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  • Writer's pictureEmily

What are Number Bonds?

The term 'number bonds' is not widely known / used unless you're involved in early maths education. So if you're unsure about the term, no problem!

Number bonds are an important concept for children and they involve simple addition and subtraction.

A number bond is simply a pair of numbers that add up to another number.

Number bonds can also be referred to as 'number pairs'. They are just the pairs of numbers that make up a given number.

A number bond is a simple addition sum which is so familiar for a child that they can recognise it and complete it almost instantly.

We might start by working on number bonds to 5. The number bonds for 5 are:

0 + 5 = 5 1 + 4 = 5 5 + 0 = 5 4 + 1 = 5 2 + 3 = 5 3 + 2 = 5

Number bonds help to give children a mental picture of the relationship, the BONDS between two numbers. When a child knows addition number bonds, they'll understand the related subtraction facts with ease.

E.g. If a child knows that

3 + 2 = 5

by heart, they will quickly see the answer and pattern for questions like

5 - 2 = ?

by process of elimination 3 is the missing number.

How can we teach children about number bonds?

We can start in a hands-on way by counting objects that they can handle - blocks, dolls, cars, whatever you have to hand. Later, we can move on to using counters. We can start by counting out a set amount of objects (e.g. 5) and splitting those objects into two groups. They first learn that no matter how we split them into two groups, we will still have the same total. They can then play and find out all the different ways to split the amount into two and inadvertently are learning about number bonds to five.

Once children understand the concept with objects they can then progress to writing or drawing number bonds within their maths work. They might write down or choose the number cards that together they've discovered make a set total.

Once they have worked on number bonds in first a concrete and then a pictorial way, children can progress to representing abstract problems using correct mathematical symbols (e.g. 3+2=5).

Which Number Bonds When?

Reception - children start to learn about number bonds to 5, then to 10. E.g. they might be given a number, such 10, and then might be asked to choose which two groups of blocks would together make that amount.

Year 1 - children know number bonds to 10 confidently and then to 20.

Year 2 - children need to be very confident with their number bonds to 20 and to be able to work out number bonds to 100, as well as the corresponding subtraction facts.

Here's one simple activity I did with my 4yr old on number bonds to 10. You might find it useful.

I will also be adding some more simple games for you to try with your Littles when working on number bonds.

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