking of it in a similar way to addition that he was really good at.

I noticed that he used his fingers to do his addition problems, and so again I wanted to use the methods he liked and was good at in other areas so he could improve with his subtraction skills. I explained to him how he could think of subtraction in a similar way of addition and that he could use his fingers and think of the problems as a puzzle. This worked really well and once I showed him how he could use this method he was excited about doing the problems and really confident again. Seeing this change has one of the greatest impacts on me. I was so happy that the method I showed him of how he could count on his fingers to do subtraction problems worked and really made a difference.


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