Number Bonds Explained for Parents
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Some kids in my FS2 class were just starting to get the hang of number bonds to 10 when the pandemic hit and schools were closed. I realised that kids everywhere might have missed out on important learning during this past term and if your child is 4-6 it’s possible that they might not have come across number bonds to 10 yet or they might not have had much time to understand them before school was closed. I decided to put together this number bonds explanation for parents to show what number bonds are, give some examples of number bonds and explain how parents can help with number bonds at home.
What are Number Bonds?
Number bonds are known facts about pairs of numbers that can combine to make another number. These facts are used to help solve more complex maths problems.
Number bonds are addition facts that kids become familiar with, memorize and eventually use fluently in their maths problem solving throughout school. Number bonds are also sometimes called number pairs or number partners.
Number Bond Example
7 + 3 = 10
What is 7 plus 3? The answer is 10. You probably knew this without even having to think about it. As grown-ups, we just know that 7+3=10. Its a fact about numbers that we all just know.
7+3 is one example of a number bond to 10 or one way to make ten. We will see how just knowing simple number facts like this number bond can help kids as they go through school and why number bonds are so important.
Why are Number Bonds Important?
7,000,000 + 3,000,000 = 10,000,000
0.007 + 0.003 = 0.01
Knowing the number fact 7+3 off the top of your head means that you would have no problem calculating 70+30 because you'd know that the answer must be 10 but with one more zero on the end - 100. You understand this because you already know that 7+3 is 10 and you understand basic place value.
In fact, knowing the same simple number fact can help you solve lots of other problems. 7000000 + 3000000? 0.03+0.07?
We don’t even think about it as grown-ups, but we use simple number bonds like 7+3=10 all the time and this is why kids need to know them.
When do Kids Learn Number Bonds?
Kids first come across number bonds in the Foundation Stage (around age 4) but without actually calling them 'number bonds'.
At this stage, kids are just breaking groups of objects down into two groups. They then break down small numbers (usually up to 5) into smaller numbers using objects or marks that they have made to help them.
Throughout key stage 1 (age 5-7) kids build up their memorised bank of number bonds and learn to use number bonds to help them solve maths problems.
By year 3 kids are fluent with number facts and use them along with their understanding of place value to solve more complex problems.
I put together this flow chart based on the UK National Curriculum, to show when and how children learn number bonds and how they use them in maths.
What’s the difference between number bonds and number facts?
A number bond is one of many kinds of number facts.
Number bonds are addition number facts because two numbers are combined (or are added together) to make another one.
There are different kinds of number facts - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
In key stage 1, kids learn useful pairs of numbers that will be helpful to know for later Maths such as number bonds to 10 and number bonds to 20. They are also taught to derive subtraction facts based on their number bonds.
What are Number Bonds to 10?
Number bonds to 10 are just different ways to make 10 by adding two other numbers.
The number bonds to 10 are:
1 + 9 = 10
2 + 8 = 10
3 + 7 = 10
4 + 6 = 10
5 + 5 = 10
You can also write these the opposite way around:
9 + 1 = 10
8 + 2 = 10
7 + 3 = 10
6 + 4 = 10
5 + 5 = 10
Number Bonds in Early Years Foundation Stage
In the Early Years the key thing that we want children to notice, understand, realise, is that they can break a number down in many different ways and still have the same total.
In the foundation stages, this tends to be shown to children using objects first. They might use maths manipulatives like counters or blocks or other objects like toys, books or fruit for example. This way kids can see that they are able to move objects between the two groups they have made and still have the same number of objects.
Sometimes kids start to notice and remember number bonds to 10 themselves but we can help them along by making it visual.
This is a screenshot from the Mathematics part of the Development Matters document that supports the UK EYFS curriculum.
You can see here where I have highlighted the objective "Separates a group of three or four objects in different ways, beginning to recognise that the total is still the same".
This means that in the Early Years kids are building their understanding of how one amount of objects can be broken down into two amounts. They also learn that amounts can be broken down in different ways rather than just one. (For example, four could be made from three and one or from two and two.)
At the end of the Foundation Stage, or at age 5, kids might be introduced to ten frames or part-whole model layouts for representing the ways a number of objects can be broken down. They might start with the part-whole model layout and breaking down numbers to five and then once they get the hang of this they might begin to use ten frames.
EYFS Number bonds activities
Here are some online activities kids can do to practise their number bonds to ten and get more familiar with ways of representing numbers:
Save the whale game for practising number bonds - You can change the number you are trying to make. Add the pieces of piping until the total is 10.
Fuzz Bugs Number Bonds Game - You choose what number the number bond should add up to and then drag the right fuzz bug into the machine!
Number Bonds in Year 1
In year 1 and throughout Key Stage 1, everything is still very visual. Ten frames are still used to represent number bonds to ten and kids are often asked to complete them or complete missing number sentences as shown below:
Kids in year 1 now learn and practise using number bonds to 20 as well as to 10.
What are the Number Bonds to 20?
The following are all the possible the number bonds to, or ways to make, twenty that kids will be learning in year 1:
11 + 9 = 20
12 + 8 = 20
13 + 7 = 20
14 + 6 = 20
15 + 5 = 20
16 + 4 = 20
17 + 3 = 20
18 + 2 = 20
19 + 1 = 20
Representing Number Bonds Visually
In year 1 kids are introduced to lots more ways of representing numbers that can be broken down. Here you can see how 7 + 3 = 10 can be represented using real-world objects, part-whole models, ten frames and with rows of blocks.
Below you can see a row of blocks in two different colours that show how ten can be broken down into 4 and 6. Kids also write this out as a numerical statement or fill in a missing number in a partially completed statement.
Remember, kids are shown these ways of representing numbers so that they can eventually draw them independently to solve a problem. In the meantime, they might be asked to complete unfinished pictures such as being given the blocks above with the yellow ones shaded and having to shade the red ones themselves and then fill in the missing number.
In year 1 kids begin to derive subtractions facts from their number bonds. This means that they rearrange the numbers in the number bond to make subtraction facts with the same numbers. These can be helpful for solving problems using subtraction such as 140 - 60 for example.
Number bonds in Year 2
By now kids should be pretty confident with number bonds to 10 and to 20.
In year two kids will be doing lots of calculations and solving problems which require them to use their knowledge of number bonds in conjunction with other mathematical knowledge such as place value.
For example, if kids know that 16 + 4 = 20, they also know that 160 + 40 = 120.
Kids are also now able to come up with subtraction facts from the number bonds that they know. For example, from the number bond 12 + 8 = 20, kids should be able to come up with subtraction facts like 20 - 8 = 12 and 20 - 12 = 8.
You can see how using number bonds to 10 and 20 in more and more different ways helps kids to be able to solve much more complex problems in maths.
Number Bonds Video for Parents
You can read more about teaching addition to young to children at home and also browse the five free number bonds boom decks (interactive and self-checking digital task cards) that I have made here 🔥
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