Training Tips

Thank you for sharing Make Connections with others! Follow these tips for a fun and successful training, online or face-to-face:

  • All staff using Make Connections should participate in training each year. Returning staff will benefit from revisiting the trainings with the knowledge they are gaining.
  • If possible, train staff on all six units before they work with caregivers. Otherwise, train them as early as possible in the year.
  • The training units contain a lot of material to think about! If possible, train staff on two or three units at a time so they have time to process what they learn.
  • Trainings are designed to be done as a group. They involve discussion and hands-on activities.
  • If new staff members come on board mid-year, schedule a time for you to do the training with them (you can be a partner for discussions and activities).
  • If staff need a refresher, lead some or all of the units again mid-year.
  • Invite administrators and other senior leaders to participate in training, too. With training, they can better support use of Make Connections.
  • Encourage caregivers to attend! Explain that training helps them support children’s math learning at home, in ways that build on family strengths.
  • Staff should first participate in the training themselves before leading a training.
  • Lead the trainings in order. Use one or two per session. You can schedule one each week or one each month—whatever works for you!
  • Videos and activity sheets are in English and Spanish. For other languages, enlist help of a caregiver who speaks multiple languages to help translate.
  • The trainings are for adults only. They are an important time to talk with you and with other adults. If children are present, you could:
    – provide childcare;
    – have some caregivers watch children while others participate, then switch;
    – have an activity for children to do in the same room as caregivers.


Training Q & A

Make Connections is a strength-based program. It weaves math into the kinds of activities, projects, and games that staff and caregivers already know how to do with children. For instance, in one activity, children and adults trace their hands and talk about how the tracings are the same and different. As they compare, they discuss the math of sizes (bigger, smaller), shapes (long, thin, round), and amounts (five). Make Connections training sessions are carefully designed to help adults build comfort and confidence.
Great that some of your staff/caregivers love math! Their positive attitudes will be a big plus! Keep in mind that understanding of young children’s math learning has changed a great deal in recent years. For instance, we now know that very young children need exposure to a wide range of math topics, like patterns, measurement, and spatial thinking. We also know that children learn best when questions focus on how they are thinking, rather than on the answer (see “Why should I avoid questions with right answers, below?”). Very few adults today learned math that way. In addition, training is typically most successful when led by someone who is skilled at connecting with those who have negative math experiences.

Many adults are shy when it comes to math. Try some of these approaches:

  • Talk about what you learned by participating in Make Connections trainings; emphasize ways that Make Connections has helped you gain comfort with math.
  • Explain that Make Connections has helped many math-anxious caregivers learn to support their children in math.
  • Have participants share in small groups before you invite them to discuss with the whole group.
  • Use icebreakers.

That’s fine! Whether or not the activities are familiar, participants will learn about children’s mathematical development, about math topics appropriate for young children, and about how to talk with children so that they explore, notice, and explain mathematical ideas.

Most of us learned math as a right-wrong subject. Learning to ask open-ended math questions requires a shift in thinking about math. Here’s how to help:

  • Explain why open-ended questions are so important. Many children are discouraged in math before they reach school age. Open-ended questions can help them build positive attitudes, enjoy math learning, and figure things out for themselves. (See “What is math talk and why is it so important?")
  • Work with participants to rephrase their questions. For instance, suppose a participant proposes, “Can you show me a triangle?” You could suggest one of these alternatives:

    – Point to a triangle and ask, “How can you tell this is a triangle?” To answer, children need to reflect on and describe properties of triangles. If they are not yet able to explain, the caregiver can offer ideas: “Here’s why I think it’s a triangle. It has three straight sides and three corners (angles).” Children will hear and learn from the adult explanation.
    – Show the child a triangle and a square and ask her how they are alike and different. That way, you encourage children to notice and describe features of shapes. If children are not yet able to explain their thinking, the adult can offer their own.


Remote training

Remote training is ideal when participants are in different locations or when no local trainer is available for face-to-face training. If you would like to set up a remote training, contact

Leading a remote training brings a few challenges. Follow these tips to make sure your remote training is successful!

  • Only highly experienced trainers should lead remote trainings. 
  • All participants need Internet access and video access, ideally by computer. 
  • If some participants need to participate by smart phone, video access is still essential.
  • See below for adaptations to make for remote training.

Welcome/introductions: Ask each participant to give name, region, and role.

Participants discuss: Give participants a chance to talk to a partner for 2 minutes. 

Hands-on activities and filling out sheets: Have participants spend 5-10 minutes doing the activity and filling out the sheets in pairs. If you have virtual chat room capabilities, assign pairs to virtual chat rooms. Invite pairs to unmute and have a private chat with you to talk over their ideas for math talk.

Welcome/introductions: Ask each participant to give name, region, and role.

Participants discuss:

  • If you do not have virtual chat rooms, give participants 1 minute to jot down ideas on their own.
  • If you have virtual chat rooms, have participants talk in pairs in virtual chat rooms for 2 minutes.

Hands-on activities and filling out sheets:

  • If you do not have virtual chat rooms, give participants about 5-10 minutes to do the activity and fill out the sheet on their own.

If you have virtual chat rooms, have participants spend 5-10 minutes doing the activity alone in their separate locations but put pairs in chatrooms so that they can talk as they do the activity and discuss their ideas for filling out the sheets together. Invite pairs to unmute and have a private chat with you to talk over their ideas for math talk.

Send materials list and PDFs of handouts to participants two weeks in advance, with a reminder the day before. Do not send the entire training unit. Let participants know it is very important that they print out the handouts in advance. They need to use their screens for virtual face to face communication.

Make sure that you have printouts of everything. You will need your screen for the videos and for virtual face to face communication. 

Materials are listed for face to face, so that participants can share. If participants are at separate sites, they each need access to all the materials. For instance, TU1 materials lists “Scissors (1 for every five participants).” If participants are alone, each need a pair of scissors.


Other questions? E-mail, and we will get back to you within a day.