My daughter, who is in second grade, is having difficulty understanding some of the basic mathematics concepts like subtraction and place value. How can I help her make sense of math? - Math Problem.


Have you tried using manipulatives to help your daughter understand mathematics concepts? This involves using objects like buttons, coins, candies or paper clips that she can move around to illustrate a mathematical problem. For example, she will see how subtraction works when you have her lay out 10 buttons and take three away to solve the problem 10-3.

A very enjoyable way to make mathematics concepts more meaningful for your daughter is through children's books. You probably already have given her an understanding of comparing size through reading and talking about the story "The Three Bears." There are literally hundreds of children's books that you can read and talk about with her to naturally and easily develop mathematics concepts. Here are some suggestions from Dr. Patricia Moyer-Packenham from the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University:

Begin with books like "Anno's Counting House," "1 Hunter" and "Mouse Count" to introduce the basics of counting. To enhance your daughter's understanding of money, use books like "A Chair for My Mother," "Pigs Will Be Pigs" and "How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty." Help her investigate the concept of measurement by reading with her such children's books as "Jim and the Beanstalk," "Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?" and "Inch by Inch." To introduce her to geometry, read "The Greedy Triangle" or "A Cloak for the Dreamer." When she is ready to explore multiplication and division, "One Hundred Hungry Ants," "Each Orange Had Eight Slices" and "Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar" are good choices.You'll find the names of more books in "Skill Builders" under "Resources on this Web site.

You definitely will need to read a story many times to help your daughter learn more about a mathematics concept from the printed page. You will also want to talk with her about the concepts. When children can talk about a mathematics concept, it usually makes sense to them.