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Parents: Your Young Child is Struggling with Math – What to Do?

by Kate Fulling-O'Donnell, M.Ed

posted by Kate O’Donnell

Struggling:  As a parent, there is nothing worse than watching your child struggle.  The awful truth is that every child, including my own, struggles. So, what do we as parents when our child is having a difficult time comprehending Math?

Some thoughts:  The help is at home.  It will take some time, patience and consistency, but it is doable!

  1. Find a nice, quiet spot with space for math manipulatives and materials.
  2. Try to work on math at a similar time every day.  I know how incredibly harried days can be. There are lots of extra-curricular activities and distractions, but it will really alleviate stress if you prioritize this difficult subject and give it some tender loving care.
  3. Build in mental health breaks.  Don’t try to work through a concept or homework assignment without allowing time for a fun snack, or a 2-minute stretch break.
  4. Celebrate the small successes and expect some frustrating moments.  Be ready for both and tell your child to expect ups and downs when working on something difficult.
  5. Don’t be afraid to have your child write notes to the teacher.  And don’t you be afraid to write notes to the teacher as well. Communication is KEY! I am a big proponent on letting the teacher know what was tricky or letting him/her know that your child needs a bit of reinforcement on a specific concept the next day.  Also, don’t be afraid to talk about the amount of work coming home. If it is taking an inordinate amount of time, there should be no reason that your child cannot be assigned odd-numbered problems or half of the page so long as all concepts are being covered (Often homework assignments have many repeated problems and doing some of them can cover the concept).
  6. Be flexible.  If one way of explaining does not do the trick, try another.  Some children need a visual explanation, others need to have their hands on blocks or unifix cubes, still others need to hear the information.  No one way is right, because every child is unique!
  7. Try to be ok with allowing another person to do the explaining. This has happened to me!  While I was in the middle of working through a concept with one of my own children, an older sibling wandered in and explained it so simply I nearly cried. My child looked to the older sibling, had him repeat himself, and show her on the page and she got it.  It is ok if to look to others when your words and thoughts aren’t working.


*Have a 100 chart nearby. The visual placement of numbers is useful.

*Keep manipulatives such as unifix cubes or place value blocks nearby.

*Store graph paper, blank paper, lined paper, pencils and a straight edge.  Get the graph paper with the larger sized blocks for younger children. There is graph paper that has larger squares on one side and slightly smaller squares on the other side.

*Most importantly, don’t be afraid to conference with friends who have children of similar age, peers who have slightly older children and have already gone through similar concepts with their children or the teacher.

*Remember, no one way of explaining always works.  When one way is not computing for your child, be flexible and try another.

****Don’t be afraid to use the computer to look up a strategy or method.  I have been doing this for years and do it all the time. *****

4 Replies to “Parents: Your Young Child is Struggling with Math – What to Do?”

  1. Good idea to let another person try to explain or demonstrate as children may respond better to another person and not become as easily “bored.”

  2. setting a specific schedule should help children what to anticipate and perhaps not be as anxious. Breaks are important in learning.

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