We've been doing math with the "four friends"--from right to left Max Multiply, Minnie Minus, Patty Plus (she's had a sex-change since we did these with my oldest, and she's having a very bad hair day), and King Dominic Divide.
Mira and I worked with Miquon workbooks last year, and it was pretty obvious that none of it was having any resonance. I think all the operations were so abstract, and she couldn't really keep track of what all those signs were. And, frankly, when I tried to get into the mindset of a child (which isn't too hard first thing in the morning), it was hard for me to get it either. What *is* subraction. If you "take away," don't you have more?
So we brought these guys back out. The shiny glass stars were a hit. Suddenly the nature of the processes and their interrelationships were obvious. Even my four-year old gets multiplication and division now, after say, an hour of playing with these guys!