Does Your Child Need Extra Help with Math?
By Dr. Toni Linder

“I hate math!” “I don’t get it!” Parents hear these words all the time when they help with math homework. Here are a few things to consider when deciding if your child in elementary school needs additional math support.

1. Can your child relate numbers to real amounts? Can your child look at an amount of jellybeans or blocks and make an approximate guess? For a group of 15 jellybeans, the child should guess 10 or slightly above, but not 30 or more. This demonstrates that your child knows what a number means in terms of amount.

2. Can your child transform abstract concepts into concrete realities? What would your child say if you asked, “which is bigger ¼ or 1/3?” Your child should not respond that ¼ is more just because 4 is greater than 3. Your child should be able to draw a picture of a pie and show you why 1/3 is more than ¼.



3. Does your child have difficulty understanding math symbols? Symbols such as ÷, =, <, >, ≠, and ≤ are abstractions of words that give instructions. Many children do not understand the symbols or confuse them. It’s a good idea to have your child read equations aloud to make sure there is no confusion.


4. Does your child have difficulty with math facts? Many multiplication facts can be memorized, but children need to know the various ways numbers can be composed and decomposed. You can compose numbers in different ways. For example, 4+8 = 12 and 4X3 = 12. You can decompose as well. For example, the number 10 can be decomposed in two ways: 10 = 1 + 9 or 10= 3+ 7.

5. Does your child have difficulty understanding story problems? Reading comprehension issues can make story problems challenging. In addition, children need to know how to group, merge, and order data to solve the problem. Children with impulsivity, lack of interest, low frustration tolerance, or inability to take different perspectives might struggle with these processes.

Use the questions above to determine which issues are having an impact on your child’s ability to learn math. Ask your child to talk about a math problem and describe their thinking to see where the difficulty lies. Consider discussing your findings with your child’s teacher to see if they have any advice or additional resources for you.

Practice at home using situations that require math, like dividing a pie, play relevant games involving math, and let your child make up problems for the rest of the family to solve. Make math practical and fun!


Dr. Toni Linder is a leader in the field of early childhood development and  early childhood special education. She works with children of diverse  backgrounds and ability levels, including children that are gifted and talented,  who have disabilities or come from backgrounds of poverty, and those from  multicultural backgrounds.