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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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