4 Reasons Why Kids Struggle with Math and How to Help

Is your kid struggling with math then you need to understand these reasons why kids struggle with math and how to help.

4 Reasons Why Kids Struggle with Math and How to Help

Then of course you want to help!

But to know how to best help them, you have to first understand what their problems actually are.

These are not the same as in, say, history or science. That’s because mathematics isn’t just about learning a bunch of facts.

Instead, you have to learn how to apply them. And if this doesn’t go as planned, that can lead to all sorts of problems.

For that reason, here are the reasons why kids struggle with math and how to help them.


They’re missing a building block

Math is like a building built of blocks, with the more advanced mathematical operation depending on a foundation of simpler blocks at the base. It is often the case that if they don’t learn the foundation block lessons, they will find it impossible to learn the advanced lessons.

If your kid is unwilling to admit that they haven’t learned those pieces further down and doesn’t seek out help to learn it, they will fall ever further behind as they don’t learn the next piece or the next one.

For that reason, when you find your child is struggling with a certain operation, make sure you don’t just check their knowledge of that operation, but also the previous pieces. This is especially important if your child is one that’s not likely to ask for help.

In this case, you obviously will have to start by teaching them the more basic mathematical lessons first. Note that this is a matter of finding out how far back their problems go and then addressing that first.

It might be embarrassing for your child to admit that they don’t know certain things, so don’t take their word for it. Instead, actually test them on it first.

If they’re far behind, it might also pay to approach mathematics in a new way. For example, instead of relying on the standard teacher student role, try apps that gamify the experience.

There are a lot of free ones to try out.

These might well prevent your child from having to try to get around without math.

Is your kid struggling with math then you need to understand these reasons why kids struggle with math and how to help.

They don’t understand the right vocabulary

Sometimes it’s possible they actually get the math, but don’t understand the vocabulary. This might well be the case, for example, if they’ve been relying almost exclusively on math apps to learn their math.

It can also happen that they switch schools or learn mathematics in a different language and as a result they don’t have the right vocabulary.

For that reason, if you discover that when they don’t understand a certain mathematical concept, first test whether they actually understand the ideas behind it.

If that’s the case, then it can often be a lot easier than having to teach them from scratch. If they don’t know the right terms, perhaps consider using flashcards so they can learn them after all.


They know the concept, but their execution is shaky

What also happens is that they get the problems when they’re simpler, but can’t yet apply them to more difficult problems. So, they can divide six by three, but struggle to divide 2 by a third.

This easiest way to discover if this is the case is to explore the building blocks that they need for a problem they can’t execute and find out if they can do the simpler varieties and not the more complex ones.

If you discover that it is indeed the case that they can’t get the more complicated concepts, then it’s time drill them with exercises. Note that especially when you’re starting out in this way, it is incredibly important you give them a great deal of positive feedback.

You see, math is often a matter of repeating until you get it and this will help them try. It is better that a child gives the wrong answer than no answer at all (unless they’re just guessing, of course).

Is your kid struggling with math then you need to understand these reasons why kids struggle with math and how to help.

They haven’t practiced enough

Though it might not be enjoyable, the truth is that a lot of exercises aren’t learned by only introducing them. They need to be repeated over and over again until they become automatic. This is true of languages and it is most certainly true of math.

So it is entirely possible that your children understand a concept in theory, but has not yet had enough practice to actually do it ‘in the field’ or when they need to do it as part of another process.

If this is the case, if you discover that your child has the theory down, then again it’s a matter of getting them the exposure they need. The best idea is to use a number of different routes to practice the same type of math. They can use apps, work sheets, and word problems.

By practicing this type of things in multiple ways you’re increasing the chance that they internalize the actual process and understand how it is applied in the real world. This will make it far more likely they’ll be able to do it as part of another mathematical process.


Help your child with their math homework

In truth, math can only be learned by doing. You will learn the reasons why kids struggle with math and how to help. You need to take the time to sit down with them and help them through all the steps. The earlier you do this, the less trouble it will be for them to catch up.

Even better, help them before the problems manifest. Because the truth is, by pre-emptively taking action, you can make sure they never fall behind. And that won’t just make math easier for them, but will also give them the inherent confidence that comes with doing something well.

So sit down with your child today and ask them to explain their math homework to you. Then you’ll know if they get it and perhaps you might learn something as well. After all, math has changed (and is changing) a lot.

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James Daily is a professional writer, content manager, and blogger with a Master’s degree in Leadership and Teacher Education. Specialized in education, psychology, and upbringing. 
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family © Kofi Annan
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