What are typical math expectations?
Mathematics is a difficult skill that we can not learn all at once. It builds throughout the years, and every time we learn something new we get ready to learn something else. Typical math skills include being able to identify and count numbers when we see them or in our heads; understanding what addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are and how to do them; and being able to count money, tell time, and measure things.
When should I pay special attention to math difficulties?
A lot of people may face difficulties with math. But there are some signs that may be noticed when we are young children that may indicate a more significant concern that we should pay attention to. If you have any doubts on how to identify these signs, ask a trusted caregiver or a teacher for help.
When we are young children, signs that we may be struggling with math difficulties include:
- Difficulty recognizing numbers.
- Delays in learning to count.
- Troubles with connecting numerical symbols (5) with their corresponding words (five).
- Difficulty recognizing patterns or putting things in order.
- Needing to use visual aids, like fingers, to count.
When we are older, signs that we may be struggling with math difficulties include:
- Having significant difficulty learning basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables, and more.
- Being unable to understand the concepts behind word problems and other non-numerical math calculations.
- Having difficulty estimating how long it will take to complete a task.
- Struggling with math homework assignments and tests.
- Having difficulty keeping at grade level in math.
- Struggling to process visual spatial ideas like graphs and charts.
Other areas that may be related to mathematics difficulties include:
- Remembering frequently used numbers, such as telephone numbers, postal codes, and game scores.
- Counting money, making change, or estimating how much items will cost.
- Reading clocks or telling time.
- Judging distances or making real-life measurements.
- Recalling directions to a location.
- Keeping score during games.
What can I do if I struggle with math difficulties?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with math difficulties. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try to reduce the impact they have on your life and to get better at math little by little.
First, most of the things we are suggesting might be more easily done with the help of a trusted adult and a teacher. You may try to:
- Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Talk to your teacher. Reaching out to your teacher can be helpful, too. Teachers usually know how we are progressing in math, and they also know what is expected and what isn't. Talking to them not only helps you understand your difficulty, but it can also inform them on things that can be done in the classroom or at school to help you with your difficulties.
There are things that can be helpful on a daily basis and others that might be helpful when you have specific challenging tasks or assignments to complete. You may try to:
- Practice math outside school. There are a lot of opportunities around us to practice math skills outside of school that can be more interesting and even fun. For example, you can practice trying to tell the time on a clock watch, counting hours or minutes between activities, counting money or change, or counting the number of things you see around you.
- Play games that involve math skills. There are a lot of games that can be fun and help us practice math. For example, you can play board games that require you to count and move a certain number of spaces, you can play dice games, or you can play numerical matching games like dominoes.
- Explore other tools. Online tools, courses, or videos, as well as certain phone apps are available for practicing math skills.
- Create reference sheets. Sometimes it can be really hard to memorize math facts, formulas, or parts of an equation. So, if it is difficult to remember certain numbers, equations, or operations, you can try making reference cards. Those cards can be flash cards to keep inside your backpack, or large sheets that you can hang where you do homework or study.
- Engage in other activities that you feel you are good at. Math difficulties can progressively undermine how we feel about ourselves. Engaging in activities, such as music, joining a sports team, or anything you feel good about, helps to build and strengthen confidence that can be harmed by math difficulties.
If you have a task, an activity or an assignment that your math difficulties make it harder to complete, you may try to:
- Break assignments and tasks down into smaller parts. Breaking bigger tasks or goals into smaller ones, allows us to focus more closely and makes the bigger assignments less overwhelming.
- Give yourself enough time to do your tasks and take frequent breaks. Tasks requiring math skills can take a little longer for people with math difficulties. So, be realistic about the fact that you might need more time. Also, every time you plan on doing an activity that will take up some effort, take frequent small breaks to give your mind a fresh start.
- Remove distractions. Anyone can easily become distracted when there is something interesting going on. Removing distractions, such as TVs, games, and mobile phones, can be helpful to allow you to give full attention to the task that is requiring a lot of mental energy.
- Use the right tools. When you have math assignments to complete, try using a calculator you know, pencils so you can easily erase, and graph papers to keep numbers straight.
- Talk, write out, or draw the problem. Math concepts can be very abstract. So, talking about math problems, writing them down or drawing them can help us understand problems from different and more concrete perspectives.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Math skills that don't advance the way they should despite efforts, and difficulties that are too far from those typically faced by others our same age may indicate the presence of a disorder called Dyscalculia.
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or even guilty if we are having math difficulties. Sometimes we can even think that the problem is not a big deal or that we may grow out of it. But, if we think we may be having reading difficulties, support and guidance are available now.
If you think you have math difficulties and they are persisting for more than a few weeks, talk to a trusted adult or teacher. They can help you to seek an evaluation from a professional or a supportive math intervention. The earlier that support is given, even short-term support, the better the outcomes are.
Educational specialists or math tutors, especially those with experience working with students who learn differently, can help us approach math problems in different and more effective ways. Tutoring also allows us to practice math skills in a slower, less stressful setting.
Outside of school, additional services are available at the Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Dyscalculia can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.