With six children schooling at home, it never fails that I have some “issue” each week that I am researching out. I have spent over 10 years in college and still at times don’t have a single answer. Currently, I am trying to understand why children struggle with math even though they have a good foundation and seemingly fine mental acuity? What is the mystery here?

Well, I didn’t uncover any astounding new revelation, but did realize some important truths. There are so many areas that a child could find pitfalls… for math itself covers so much territory. However, most often when a child has a math struggle, it is not a struggle with everything that has to do with math, but a particular area within the subject of math. Math is also very interconnected with other subjects such as language arts – making for other possibilities for struggle. I have summarized a few of the most basic and common concerns that seem to plague the math sufferer. I have listed some of these below, but please understand that this is in no wise a complete nor comprehensive list. I am just trying to pass on a bit of what I learned this week!

The first thing that I did in my search was to ask myself some questions about my little learner. The following is based on that format and a few webites ( here’s another) that were a valuable help. Does your child fall into any of these categories?

- If your child struggles with:

- recalling basic math facts
- being slow in their recall of math facts
- difficulty remembering previous math experiences
- forgetfulness in the middle of a math problem

Then they may have a deficiency in fundamental concepts such as their addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division family facts. Each of these facts are foundation stones to build the rest of their math experiences on.

2. If your child is:

- easily distracted or unfocused while doing schoolwork
- easily tired during math work

They may have a genuine attention problem.

3. If your child has difficulty:

- grasping abstract concepts
- making connections between related math concepts

They may have a foundational math difficiency. Math skills need to be learned based on concrete (or real life – touch, taste, feel) examples. Children who have difficulties in these areas are often missing this concrete foundation.

4. If your child has trouble understanding math language or math vocabulary then thay may have an underlying language arts need. If a child has difficulty with lanuage arts (reading, comprehension, writing, spelling, etc.), it will be much more difficult for them to understand the rarely used math terms.

5. If your child has trouble with:

- recopying problems correctly
- reading the “hands” on a clock
- ordering the steps on a multiple task problem
- geometric shapes and translations
- anxiety when given a large paper pencil assignment

They may have an underlying spatial difficulty. This will affect how they are able to order steps, and understand objects in space and depth.

Though I haven’t completely formulated my “plan of attack” on this week’s issue, these questions really helped me to see some areas that we do have weaknesses in. I plan on sitting down and making a ordered plan on how we will address and hopefully improve our math skills deficiencies. Don’t despair – though you may have found yourself or your child in some of the descriptions above, you can work through it. Once you pinpoint the area – and know what the underlying problem is – work on that problem. I hope that this may give some of you much needed hope that most math difficulties are able to be overcome!

Jamie,

This is a nicely done blog. What is your family up to these days?

I think this is really interesting. I often find that parents are surprised that math is such a broad category.

Math involves rote memorization (math facts), lots of conceptual understanding (operations and numbers), spatial reasoning, dealing with unknowns (probability, algebra), and so on.

Interesting that not understanding a math concept could indicate or be a result of difficulty in some other area. As home educators, we so often think of subjects as being disconnected, when in fact learning is more holistic. My struggles of late have been with my daughter (who always did very well in basic math, through 8th grade) hitting an absolute brick wall it seems when it comes to algebra!

I completely understand… I have one who just finished with that brick wall…. 🙂 She had a hard time, but she finally made it! Now we are on to the even higher brick wall of Alg II. I just keep trying to present it to her in different formats. Sometimes a different method helps!