What are typical expectations about mathematical skills?
As most teachers are already aware of, the ability to deal with numbers is complex and builds on throughout the years. Typical mathematical skills include:
Between 5 and 6 years of age
Building a sense of numbers between 1 and 10
Count with one-to-one correspondence
Gaining a sense of various math concepts (e.g., big/small, before/after)
By 7 years of age
Counting to 100
Beginning to understand addition and subtraction
By 9 years of age
Beginning to understand multiplication and division
By 10 years of age
Moving on to more advanced concepts, such as fractions, decimals, variables, and basic geometry
When should I be concerned about a student with math difficulties?
Signs that young students are struggling with math difficulties include:
- Trouble developing pre-math skills.
- 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.
Older students with math difficulties may have difficulty with:
- Learning and performing basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables, and more.
- Struggling with learning the multiplication tables.
- Trouble learning and remembering algorithms and mental arithmetics.
- Grasping the concepts in word problems and other non-numerical or applied math calculations.
- Making errors in simple-digit computations.
- Estimating how long it will take to complete a task.
- Math homework assignments and tests.
- Keeping at grade level in math.
- Processing visual spatial ideas like graphs and charts.
- Use visual aids when counting (e.g., their own fingers), even after their peers have stopped doing so.
Additional areas where students 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 student with math difficulties?
Teachers are often the first to notice when a young child is struggling to meet mathematics benchmarks or expectations. Teachers may also have previous and current test results that highlight mathematics problems. Here are a few things teachers may attempt:
- Document the student’s struggles and progress. When a student is experiencing mathematics difficulties, it is important for their teachers to keep track of those difficulties, including specific details about counting or calculation errors and progress.
- Capture the student’s interests. If a student is struggling with a specific type of operation or concept, tying in the student’s interests may be helpful. If the student is interested in a specific sport, reframing problems using the sport’s lingo may help to motivate the student when working. Savvy teachers may even use real sports statistics to create problems.
- Bring the concerns to a caregiver’s attention. Teachers may confer with the student’s caregivers and other teachers to determine if the difficulties are isolated or occurring across subject areas.
- Speak with a school learning support professional. If a student’s mathematics difficulties persist for more than a few weeks, or becomes avoidant or distressed by mathematics activities, teachers may also confer with their school’s learning support professional for additional guidance. Learning support professionals (i.e. school psychologist or special educator) can help students approach mathematics problems in different ways that may be more understandable. These professionals may also recommend supports that help students stay on track in class, as well as manage their homework and tests. A referral to the school’s learning support professional may also reveal a need for an evaluation or supportive mathematics intervention. The earlier that support is provided, even short-term support, the better the outcomes for mathematics difficulties are.
- Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with learning difficulties.
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.
The public system provides services through the Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
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.
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.