Why Children Struggle with Math and How to Help

Many children struggle with math – most parents are confronted with this fact at some point during their kids’ school years. Still, you need to understand that this challenge isn’t impossible to overcome.

Understanding why mathematics continues to challenge some students more than others can help improve your chances of helping youngsters with it.

Here, you’ll get a glimpse of possible causes of your child’s struggles with math and what you can do to help.

3 Potential Reasons for Math Struggles

Children who struggle with mathematics might face various issues that could be hindering their learning. If you understand what they are, you can offer the right kind of help.

Below are three possible reasons why your child is having a hard time learning the subject:

1. Lack of mathematical building blocks

Mastering math entails cumulative learning, which means understanding the basics of the subject is a must. If your child falls behind even in one area, he may have trouble understanding more advanced topics until that problem area has been clarified.

For instance, if a student has yet to understand the foundations of addition, he won’t be able to fully grasp the concept of multiplication.

Based on the results of a 2015 study titled “The Importance of a Strong Mathematical Foundation,” researchers noted that students were taught math concepts correlated to their grade level alone without taking into consideration the knowledge they currently have when they arrive in class. Because of this, students were not able to master math according to their grade-level standards before being taught more advanced concepts.

The sheer lack of mastery of the basics creates gaps that hinder students from making connections and developing a conceptual understanding of every level of mathematical concept they learn.

2. Math anxiety

Besides the lack of foundation, anxiety could be another reason why some students have a hard time with math.

Based on research, psychological factors contribute to students’ level of learning in math. Take note that anxiety, in this case, isn’t just about worry – it is more of a chemical reaction in the child’s brain that impedes cognitive processing.

Aside from his test scores, you can determine if your child is experiencing math anxiety by watching out for the following physical manifestations:

  • Fast breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating

Notice how the symptoms look a lot like stress? That’s because they are related to stress, particularly one a child experiences when dealing with math problems.

Math anxiety can happen to anyone, even children who are gifted in other subjects. In any case, this results in poor test scores because it undermines the confidence of young learners.

3. Learning difficulties

Poor math skills could also be attributed to specific learning disabilities, including the most common one: dyscalculia or “number dyslexia.”

According to child psychologists in Dubai, dyscalculia is not a mental health disorder. Instead, it is a non-verbal learning disability that causes difficulty with:

  • Counting
  • Measuring quantity
  • Working number memory
  • Sequential memory
  • Recognizing patterns
  • Time perception
  • Telling time
  • Sense of direction
  • Mental retrieval of facts and procedures related to math

In many cases, students who struggle even with the mildest form of dyscalculia can fail to showcase their full potential in math class.

Other learning disorders that make math more challenging for children include:

  • Dyslexia – a disorder where number figures and letter shapes are flipped, orders are mixed up, and numbers are reversed in the child’s eyes. This might affect a child’s reading progress as well.
  • Dyspraxia – affects fine motor skills necessary for holding a pencil.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – makes it harder for kids to pay attention and focus long enough to follow math equations and procedures.

How to Help Your Child Get Better at Math: 4 Tips

Whether your child has learning disabilities or math anxiety, or just lacks mathematical building blocks to progress as expected, there are several things you can do to help. Aside from enrolling him in math classes for kids, you can:

1. Pinpoint problem areas.

Before you start coaching your child in math, you must first identify which concepts he’s having trouble with. This will allow you to understand where your child is coming from and develop a more effective plan to address it.

2. Show how math applies to real-world scenarios.

Many learners fail to grasp mathematical concepts because they have yet to see the value and use of learning them. To remedy this, you must show learners actual real-world scenarios where knowledge in math can be quite helpful.

When children are taught about how math can be used outside of school classrooms, you reassure them that it’s not just about numbers and arithmetic. This can also motivate them to try harder to understand math concepts. It could also help them feel more comfortable testing different approaches to problem-solving even if they need to try a few times more to get the correct answer.

Besides homework, you can teach your child math by allowing him to:

  • Compute the total cost of your grocery purchases and compare it with your budget.
  • Measure ingredients when cooking or baking.
  • Count the available items in your kitchen and determine how much more you will need to buy.
3.  Apply multisensory teaching.

When coaching your child in math, it helps to go beyond offering verbal explanations. Show how equations work out on a board or paper. As much as possible, utilize tactile props that your child can touch and move around, like:

  • Counting sticks and stones
  • Clock dials, hourglasses, and stopwatches
  • Protractors, compasses, and set squares
  • 3D shapes and building blocks
  • Pretend money
  • Dice, counters, cards, and spinners
  • Food such as pizza or pies
  • Funnels, beakers, scales, and weights
  • Meter rulers and trundle wheels

The multi-sensory input students get from the items mentioned above will make understanding the lesson easier, not to mention it is more engaging and fun. This strategy can be particularly useful in teaching abstract concepts to children.

4.  Cultivate a positive attitude toward learning math.

In many cases, children feel anxious about learning math because parents and other adults responsible for their learning don’t feel confident about the subject themselves. But in order to help your child with math, you need to have a positive attitude towards learning it.

Of course, having confidence in your own math skills isn’t the only factor here. Even if you’re not so good at numbers yourself, you should display a positive outlook to encourage young learners to do the same.

Instead of letting her give up or give in to frustration, solve the problem together. Your student looks up to you, so you must make sure that you lead by example.

Math Beyond the Equation

Anyone can struggle with mathematics, but it may not be for the same reason. Teaching your children math effectively starts by understanding why they find it difficult and addressing the issue. In most cases, you’ll need to teach them that the subject goes beyond the equation – it is also an important part of life.

AUTHOR BIO:  Maloy Burman is the CEO and Managing Director of Premier Genie FZ LLC.