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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kaminski

Math: What Are Number Bonds?!

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

I had a conversation with a mom-friend the other day, and we discussed how many parents/teachers are talking about the "new math" students are encountering today. Whether it's through Common Core or it just looks different from what we learned ourselves, the "new math" can be a bit intimidating.

In an effort to help both teachers and parents, I wanted to start a small video series and set of blog posts to address this issue. I would love feedback from anyone who might have some questions. So, please subscribe and leave me a comment about possible topics!

Number bonds are visuals that help students see how numbers are decomposed/composed. It helps them to see that numbers are made of other numbers. If students learn numbers by combinations FIRST, such as 3 and 2 make 5, before learning addition or subtraction symbols, they make meaning of the operation. They understand that addition is the combination of parts, and subtraction is a part taken from a whole.

Number bonds help students to learn their math facts as a part of a number pattern. They see 4 combinations of making a number without having to emphasize a specific fact. For example, in the number bond above, students could see:

- 3 and 2 make 5 (3 + 2 = 5)

- 2 and 3 make 5 (2 + 3 = 5)

- 2 less than 5 is 3 (5 - 2 = 3)

- 3 less than 5 is 2 (5 - 3 = 2)

There is more of an understanding of how numbers are used to form other numbers. The number bond merely adds as a visual to help students visualize the parts.

What's really cool about number bonds is its application. Students can take their understanding of how numbers are formed to solve complicated problems mentally. Take the above example. If students know that 8 and 2 can make 10, they can try to turn a challenging problem into a 10 and some more. So by breaking 6 into 2 and 4, they can add 8 + 2 = 10, and then add the remaining 4 to get 14.

Students can also do this with multiplication facts. They can take a challenging fact and use the distributive property to make it into a known fact. This gives students an entry point into the problem.

Now, you might be asking, why do all of this writing? Can't students just do it mentally? That's the goal, but we have to help students organize their thoughts to do it mentally. It's like using a graphic organizer to write a research paper. The number bonds help students to make sense of what they are doing. As students become more efficient, they won't need to draw them anymore.

Hopefully, you see what a cool tool number bonds can be. Check out my FREE number bond flash cards at the link below. I have used them to have students build the facts or even work on memorization.

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