Math is a frustrating subject for many children—either they can’t remember number facts or they memorize them in a flash but don’t understand or process the associated concepts. Some children experience difficulty with both computation and application, a condition known as dyscalculia. These children have difficulty understanding, recognizing, or naming mathematical symbols, copying numbers or figures correctly, or remembering mathematical steps and sequences.
Symptoms of a Math Disorder:
- Avoids math work of all kinds.
- Becomes confused when encountering math concepts.
- Has trouble with word problems.
- Changes the order of numerals when copying them.
- Cannot keep numbers in columns.
- Adds one column of numbers then switches to subtraction for the next.
- Has difficulty remembering addition and multiplication facts.
- Has difficulty remembering math steps. For example, cannot remember how to carry or borrow numbers, how to do long division, or how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide fractions.
Strategies for Working with Children Struggling with Math
- If your child has trouble keeping numbers in their columns, have her use the vertical columns on graph paper or lined paper turned sideways.
- Have your student cover up all columns except those he is working on.
- If a child is being tested on math concepts and has difficulty with computation, allow the use of a calculator.
- Suggest that when working with addition and subtraction, for instance, your child circle the “+” or “-“ sign before computing the problem. Children who struggle in math often lose focus on the specific mathematical operation required. In other words, a child with dyscalculia may correctly add one set of numbers and then subtract the next, despite the presence of a “+” sign.
- Color-code “fact families” and multiplication facts for younger students. For example, color the facts “2+3=5, 3+2=5, 5-2=3, 5-3=2” in green and “3+4=7, 4+3=7, 7-3=4, 7-4=3” in blue.
- When working on a word problem, show your student how to organize the “clues” contained in the problem, including what she is being asked to solve. The clues can be organized in any way that works for a given student, e.g., underlining, listing, or making diagrams.
- When appropriate, suggest that your child draw a picture that illustrates the math problem.
- Have your child sub-vocalize while doing math work.