Mathematics can be a difficult subject for elementary schoolchildren to grasp. The abstract nature of the concept often makes it challenging to explain to young learners. Teaching elementary math is much easier with the help of a variety of teaching tools that help make mathematical concepts more concrete and demonstrate to students how they will use math in their everyday lives.

## Number Lines

A number line is a simple, affordable and incredibly valuable mathematical teaching tool. When students begin to learn math, they develop number sense. Number sense is the understanding of what numbers are and how they relate to each other. A student who knows that six is a larger number than four has a basic concept of number sense. Number lines provide students with a concrete representation of the number system. When students first begin counting or start to learn the basic operations of addition and subtraction, number lines can help them compare the values of numbers as well as remember the order of the digits.

## Times Tables

When developing early math skills, students must learn basic multiplication facts by heart. Times tables have been a fall-back tool for years, but they remain valuable. By practicing times tables with students, teachers can ensure that their students can quickly recall the basic multiplication facts needed when they move on to more advanced mathematical concepts in higher grades.

## Manipulatives

Manipulatives are hands-on tools that help students figure out simple or complex math problems. Teachers commonly use brightly colored plastic or wooden blocks as manipulatives, but you can use any concrete object, including small plastic fruits, little pieces of candy or toothpicks. When students first see an addition problem, the concept is foreign to them. It can be difficult for them to visualize a situation in which a quantity is added to another quantity. Through the aid of manipulatives, teachers can demonstrate how the concept works. If a student is trying to determine what two plus two is, he can easily solve the problem by taking two manipulatives then taking two more. Then all he has to do is count to determine the sum of the numbers.

## Story Problems

Story problems allow students to see how they will use mathematical concepts in class in real life. Learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide is only half the battle. The skills are nearly useless if students cannot apply them to real-life situations. By integrating story problems into daily lessons, teachers can effectively ensure that their students understand how to use math in everyday life. Also, story problems help students understand the relevance of math. Through story problems, students can begin to see that the concepts they are learning are not only useful in school, but that they have inherent value due to real-world applications.

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About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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