If number patterns are difficult for your child, try to approach the concepts above through the use of symbolic learning. If your child finds sequential number patterns challenging, start with patterns that involve color and/or shapes of graphic elements. Once a child sees how those patterns are formed, the bridge to number patterns may be more obvious to him/her. Another form of symbolic learning is to encourage your child to sketch the details in the problem. In the horseshoe problem above, where the pattern detail that had to be recalled in order to solve the problem was to remember how many legs each horse has, your child would probably realize immediately what information was missing if you asked him to draw the horses that will be getting new shoes. When two horses, each with 4 legs has been sketched, even if the drawing doesn’t look like horses to you, your child will likely see the legs and know what to do. If not, you could ask questions about the drawing until the child sees the connection.
It is also possible that problems such as these are challenging for your child because he lacks basic experience with numbers. If this seems the case, try to find more opportunities for your child to use numbers in daily living. Let him group your produce at the store in an attempt to figure out how best to choose the number of needed items and bag them. Let her count out the pieces of silverware needed to set the table and teach the skill of picking up the items in twos, counting 2, 4, 6 . . . and then challenge your child to pick up 3 at a time of items and count by 3s for a change. Give your child 10 pennies and encourage him to arrange them in as many designs as possible, noting the design with X’s on a piece of paper to make sure that each design is unique and not a repeat of an idea previously used. Work on the basic math facts with your child, if that seems to be a stumbling block, so that your child has the basic knowledge to allow the brain to concentrate on the challenging, or new, skills needed to complete a new style of problem. There are, it seems, children for whom “number sense” is a native skill, but far more children are math-competent because they have had much experience and practice in number manipulation and problem-solving.