Understanding Elementary Math Concepts

The concepts you'll learn in elementary school lay the foundation for your future success in math. Some of the most important math skills you'll master include number operations, like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Find available tutors

Elementary Math

Especially in elementary school, it helps to think of math problems visually, using groups of objects. As you read through the operations below, you might want to have a group of items, such as pennies or counters, in front of you.


When you add objects together, you count the total number of objects in two or more groups. For instance, you might have three oranges in one group and two oranges in another group. If you combine these groups and count all of the oranges together, you'll have five (2 + 3 = 5).

You'll also learn that when you're adding together groups of objects, the answer will still be the same no matter what order you add them in. For example, 2 + 3 and 3 + 2 will both give you the same answer. This is called the commutative property.


Subtraction means to take an existing group of objects and make it smaller by removing some of the objects. If you start out with seven pencils, for instance, and you give away five of them, you would have two pencils left over, so 7 - 5 = 2.

Unlike with addition, the commutative property does not apply to subtraction. Since you can't take away seven objects if you only have five to start with, the answer to 5 - 7 is not the same as the answer to 7 - 5.


You'll use multiplication to find the total number of objects that are in a certain number of groups of the same size. For example, if three of your friends are each bringing eight cupcakes for the school bake sale, how many cupcakes will you have altogether? You can find the answer by counting the total number of cupcakes in three groups of eight. You should count 24, so 3 x 8 = 24.

The commutative property applies to multiplication as well, which means that the number of cupcakes in three groups of eight (3 x 8) is the same as the number that would be in eight groups of three (8 x 3). In other words, you could get 24 cupcakes by asking three people to bring eight cupcakes each, or by asking eight people to bring three cupcakes each.


To divide is to separate a group of objects into smaller groups of a certain size. Imagine that you have 15 pieces of candy, and you've promised to give some to five of your friends. If you want to give each friend the same amount, how much should you give each person? To solve this problem, you need to divide your 15 pieces of candy into five portions. In order to make every portion the same size, each one should have three pieces of candy. This means that 15 ÷ 5 = 3.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

  • More Blog Articles
    10 Top Math Apps for Elementary School Children

    Is your child struggling with math in elementary school? You may be able to get him or her excited about learning math by using an educational app on your iPad, iPhone, Android or other mobile device. Here are ten apps for elementary school children that may hold the key to math success.

  • More Blog Articles
    Elementary School Math Test Anxiety

    Too much anxiety about tests can be debilitating and result in poor performance. It can interfere with studying, cause difficulty with learning new material and even have a negative effective on a child's social interactions

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth