Learn the difference between new math vs old math, see examples of the new math method, and learn how to help your child with new math problems.

Author

Amber Watkins

Published

March 2024

Author

Amber Watkins

Published

March 2024

Author

Amber Watkins

Published

March 2024

Key takeaways

- Together we will see that new math isn’t all that new. New math simply replicates the way we solve math problems in our heads vs. the standard way.
- We will consider the differences between old math and new math addition & subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions & decimals.
- Finally, we will discuss ways you can help your child master new math in a way that keeps you feeling like the expert, even if this is all NEW to you!

Table of contents

You may have recently looked at your child’s math homework and asked yourself: “How can math be so different from when I was in school?”

If you feel this way you are not alone. Many parents who provide math help have felt overwhelmed by the idea of new math. As a tutor, I’ve been there myself.

Why did math change? And how can you assist your child with new math if it is unfamiliar to you?

Understanding these answers can help us embrace this new way of math — and help our child love it too!

Would you be surprised if I told you new math isn’t so new?

You probably even used it the last time you calculated a discount at the store. It is unlikely that you pulled out a piece of paper and lined up all the numbers to calculate the old math way. Instead, you probably used your own form of mental math.

**I’ve learned to calculate 10% off as 10 cents off every dollar, then multiply by the total. What about you?**

Well did you know when you calculate a discount in your head and break a problem into parts, you are using a method similar to new math?! Turns out, the new math method is common to us, even familiar!

Let’s first make sure we understand what we mean when we say new math vs old math. Then let’s discuss ways we can help our children master it.

Old math is the standard form of solving math problems. It involves memorizing and following a series of steps to reach the right answer. You were probably taught this way of math when you were in school.

**Here is old math example of long division:**

Although this method can seem simpler than some of the work we see on our children’s homework today, there can be a downside to memorizing math steps.

As a tutor, I often see students attempt to memorize steps, but ultimately miss one or two, causing them to end up with the wrong answer.

New math was created to replicate how we solve problems with mental math, which is more common in everyday life.

The new math method was designed to help students break apart the problem into easier steps and work their way to finding the answer. It often involves using pictures, number lines, and area models to solve problems.

When doing long multiplication, old math requires you to line up numbers in the standard way, and then multiply each digit. New math requires using a square model and finding the answer in parts as shown below.

When completing long division, old math requires you to follow the steps: divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down. New math encourages using area models for division as shown below.

When adding or subtracting using old math, students are required to line up all the numbers and add or subtract. In new math, students are encouraged to add or subtract using transformation. In this method, they borrow and round from numbers in the problem, as shown in the problem below.

** Addition using transformation**

**64 + 36 =**

**64 – 4 = 60**

**36 + 4 = 40**

**60 + 40 = 100**

When multiplying fractions by whole numbers with old math, students need to change both numbers into fractions before multiplying. New math encourages students to use expanded form as shown in the example below.

When multiplying decimals, old math lines up the numbers, then multiplies. New math uses a number line and counts to the right answer as shown below.

Common Core introduced this method to school systems in 2010 as an effort to encourage real-world problem-solving skills. To see how problems differ in each grade level, see our Common Core math article.

The question remains…**how can I help my child with ****new math****? **

The first step to helping your child with New Math is to develop a positive outlook on it. Although learning something new can be a challenge, look at all the benefits of using new math in schools:** **

**Benefits of** **new math vs old math**

- New Math has been proven to help students master concepts in a way that makes sense to them
- Instead of memorizing steps like in old math, students are challenged to solve problems in more creative ways
- By breaking down problems into smaller parts, the answers are easier to get right
- Students who are visual learners are happy to see the problem broken down into smaller boxes and number lines

**Step-by-step guide: How to help my student with ****new math vs old math**

- Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the math worksheet your child has been given
- Compare the new math problems to the old math concepts you are familiar with
- Ask yourself,
*“What mental math would I use to solve these problems if I didn’t have a pen and paper?”* - Now look at the worksheet again. Can you find any similarities? Probably so. Working from a place of similarities will help you to follow along with the new math instructions.

Helping your child with new math won’t be easy at times, but it will always be worth it. Your patience and positive outlook will be the difference that is needed. Many students in K-5th grade have benefited from practicing Common Core math concepts through our online math app. Why not give it a try today?

Parents, sign up for a DoodleMath subscription and see your child become a math wizard!

Lesson credits

Amber Watkins

Amber is an education specialist with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has over 12 years of experience teaching and tutoring elementary through college level math. "Knowing that my work in math education makes such an impact leaves me with an indescribable feeling of pride and joy!"

Amber Watkins

Amber is an education specialist with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has over 12 years of experience teaching and tutoring elementary through college level math. "Knowing that my work in math education makes such an impact leaves me with an indescribable feeling of pride and joy!"

Manage cookie consent

To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behaviour or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may adversely affect certain features and functions. Privacy policy.

The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.

The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.

The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.

The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.

Book a chat with our team

If you’d like to use Doodle’s browser version, please visit this page on a desktop.

To log in to Doodle on this device, you can do so through our apps. You can find out how to download them here: