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I think what you are referring to is the oxidation state. In which case you look at the charge of all the individual items attached to the metal. For example Cl has a -1 charge. Then you look at the overall charge of the compound. The oxidation state is the number that allows for the individual components to add up to the total charge. For example if you had [Fe(NH3)Cl2] the two chlorines have a charge of -2 and the overall charge is 0 so the oxidation state would be +2
It gets a little foggy in the transition metals unlike the rest of the elements. You can learn information by looking at the element that it is bonded to and how many there are of that element in relation to the transition metal.
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