Common Core Math Terms Explained to Parents

With the implementation of the new Common Core Standards in math, parents and families may hear some unfamiliar terms when talking with their child about their school day or helping with their homework. Here is easy-to-understand reference to some of the new math vocabulary and what it means.

Number Bonds

Number bonds are a mental picture of the relationship between a number and the parts that combine to make it (for example, there are multiple number bonds for “8.” Some of them are: 6+2=8, 2+6=8, 8–6=2 and 8–2=6. Other number bonds include the uses of 7&1, 3&5, 4&4, ). We all learned this in school but it was almost always through memorization. Number bonds teach it to students in a different way so that they can better understand the relationships in addition/subtraction and multiplication/division, not just memorize them.

The concept of number bonds is very basic, an important foundation for understanding how numbers work. A whole thing is made up of parts. If you know the parts, you can put them together (add) to find the whole. If you know the whole and one of the parts, you take away the part you know (subtract) to find the other part. Number bonds let children see the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction and then, apply that concept to multiplication and division. In Math Expressions, they were called “Math Mountains.” They are important because they:

  • Give student’s structure to organize number sense
  • Assist students in setting up number sentences, or equations

Place Value Charts

Many students become confused with place value of numbers. For example, in the number “25,471” if a student is asked, “What is the place value of the number “2” many will give “2” as their answer. The place value of “2” in this number is actually two, ten thousands. To help students better understand place value versus the number itself teachers will use concrete objects to represent the values and place value charts to give students a visual way to organize units in the their minds.

Tape Diagrams

Tape Diagrams are drawings that look like a piece of tape and are used to illustrate number relationships. So instead of a student drawing 125 roses and 30 daisies in a math problem, they would draw a rectangle to represent all of the roses and a smaller rectangle to represent the daisies. The tape diagrams help younger students visualize and have a deeper understanding of what they are learning so when they get to fractions and ratios in later years, they can better tackle those more difficult math concepts. Tape diagrams were also used in a previous program we used called Math Expressions.


Sprints are two-part, one-minute drills with closely related problems on each sprint. They focus on individual improvement as opposed to competition between students. In between the two sprints, teachers will complete a physical activity that includes; for example, skip counting, to keep students excited. They are high-energy drills that are designed to establish and enhance fluency by developing student’s number sense through a focus on patterns. Sprints are:

  • similar to “mad-minutes”
  • a pattern of purposeful learning
  • a goal to see improvement on the amount an individual student gets correct

If a parent has a question on any of the new math terms they hear, please contact your child’s teacher for more information.