Share these ideas with parents to help develop abstract-thinking skills at home:

Count everything. Count going up stairs; count plates for meals; count raisins for snacks, and so on.

Build with shapes. Have blocks and cut-out paper shapes readily available for making pictures, designs, and buildings. Point out shapes in everyday objects and try to re-create them with blocks.

Encourage your child to sort objects. Sometimes the categories are obvious, such as when sorting silverware. But see how many different ways your child can sort other objects. For example, he might sort clothes by color, size, fabric, and so forth.

Talk to your child. Discussion helps children "turn language and thought on themselves" and helps them learn abstract concepts. Also, discuss events that happened long ago and far away. This helps children learn to represent ideas and manipulate symbols abstractly, but meaningfully.

Read to your child. Children gain understanding by creating mental pictures of what the stories describe. This helps them build language competence. It also helps them learn, in an enjoyable way, about language itself.

Share math books. Read and discuss books that teach mathematical ideas, such as counting, size relationships, shapes, and so forth.

Play word games. Also, share poems, silly rhymes, and nonsense words. all of these things help children learn that speech can be broken into different parts, such as letter sounds.

Ask "Why?" and "What do you think?" Encourage your child to explain his thinking to you.

Check out the Web site of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), where you'll find information on how to help your child learn mathematics, with links to educational video clips, information on special needs, and more.