AJ is a second grade student. He scored in the third percentile on LDA’s Fall benchmark test because he did not understand the concept of adding or subtracting two numbers.


He did not understand that a number represents a quantity and that an operation tells you how to manipulate the numbers to get a new quantity. Instead, AJ would always count up the number of touch points on all the numbers that he saw. In the touch point system each number has a number of touch points equal to its value, so AJ ignored all operation signs and whether a number had two or more digits when going math. For example:

11+1=3

2-1=3

27+0=9

2+5=7 This is the only type of problem he had correct because there are 7 touch points

LDA’s teacher explained to AJ that he could not use touch points anymore. His regular classroom teacher would tell him to draw pictures or tally marks to help him solve a problem, so initially LDA’s teacher followed suite. However, with AJ’s severe ADHD, he would often forget how many pictures he drew and would sometimes blur the two items together.

How Learning Connections Makes a Difference

Learning Connections is LDA Minnesota’s community-based program that provides intensive math and reading instruction, supplementing a child’s regular reading and math programs. It serves struggling students in groups of up to six students, two times a week during the school day. Highly-trained teachers employ both prevention and intervention approaches by teaching successful strategies while remediating deficient skills. The Learning Connections works in schools in the Twin Cities.

AJ’s Success

LDA teacher Rachel Tollefson discovered that AJ was excellent at counting, so she taught him how to use counting instead of making a picture to solve problems. For a few days he worked on adding “1” to a number and realized when you add one the answer is the next counting number. Then he practiced adding “2” to a number and realized you count up two numbers. Once he mastered adding on up to 10, they started subtratcing 1, then 2, etc. He thinks counting up or down is a shortcut and this motivates him to do math now that he knows that “fast and easy way.”

When hearing the word “shortcut” AJ would listen carefully and was ready to learn more math. Within the past month, he went from not knowing how to add 11+1 to knowing how to add 27+52, based on place value! He sits still and works hard every day, now that math is easier. He can also identify the greater of two numbers and use less than and greater than symbols to compare two numbers. AJ feels more confident and ready to learn thanks to unlocking the key to numbers and operations.

Please help support struggling students who have the ability to succeed in school, but need the right support to get them back on track. Donating to LDA will help students like AJ to learn, dream, and achieve!