SchoolFamily Voices

Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Helping Kids Connect Numbers to Words

Often young students have no trouble doing simple addition and subtraction number problems yet, have little understanding of what the numbers actually represent. Most 1st graders know that 2 + 2 = 4. However, when given those same numbers as word problems, they sometimes run into trouble. Adding word comprehension to an addition or subtraction sentence can significantly increase your child’s understanding of the connection between numbers and solving numerical word problems.

A number sentence might look like this:

  • 5 + 2 = 7  


A word problem would look like this:

  • Jack had 5 toy cars. Dad gave him 2 more. How many does he have now?
  • Megan had 6 balloons. 3 popped. How many does she have left?

A simple yet powerful way for parents to help children make connections between numbers and words is by adding a word “story” to a number problem when helping with homework or practicing math. For example, if a homework task is to find the answer to 8 - 3 = ? simply say, “Julie made 8 cookies. Her brother ate 3. How many cookies does Julie have left?” Have your child draw 8 small cookies, and then cross out the three that the brother ate to see how many are left.

Good mathematical skills are dependent upon understanding what numbers represent. Making connections between numbers and words helps children visualize meaning and deepen their math comprehension.


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