6 Signs Your Child is Struggling With Math
A child's ability to grasp early math concepts can often be observed during their first years of school. While every child is different and learns at their own pace, some children will find it particularly difficult to pick up early math concepts, even after a little extra work.
If you have serious concerns about your child's learning, it's best to speak to a professional to rule out any learning disabilities or developmental disorders such as dyscalculia, which is a severe difficulty in learning and comprehending arithmetic.
Below are six common signs of a struggling early math learner, and what you as a parent can do to support your child's development.
1. Difficulty with skip counting by 10s to 100
Around the age of 6, children begin learning how to skip count. Skip counting helps your child count quickly and prepares them for learning basic multiplication skills. Skip counting by 10s is easiest, as is very similar to normal counting, except there is an extra ‘0': 10, 20, 30 … 80, 90, 100.
If your child struggles with skip counting, use a skip counting chart and simple counters (e.g. rocks, pegs, or coins) to help them easily see skip counting patterns right in front of them. You can draw up a skip counting chart, or download free templates online.
2. Having trouble counting or grouping objects into sets
At the age of 5–6, children begin to group objects into sets and learn how to count by ones to determine the size of each set.
You can help your child with grouping objects into sets by gathering a range of different objects, such as toy cars, stuffed animals, books, block shapes, fruit and vegetables, and placing them on a table. Explain that each group of objects is a set, and help your child count the objects in each set. Remember, repetition is key.
3. Having trouble spotting patterns
Children begin to learn and spot patterns from as young as the age of 2. Much of these observations come from their play and daily routines, for example, learning that there is an order to the day, or creating sequences using craft items or building blocks.
Patterns can be taught in a variety of fun ways, such as matching socks, sorting kitchen items by category, and bead‑making. Read 5 fun ways to teach your child about patterns.
4. Difficulty with sorting objects
Sorting objects by size, shape, or colour is one of the earliest math skills a child picks up, usually through play. By sorting, children understand that things are alike and different, and that things can belong, and be put into, certain groups.
To help your child sort, you need at least two different types of objects. Start with less categories (sorting by two types) and gradually progress to three, four, or more. Slowly demonstrate each sort before asking your child to have a go.
5. Difficulty with writing and pointing out numbers up to 20
By kindergarten, most children will be able to write and point out numbers up to 20.
You can help your child grow familiar with numbers through daily activities. For example, invite your child to dial a telephone number for you when you are using a phone. Point to and read aloud each number as it is being dialled. To help your child write numbers, help them form the shape of each number using different materials, such as clay or paints.
6. Inability to use measurement language to describe objects
At age 5–6, most children are able to understand and use simple measurement language, such as bigger and smaller, longer and shorter, or before and after.
There are many picture books that teach young children how to use simple measurement language. You can also help your child understand measurement language by arranging different objects by size and length. Remember to use measurement language regularly around your child, such as, “This piece of bread is the biggest”, “We don't eat dessert before dinner”, or “Let's find a shorter stick than this one”.