Please Mom, no math today. I hate math, it’s so boring! I won’t ever use this stuff when I grow up so why do I have to learn it? Math is too hard. Sound familiar? I know that lots of you have heard this before. I am also thankful there are some of you who have never experienced having a child who hates math–you are very blessed indeed! Why do some kids hate math? Some kids don’t have a solid foundation in the basics, so math becomes too much of a chore for them. Children who have a learning difference experience math woe to a greater degree. Maybe the math curriculum you use doesn’t meet the needs of your child. What do you need to do to try to solve these problems? Determine the root of the difficulty. Does your child understand the process perfectly, but make simple fact errors? Perhaps your child understands the process, but can’t hold the different steps to solving the problem in his head long enough to apply them. The long division problem, 6,327 divided by 23 requires up to 20 steps in order to reach an answer. No wonder a child may get lost along the way. They must be able to stay focused, recall the rules required, process language, be able to handle scattered visual tracking, have a strong memory… Maybe your child simply copies a problem incorrectly on his paper or writes down the wrong answer he was holding in his mind. Maybe your child doesn’t understand the concept he is working with. As the learning coach, you must understand the many neuro-developmental processes required for successful math performance, as well as how learning differences can cause those processes to breakdown. I will talk a little more about learning styles next week, so stayed tuned. Ascertain at what point the problem is breaking down rather than continue teaching the order and process of the algorithm. If you don’t identify the step or steps causing the problem, your child will continue to struggle.
Some kids are great spatial thinkers and can verbally answer word problems with no problem. Clearly they understand the problem so the problem may be math computation–they can’t do long division on paper. Allow them to use a calculator during the problem solving portion of the problem until you can help them overcome their problem. Memory may be the culprit for your child, if so, have them draw the steps on paper so they don’t have to tie up their brain trying to retain the info. They can also jot detailed notes along the way, use a written checklist of the needed procedures… Use manipulatives so your child can see the abstract and model the answer. If your child is like mine and has dyslexia, everything becomes a reading test for them. Read the problem to them. If basic math facts are the problem, allow your child to use a fact chart until they have mastered their facts. Have your child sketch word problems if language processing is a problem. If lining up numbers is a problem for your child, allow them to use graph paper or turn notebook paper sideways so the lines form columns, or allow them to dictate and talk through the problems.
Soon your child will enter the job market and they value mathematical thinkers, not algorithm solvers. Most math struggles arise from breakdowns in cognitive processes that are not necessarily related to mathematical thinking. So get busy analyzing where your child stumbles along the way. Find ways to make math a little more fun, yet still challenge them.