Learning new things can be easier when it's all in fun

September 28, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

"What's a minuend?"

My students were looking over their new spelling words and had some questions. When I'm introducing a list of words, I like to talk about more than just how to spell. Kids want to know what words mean, and I'm happy to oblige.

On this particular week, our spelling time suddenly turned into a review of a math lesson we had the previous week.

I wrote "10 - 7 = 3" on the board.

"A minuend is the number from which you subtract another number."

For example, in this problem, 10 - 7 = 3, 10 is the minuend.

"So what's a subtrahend?"

A subtrahend is the number that is subtracted from another number.

In our example, 7 is the subtrahend.

These terms are rarely used, except in math class, but I think it's important for children to be familiar with them.


Sometimes the difference between comprehension and confusion rests on one word.

That difference is important, which brings us to another math term.

Most people, third-graders included, can remember that the answer to a subtraction problem is called the difference.

The difference in our example is 3.

To keep the terms straight, it helps to think of them like this:

- subtrahend

The terms for addition problems are a little easier to remember.

The addend is the number added to another number. It is also the number to which the first number is added.

For example, in the problem 4 + 5 = 9, both 4 and 5 are addends.

The answer of an addition problem is called the sum. In this example, 9 is the sum.

So an addition problem can be thought of like this:

+ addend

There also are only two terms that need to be remembered for a multiplication problem.

The factor is the number that is multiplied with another number. It is also the number to which a number is multiplied. The answer to a multiplication problem is called the product.

In the problem 7 x 3 = 21, 7 and 3 are factors and 21 is the product.

x factor

Some of the words on spelling lists are challenging, but most children can be taught memory techniques that will last beyond the test.

Parents should call out each spelling word and have the child spell it back verbally. For strong spellers, this kind of review is sufficient.

Words that are spelled incorrectly should be reviewed, with the parent asking the child to spell the missed words verbally or to write them down.

Some children might need to be given a practice test - the parent says the word and the child writes the word.

One study technique that helps many children is writing each spelling word three times.

Many children also benefit from playing hangman with their spelling words.

Here's the catch: The child gets to pick the word and write out the spaces. The parent has to guess the letter.

Most children enjoy the challenge of trying to "stump" their parents in a game, plus they get parental attention at the same time.

Just don't tell them how beneficial it is for them to think about the placement of the letters.

Let them think it's all for fun, and you'll be surprised how easy it is to prepare them for a spelling test and to make them strong spellers for life.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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