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“Why is my kid struggling so much with math?”

Does your child struggle with making sense of cents? Is he chronically late because he can’t read a clock? Does she always seem to mix up left and right? If so, your kid could have dyscalculia, a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand and perform math operations. While dyscalculia doesn’t have a cure, there are strategies that can help your child develop skills to overcome challenges and succeed in school.


So what should parents do if they suspect their kid could have a math learning disability?

1. Learn the symptoms

Children with dyscalculia may struggle with concepts such as: 

  • Biggest and smallest

  • Telling time

  • Money sense

  • Directions and map-reading

  • Working memory (remembering numbers from a problem in their head when there’s several steps)

  • Remembering math facts, symbols, or word problems

2. Consider other issues

While dyscalculia can occur on its own, other disorders can also contribute to math troubles including dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorders, ADHD , or math anxiety. Effectively supporting your child starts with receiving an accurate diagnosis. An evaluation from a Specialist in Educational Psychology can determine if your child has a diagnosis and how to best support them.

Think your child may have a diagnosis? Click below to schedule your free 15-minute consultation to learn how our specialists can help

3. Engage the senses

A multisensory approach encourages kids to use their sight, hearing, touch, and movement to grasp math skills. By engaging each of their senses, they become more active and alert, allowing for stronger connections with what they’re learning. Use the following techniques to reinforce math concepts through each of your child’s senses: 

  • SIGHT: Use manipulatives such as blocks, buttons, or cereal to help them visualize math problems. Then have them write out the equation they created to reinforce the lesson. 

  • HEARING: Songs and musical notes can be great teaching tools for math concepts such as algorithms, grouping, and fractional parts.

  • TOUCH: It can be helpful for kids to tap out numbers so they can “feel” their values and put sensations to amounts.

MOVEMENT: Use movement to help students bring to life what they’ve learned. Have them demonstrate angles by rotating their arms or practice synchronized clapping as they recite their times tables.

4. Seek school accommodations

If your child receives a dyscalculia diagnosis, they may qualify for an educational plan such as an IEP or 504 Plan to gain accommodations in school. These accommodations can help level the playing field by reducing obstacles that dyscalculia presents for your child. Accommodations may include: 

  • Addition time on tests

  • Calculator usage

  • Less math homework

  • Use of manipulatives to solve problems

  • Use of graphing paper or scrap paper

  • A quiet area to work.

5. Make math fun at home

Learning is easier when you’re having fun! Find informal, stress-free ways to incorporate math at home. Involve your kid in measuring ingredients at dinner, play board games that incorporate calculations, and download apps that strengthen math concepts. Learning an instrument or playing team sports are also fun ways to reinforce math skills.

6. Be open with your kid

Have age-appropriate conversations with your child about their diagnosis so they can understand how they learn differently. Speak positively as you explain that things that come easily to one person can be more of a struggle for someone else. For example, your kid may be gifted at pitching in baseball, while someone else may be more of a natural at batting. As your child gets older, you can share more details about their diagnosis and tips to help them overcome challenges. By speaking about dyscalculia as a normal, non-threatening issue, you’ll help shape the way your child views their abilities.

7. Encourage a growth mindset

Some kids with dyscalculia have a fixed mindset, meaning they believe their intelligence is “fixed” and unimprovable no matter how hard they try. Encourage a growth mindset by explaining that the brain is like any other muscle that can be trained and strengthened. Ensure your child that if they put in the effort, they can improve their math skills. Practice positive affirmations and praise your child’s efforts as much as you praise their accomplishments. 

Example: “You did a great job in the store today paying for your new game. I could tell how hard you thought about the right amount to give the cashier.” 

Click here for more tips on fostering a growth mindset in your child

8. Seek help

It can be discouraging to realize your child may have a learning difference, but the good news is that there are many ways to help your kid reach their full academic potential. Our Specialists can provide evaluations to determine if your child has a diagnosis and counsel you on working with their school to meet their needs.

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More about Variations Psychology

Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.

Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams, graduate and professional licensing exams such as MCAT, LSAT, GRE, CBEST, NCLEX, GMAT, CA Cosmetology Exam, CA Contractors State Licensing Exam, and CA Bar Exam).

See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you..

Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.

References:

Dyscalculia Fact Sheet (n.d.). Understood. Retrieved from  https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/dyscalculia-fact-sheet

Frye, D. (2019). What is Dyscalculia? ADDitude. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/what-is-dyscalculia-overview-and-symptom-breakdown/

Hodnett, B.R. (n.d.). 10 Multisensory Techniques for Teaching Math. Understood.  Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/partnering-with-childs-school/instructional-strategies/10-multisensory-techniques-for-teaching-math

How to Help Your Child With Math (n.d.). Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/math-issues/how-to-help-your-child-with-math

Jacobson. R. (n.d.). How to Help Kids with Dyscalculia. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-dyscalculia/

Jacobson, R. (n.d.). How to Spot Dyscalculia. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/how-to-spot-dyscalculia/

Morin, A. (2014). At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for Dyscalculia. Understood. Retrieved from  https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/partnering-with-childs-school/instructional-strategies/at-a-glance-classroom-accommodations-for-dyscalculia

Morin, A. (n.d.). Download: Growth Mindset Activities for Kids. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/download-growth-mindset-activities-for-kids

Morin, A. (n.d.). How to Talk to Your Child About Learning and Attention Issues. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/understanding-childs-challenges/talking-with-your-child/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-learning-and-attention-issues

Shinn. M.M. (2018). 7 Strategies for Fostering a Growth Mindset in Your Child. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/7-strategies-for-fostering-a-growth-mindset-in-your-child

Shinn. M.M. (2018). ADHD or Just Kids Being Kids? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/adhd-or-just-kids-being-kids

Shinn. M.M. (2018). Does My Child Need Accommodations for the SAT/ACT? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/does-my-child-need-accommodations-for-the-sat-act

Shinn. M.M. (2018). I Can’t Spell Dyslexia – Do I Have It? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/i-cant-spell-dyslexia-do-i-have-it
Understanding Dyscalculia (n.d.). Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/understanding-dyscalculia

How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn. M.M. (2019). Why is My Kid Struggling So Hard with Math? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/why-is-my-kid-struggling-so-much-with-math