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Pedagogy Postcard #20: The abstract-concrete connection is a teaching resource website for your digital library

There’s a tipping point in many subject areas when the learning moves beyond the territory of tangible ideas, objects and observable phenomena into the realm of the abstract. Taking students across this divide is a key aspect of enabling them to access higher level learning – or the next step in the learning.

It starts early on in numeracy; the simplest ideas about number require making abstract-concrete connections. Having an intuition for the relative size of 2/3, 0.7 and 3/4 requires a mental model to be constructed.

Number bonds (knowing that 6.4 + 3.6 = 10 and 637 + 363 =1000) and lots of other patterns require learners to have a good sense of scale within each power of ten. I’ve said before that the number line is probably the most important diagram in the universe! It’s the key to creating mental models for numbers. 17 – -6 = 23 makes perfect sense on a number line; without it, the ‘a minus of a minus is a plus’ rule is just an abstraction.

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