Connecting math concepts to math problem solving can be overwhelming and confusing for a child who doesn't understand basic math concepts.

Recently, a friend contacted me about how her daughter was having trouble connecting math concepts to math problem solving. Her daughter was having trouble connecting that 2X2 is the reverse operation of 4 divided by 2.
My friend also mentioned that not knowing these math concepts was interfering with her daughter's ability to do math problem solving like word problems.
She wanted to know how her daughter could get the “math facts” or "math concepts" without having to do the boring worksheets or doing memorizing drills.
But before I share with you what I told her, let me say this, “Math is by its very nature a subject that will rely heavily on memorization.” Connecting math concepts to visuals such as manipulatives and by using games or videos are often the only way learning disabled students can learn the necessary "math facts" and math problem solving skills.
Using worksheets for practice is a necessary "evil". However, some children like timed challenges to see if they can beat their time from the last time they practiced. Try to find workbooks or worksheets that grab their attention. For some children this may mean worksheets with lots of color.
Think about the math problem solving skills that you need to know just to be able to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. If a person was to learn just the facts of each operation to 10, that would be more than 400 number facts. That isn’t counting the communicative values of addition (1+2=3 and 2+1=3) and multiplication (5X2=10 and 2X5=10).
For some students, math problem solving is an overwhelming task. For the child who may have dyscalculia, this can be not only overwhelming but devastating!
ALL children should know how to count before they go to kindergarten. At least up to 10. Some schools may require students beginning kindergarten not only know their alphabet but also how to count to 25.
Coloring worksheets with the numbers written as characters can be a fun way for emerging students to learn what the numbers look like.
But what do you do for the child who doesn’t like to color?
Using a manipulative like blocks, pennies, straws, legos or anything else that will grab a child’s attention is one way to help with memorizing numbers and connecting math concepts to what a number looks like and how many that number represents.
This is a great way to reinforce math problem solving skills.
Numbers are all around us. We use numbers all the time. At the grocery store, gas station, going out to eat, finding an address and even watching TV. Numbers, like letters, are very important. Success in school depends on the 3 R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.
Here are just a few suggestions on how to get started with connecting math concepts to math problem solving skills from the early childhood through 3rd grade.
Kids love games! Using games is one of the best ways to learn ANY math fact as well as strategies. Learning strategies to figure out a problem is just one skill needed for math problem solving.
I have created a few games that are based on some popular card games. However, instead of buying the games, I have tweaked them so that anyone can play the games using a regular deck of playing cards.
I’m sensitive to the parents (due to religious beliefs) that don’t like to use a deck of “poker cards.” I will also provide a link so that a similar game can be purchased.
I have played all of these games with my students; they love the games. My students especially like “beating” me. When playing with my students, I use different variations of the games, depending on the student's ability.
Commercial card games can be bought at a local toy store and will costs around $6  $8.
The games that I have created will cost you no more than a deck of regular playing cards which you can purchase at a Dollar Store for $1. However, you may want to purchase a better quality which can costs about $2. IF you know someone that goes to the casinos in your area, you can have them pick up a used deck (or decks) of cards for FREE.
The game instructions are FREE. However, you will need to register for a password. After obtaining the password, come back here (bookmark this page) and click on this card games page where you will be able to copy and print the instructions to your computer.
If your child has struggled or is struggling with math concepts during the school year, summer is a great time to get that extra help they may need.
MathCamps.org has listings of 100 different camps across the country. Think about sending your child to a specialty camp such as one of these instead of a regular summer camp.
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