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How to help your child if he has trouble learning math. News Jani

How to help your child if he has trouble learning math.


A good grasp of math has been linked to greater success in employment and better health. But a large proportion of us – up to 22% – have difficulties learning maths. Furthermore, about 6% of children in primary schools may have dyscalculia, a mathematical learning disability.

Developmental dyscalculia is a persistent difficulty understanding numbers that can affect anyone, regardless of age or ability.

If 6% of children have dyscalculia, that would mean one or two children in every primary school class of 30 – about the same number of children estimated to have dyslexia. But dyscalculia is less well known by both the general public and teachers. It is also less researched than other learning disabilities.

Children with dyscalculia may struggle to learn basic math skills and concepts, such as simple counting, addition, subtraction and simple multiplication, as well as times tables. Later, they may have difficulty with more advanced mathematical facts and procedures, such as borrowing and carrying but also understanding fractions and proportions, for example. Dyscalculia doesn’t just affect children during math lessons: it can affect all areas of the curriculum.

These chronic difficulties cannot be explained by below-average ability levels, or other developmental disorders. However, children with dyscalculia may also have other learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and ADHD.

Here are some practical tips to help children with math learning difficulties.

Use support.

Children with dyscalculia can get extra practical help when they also work on simple money and math problems. They may often need to use practical aids, such as their fingers or an abacus. They can benefit from using counters and beads to form sets or groups, as well as using number lines to generate answers to math problems.

It can be helpful to have parenting sheets on hand for older children, making information such as timetables or certain formulas easily accessible. Such inclusive teaching methods are likely to benefit all learners, not just those with dyscalculia.

Break down the problem.

Research shows that metacognition can have a positive effect on learning mathematics. Metacognition is “thinking about thinking” – for example, thinking about information you do and don’t know, or self-awareness about the strategies you have to deal with problems.

Teaching children strategies for knowing where to start a problem and how to end math problems can be a good starting point. For example, parents and teachers can encourage children to use songs and mnemonics to help them remember specific problem-solving strategies.

For example, mnemonic draw provides students with strategies for solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems:

D: Explore Sign – Student finds, circles, and says the name of the operator (+,-, x or /).

R: Read the problem – Student reads the equation.

A: Answer – The student draws the height or circle to find the answer, and checks it.

W: Write Answer – Student writes the answer to the problem.

Find out where help is needed.

Children with math learning difficulties often get stuck in math problems and may give up quickly. Teachers and parents should ask children what they find difficult – even young children can explain this – and provide clear instructions to help them with what they find difficult.

Focus on one thing at a time.

Because math problems can be confusing for teens with math difficulties, be sure to only work on one problem at a time. This may mean covering other math questions on the page, and removing irrelevant images. Give quick feedback on both correct and incorrect answers. This will help children learn from their practice and understand the difference between correct and incorrect problem solving strategies.

Mother and daughter doing math counting on fingers.
Focus on one topic or problem at a time.
Ground Photo/Shutterstock

It can also help with lots of repetition and revisiting, short and frequent teaching sessions, and making sure learners know what to do if they get stuck, such as with an adult. Ask for help.

Use the correct words.

Mathematical language and symbols can also be confusing. For example, a negative number has a minus sign, but the minus sign can also be used to describe an operation such as subtraction. We often use the word “minus” for both – for example, say “14 minus minus 9” (14 – -9). This can be difficult to interpret. Different words, such as subtract, minus and take away, can describe the same concept.

It is important to use clear language (for example, “14 minus 9 away”). It will also be useful to help children expand their math vocabulary as well as test their understanding.

play games

Mathematics is everywhere in the environment around us and what is learned in the classroom is also applicable to our daily lives. Our own research has shown that young children benefit from playing short math games using the tools and materials around them.

Counting and collecting sets of objects can be done anywhere: at the dinner table, in the shower, or when going out. Practice-based educational apps can also help children master basic math skills.

Be positive

Finally, developing a positive attitude towards mathematics is very important. This may include not expressing your own concerns and negative feelings about mathematics. Rather, develop an interest in mathematics that will help children persevere and overcome their difficulties.

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