As students develop their mathematical awareness, they begin to discover the rules that guide computation and problem solving. Attention skills play an important role in the learning and recognition of these rules. For example, recognizing basic rules, e.g., that the ‘+’ sign means combine quantities, or that a fraction is represented as the part over the whole, etc., depends in part upon a student’s ability to concentrate consistently, attend to detail, and connect new information to what is already known.

Rules in math are based upon patterns. Students must learn to recognize the patterns in different math situations and the rules associated with each pattern.

Once a rule pattern has been learned, the student can then store it in long-term memory, and access the rule when the pattern occurs in a new situation. For example, once a student learns the rules for regrouping (borrowing and carrying) in subtraction problems, when faced with a new subtraction problem requiring regrouping, he/she can recognize the pattern and call up the proper rules to mind.

Here are some strategies that may help develop and strengthen students’ abilities to learn and recognize rules in math.