How Children Learn: Making Connections

If I measure this yardstick, how long do you think it will be?

I asked the above question while I was introducing measurement to my second grade class. I was greatly anticipating my students’ answers.

Several children raised their hands, I picked one, he answered, “45 inches?” Letting his tone announce that he was guessing. I smiled, not at all surprised, but answered him and moved to someone else. The guessing went on until a light bulb went on with such force that the student could not keep the words contained under a raised hand, “36-inches!” he shouted. The room was suddenly abuzz with the incredulous voices of seven- and eight-year-olds realizing the importance of the connection just made. I quietly asked the shouter why he thought I would get 36-inches if I measured the yardstick. He explained proudly, and correctly, what I had just finished explaining to the class: that inches were the same whether on a ruler, tape measure, or yardstick. The 36 inches on the yardstick would turn out to be 36 inches on a tape measure as well. We measured just in case, he was right.

Young children often have misconceptions because they think concretely. Measuring with a yardstick is different from measuring with a tape measure, yet they yield the same results. This “blending” of two different things into one result is often hard for young children to do. Children learn to do this more naturally when they begin conserving, usually around age seven or eight. As parents and teachers, we can help our children see the connections in the world if we understand their misconceptions.

Adults quickly make connections because their minds have been trained to do so. We can see that reading, writing, and speaking are all interconnected; and that addition is the complement of subtraction. When we read the word “truck” we make the connection that this word is pronounced /truk/, spelled t-r-u-c-k, and refers to most vehicles with carrying capacity. Likewise, when we add 34+17 and get 51, we know that 51-17=34, there is no need to actually subtract to find this relationship.

Children learn to think like this only with practice, it is not automatic. Children as old as 8 often read the word “truck”, and know that it is a vehicle, but when they are speaking and writing the word it comes out as “chruck”! It is very difficult to hear this mispronunciation because even adults often pronounce a tr- blend as chr- (go ahead, try it!). The same goes for the above math problem, many children will start subtracting 51-17 even if they just did the problem “34+17=51”! They just do not see the relationship!

There is no reason to worry or get upset if your children are not making these connections, it is natural. Instead, we should recognize and even anticipate these problems and help children make connections. If you can learn to recognize when two things are connected and then explain them to your child, you will go a long way in furthering your child’s education!

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Comments 7 comments

kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Dear EDU 101, I don't know if you remember me, you probably do. You told me that you were interested in teaching my son, Daniel. He is now eight, he is struggling, but I think I am not up to the challenge. He is very intelligent, but he hates reading, school, boring anything...

Can we talk?

I have a business idea - not necessarily starting with children but it goes around "Education must be FUN" (and effective. I cannot handle the Heavy Duty Public System that fails my son. Maybe his failures are the good thing - they will teach him more, but I would love your advice.

I did not write much about Daniel, but if we create a dialogue, I am sure, it will be mutually beneficial - there are too many children and parents struggling.

Thank you,

Sorry for any mistakes, I am rushing out and typing with "one finger"...

Take care.


EDU 101 profile image

EDU 101 4 years ago from Georgia Author


I do remember our conversations and would love to talk more, perhaps you could message me with what you have in mind and we could go from there!

kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Great! I will just use his words:

1. Why are you not reading? - It's boring. I want it to be FUN. {I tried to force it until I realized - it is boring to him). Nobody will be resisting FUN anything.

2. I want you and Dad to be in school. Why? I prefer dealing with adults - they are more FUN.

So, the major factor in our eduction - we cannot make it FUN.

I asked him to memorize lyrics of a song - he was crying for 1.5 hour refusing to do it. But when I was telling him line by line on a bus - we did it TOGETHER in 15 minutes. and then we were singing IT TOGETHER even though it was not a children's song. That was certainly part of the appeal. And his interpretation? Priceless.

He even memorized the 1st line in Spanish - he does not speak Spanish, not yet.

The major problem - his language - between Russian and English - he is equally inadequate. He refuses to work on his pronunciation - he speaks like a two - four year old being eight.

And self-esteem. Non-existent. Zero.

Let's take it point by point.

Thank you,


P.S. I can write little "Danielisms" stories - for others - we all have similar problems (opportunities)?

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

This is a great article. However, we adults must constantly engage our children to make them ever more inquisitive and curious learners/thinkers!

EDU 101 profile image

EDU 101 4 years ago from Georgia Author


Let's move our discussion to private message, since it is not directly related to the hub!

EDU 101 profile image

EDU 101 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you gmwilliams,

I couldn't agree with you more! One of the most important facets to learning is curiosity, yet schools are more than ever teaching to the tests. Curiosity is being drained from our children in exchange for memorizing facts that they will not remember from grade to grade. There is so much pressure on teachers to "perform" that they are desperately trying to prepare children for these standardized tests. The cost? Huge cuts in art, music, PE, recess, and even science and social studies, when the tests do not mandate them! Natural and guided inquiry are becoming things of the past.

This saddens me, as I feel it is more important to teach children how to learn than how to fill in test bubbles. It is mind-blowing that administrators, teachers, and policy writers do not see this way; yet, we wonder why our schools are in the shape they are in.

RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

RobinGrosswirth23 3 years ago from New York

Because children possess native curiosity, it is important for educators to create spaces and lessons that foster discovery and the importance of drawing connections (The brain learns by drawing connections.). Good hub.

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