Misconceptions in math

If you have visited this blog for a while, you may have noticed my continuous quest in helping children deepen their understanding in math. I share here what I do as a parent with my own children, hoping that it could help other parents as well. At home, I use games, math discussions,  explorations of word problems, etc. But I also try to identifying any misconceptions they may have in their learning.


My son Tom, 5, has learned how to count by Fives and Tens, while playing hide-and-seek with older kids.

– “Ten, Twenty, Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety, One hundred ! Ready or not, here I come !”.

I was quite surprised, initially, to hear him count by Ones, Fives, and Tens, as it is not a concept often mastered at a young age. So one day, as he was playing with his cars, I asked him if he could count them.

– “Sure !”, he said, pointing one car at a time, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten !”.

– “Could you count them by five?”, I asked

– “Sure !”, and pointing one car at a time as he did while counting by Ones, he counted : “Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty !”.

– “Could you count them by Tens ?”, I asked

– “Sure ! Ten, Twenty, Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety, One hundred !”, pointing again one car at a time.

He could root count by Ones, by Fives, by Tens up to a hundred and more. But he did not understand that counting by Fives means counting by groups of five, counting by Tens means counting by groups of tens. For him, it was just three independent ways of counting. You have ten cars when you count by Ones, fifty when you count by Fives, a hundred when you count by Tens. But since you “usually count by Ones”, you have ten cars. Seems logical in Tom’s world.

With Tom, 5, a discussion is usually the best way to assess his understanding, with a “tell me about what you are doing”, or “what does it mean to …”. With Rosie, 8, I like to use pretend-playing : she is the teacher, I am the child. I do not do it often during the school year, but Summer break is a fun time to do so. And since Summer break starts tomorrow… you should hear more about it pretty soon.

Stay tuned !


Would love to hear from you !

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