What are typical math expectations?

As any complex skill, the ability to deal with numbers builds on throughout the years. Typical mathematical skills include:


Age range


Between ages 5 and 6

Counting to 20, backwards and forwards

Associating numbers and quantities, between 1 and 10

Comparing two amounts

Gaining a sense of various math concepts (e.g., big/small, before/after)

By age 7

Counting to 100

Starting to understand addition and subtraction

By age 9

Starting to understand multiplication and division

By age 10

Moving on to more advanced concepts, such as fractions, decimals, variables, and basic geometry


When should I be concerned with math difficulties?

Signs that a child is struggling with math difficulties include:

  • Difficulty recognizing numbers.
  • Delays in learning to count.
  • Troubles with connecting numerical symbols (5) with their corresponding words (five).
  • Not knowing which of two digits is larger, (i.e., understanding the magnitude and relationship of numbers).
  • Difficulty recognizing patterns or putting things in order (e.g., smallest to largest).
  • Inability to add simple single-digit numbers mentally.
  • Needing to use visual aids, like fingers, to count.


An older child with math difficulties may:

  • Have significant difficulty learning basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables, and more.
  • Be unable to grasp the concepts behind word problems and other non-numerical math calculations.
  • Have difficulty estimating how long it will take to complete a task.
  • Struggle with math homework assignments and tests.
  • Have difficulty keeping at grade level in math.
  • Struggle to process visual spatial ideas like graphs and charts.


Additional areas where children may evidence mathematics struggles 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 to help a child with math difficulties?

Caregivers know their children best. If you are a caregiver, know that a child with math difficulties usually needs additional help to stay on track in their math classes, handle their homework assignments, and perform well on assessments. So, there are a few things you may attempt:

  • Talk to your child's teacher. If you notice your child is having some difficulties, reach out to their teacher. Speaking with the child's teacher can help determine if their struggles are also happening at school, if anything has been tried to remediate their struggles at school, and to learn if there are additional ways of supporting your child.
  • Increase the number of positive experiences a child has with mathematics. Children with math difficulties usually have bad experiences with math, therefore try to avoid it at all costs. So, along with your child's teacher, it may be possible to come up with ideas to adapt mathematics tasks to make them fun, interesting, and more engaging.

If you have already tried these suggestions and the problems your child is facing persist, it may be the moment to seek out professional support.

Math skills that are not evolving the way they should despite efforts and difficulties that are too discrepant from those faced by children the same age may indicate the presence of a disorder named Dyscalculia.


What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?

It is not unusual that some caregivers feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if their child is struggling with mathematics. Others may think that the problem is not a great deal or that their child may grow out of it. Some teachers may choose to wait to see if there is improvement in the next term. But, if you are concerned about your child's math difficulties, support and guidance are available now.

If your child's mathematics difficulties persist beyond a few weeks, seek an evaluation from a professional or a supportive intervention at your child's school. The public system provides services through the Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY). The earlier that support is provided, even short-term support, the better the outcomes for mathematics difficulties are.

Educational specialists or math tutors, especially those with experience working with students who learn differently, can help children learn to approach math problems in different and more effective ways. Tutoring also allows a child to practice math skills in a slower, less stressful setting.


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.



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