BlogParentsTeaching TipsHow Can I Help My Child Use Abstract Thinking in Math?

How Can I Help My Child Use Abstract Thinking in Math?


It is not uncommon to hear about children find it hard to learn math, especially as they move up a different level.

For kids, learning math may not be as simple as it sounds since they are unaware of the values and characteristics of numbers beyond counting them in order. If they have learning problems caused by a medical condition or learning disorder, teaching math concepts can be tricky to pull.

So, how can you help your kids learn math better through the help of abstract thinking? Here are some steps you can do for them:

Use three-dimensional objects to work on “relative value”

If your child is mostly using “manipulatives” to pick up on their classes, you can use this as your starting point to develop their abstract thinking to compute mathematical problems.

You can use buttons, sticks or even candies since it will be easier for your child to pick and move and use it as a means to practice math concepts rather than just memorize them without understanding it.

You can also purchase Unifix cubes or Stern Structural Arithmetic blocks to get your kids started. Stern blocks come with an instructional program that would target your child’s weak areas. The counting board included in the set would also help your kids understand the “relative value” or the units of an item. For example, one block is worth “2” and if you add the blocks, you would get to reach the longest block which is equal to “10”. To reach “10”, they can also use the other blocks on the board to reach the number.

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The blocks serve as a starting point for your child to understand the value of numbers and its value to the other numbers. They would also be able to understand questions like “What is six blocks plus 10 blocks?” and pick the important details from there. In this case, they would know the question really pertains to “6+10 =?”

Focus on using two-dimensional objects

When your child now picks up the “relative value” of things with the help of 3D blocks, you can now move towards helping them understand 2D objects with the help of a pencil and paper. You can draw shapes or lines and teach them values.

At first, your kids won’t be able to get the concepts immediately since they do not have a 3D image to glean on or move around. However, this step would help them start doing computations through their head. He would be able to erase marks and then move them to get to the answer they are hoping for.

Shift the emphasis onto visualizing the objects

After you get your child to understand math concepts through two-dimensional “manipulatives”, you can now help them develop their skills in visualizing the numbers or objects through their mind. This trick can be difficult to master since it will require constant practice on your child’s end. However, you can help by encouraging him to speak out about what they are trying to conceptualize and how he changes the values of each image he is making to solve the problem.

You can also encourage your child to use other visual items like playing blocks or drawings to see if they are heading to the right answer. This will help your kid develop his own idea regarding the relationship between the things he thinks about and their connection with the things they see.

It may take some time before your child can grasp the concept, but with some patience and practice, it will take root and give your child a basis when their classes become more advanced.

Try relating blocks to coins

If your child is unable to distinguish between coins, you can use counting blocks to get started. Assign a differently shaped block as a specific coin and use these blocks to help them determine the value of the coins assigned to them. You can even tape the coin on the blocks which represent it so your child knows what it is.

Using this technique can be a bit tricky since you need to explain how many pennies would make a dime and so on. However, you can discuss with your kid how much each coin is worth and why it would not be ideal to bring a lot of a particular coin when we pay or purchase something.

Enroll them in Math tuition classes or get them a tutor

If your schedule does not permit you to teach your kids math at home, you can engage private math tutor. These math tuition sessions may apply different techniques to make the concepts easier for your kid to understand. If your child has a learning problem due to medical issues and others, they can tweak their lessons to fit your child’s needs and they can work with your child directly, especially if they have problems learning mathematical concepts or facts.

Individual tutorsare available across Singapore so you won’t have problems finding the right one for your kids.

Final Remarks

Math’s application in daily life are endless, which is why kids should be made aware of its importance and it should not be seen as a hardship. However, if kids do not get help in making the concepts easy to understand, they will be at a disadvantage. Take some time to listen to your kid’s math problems and assist them to get the hang of the concepts of this mind-boggling yet important subject.

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With the steps, we listed above, your kids would find it easier to apply what they learn about math and find it easy to apply to daily life.

For further assistance in helping your child to excel in Math, you may find these helpful:

Solving PSLE Math Problem Sums: No Problem!
Careless Mistakes In Math: How They Kill Your PSLE Score


Rum Tan

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors.

You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.

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