Math Difficulties in Children

Dyscalculia is a common term used to describe individuals with math disabilities.  Similar to above, this term means “difficulty with calculations” and the reasons for these difficulties are varied.  Students with math challenges may struggle from visual processing difficulties, challenges with working memory, lagging executive functioning skills, or difficulties with anxiety.

Understanding Math Challenges

  • Misunderstood Minds has an activity that will give you the experience of having dyscalculia.  It is an important experience for any parent of a child with math difficulties. Many parents and teachers share important insights into the best ways to help the child after experiencing these activities.
  • LDonline.org has a page dedicated to articles, resources and video presentations about math difficulties and math-related disabilities.
  • Understood.org has short, targeted articles related to math difficulties, suggestions for interventions, and the many reasons students struggle with math.

Math Interventions and Supports

  • Apps: ModMath is an app that helps students “show their work” without having to physically write.  It’s like having digital graph paper.  Work can then be easily emailed to a teacher as part of their homework.  This program is particularly useful because it does not give access to a calculator.  SmartPhone games for developing fluency with basic math facts are also very helpful for students of all ages.
  • Online Games: Starfall.com is a great resource for fun math games for elementary school students.
  • Extra Help: Kahn Academy is an online resource with instructional videos for students to learn any level of math.  Learn at your own pace and keep track of your progress.
  • The Real World: Students who struggle with math often have difficulty connecting the abstract, disconnected math on paper to the real-life, concrete math we find in the outside world.  Exposing your child to real-life situations to make math come alive can help relieve anxiety and encourage them to make connections.  Here are some ideas:
    • Play with Fire: Cooking helps students understand fractions.  Try taking your 8-serving recipe and calculating the changes you need to make to serve 4.
    • Allow an Allowance: Giving your child an allowance is one of the best ways to teach important money calculations, planning, saving and impulse-buy control.
    • Time on Your Side: Encourage children to calculate how much time they have, make predictions about how much time something might take, and plan with you using a calendar to count days.
    • Tell-Tale Signs: Turn math problems into stories involving real-life information.  Help the student to visualize the scenario like a movie in their mind.  Numbers and signs on a paper are likely to mean more once they are replaced with people, objects and interactions.

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