Do you have a child who JUST DOESN’T GET IT when it comes to math?
Some of my kids had a very natural grasp of math, and never really struggled with it. Others of them weren’t exactly a whiz, but they caught on with a little help. Then there was the one child who had some learning problems when it came to math.
As I was working with her, it became apparent to me that she was a child who would never be GREAT at math. My goal was to teach her the basic math facts, and the four operations. THEN I would teach her to use a calculator! I didn’t want her to HATE learning, and I didn’t want math to become the subject that ruined our relationship.
I’d like to say that I was always the patient, calm mom with her. The truth is that I often found myself getting frustrated with her. I hated that no matter HOW I explained things to her, or which manipulatives we used, she still struggled. Finally there came a time when I decided that some changes needed to be made, and took some steps to keep math from becoming a daily source of stress for her AND me!
Here are a few tips for those of you who have a child who seriously struggles with math:
1. Drill them on their math facts consistently – EVERY day.
When I saw my daughter was still using her fingers to calculate answers, I stopped everything in math to focus on mastering the facts. I couldn’t expect her to be able to do well in multiplication or division when she still hadn’t mastered her addition and subtraction facts.
2. Realize they need LOTS and LOTS of repetition and review to finally remember any new concepts.
For example, when we worked on long division she had to do several problems in a row. The next day she had to do it again, and then the next day, etc. If we missed a day when she first learned how to do the new kind of problem, I’d have to go back to day 1 again. Realizing this kept me VERY diligent in making sure I spent time with her every day doing math. Since math doesn’t make sense to the math-challenged child, it’s not something they love and therefore remember easily.
3. Learn what their daily tolerance limit is when it comes to math, as well as YOUR tolerance.
By the time my daughter was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had realized she could only handle about half of a daily math lesson. If we tried to go much longer than that, she usually would have a meltdown. If she didn’t, I sometimes would! She would hit a point where nothing else registered, or she was frustrated and needed a break.
4. NEVER let math, or any other subject, trump the importance of the relationship!
There were times where I was going to push through till she got it, and it hurt our relationship. That’s when I realized that we needed to take a break, and stop BEFORE we got to that point. Homeschooling is about relationship and keeping our kids’ hearts. I don’t want to EVER let a roadblock with a subject hurt that relationship.
5. Take a break from a concept if you seem to be hitting a wall with it.
Sometimes a child just isn’t quite ready for long division, or some other math concept. Just because it’s next in the book doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it right then. Take a break if it’s not working, and go to multiplication for a switch. Often, when you come back to that area later, they are able to grasp it more easily.
6. Don’t let the curriculum be your master, but rather your guide.
The child who is struggling with math isn’t going to keep up the way your other kids may have with the same curriculum. Use it as a tool to help you, and adjust as needed to make it work for both of you. Don’t worry if it takes you two years to get through the one-year curriculum. Mastery is the goal, and you shouldn’t move on until that goal has been met.
It can get discouraging or frustrating to deal with a child who struggles regularly with math. Don’t let it become the dreaded foe. Take the steps necessary to keep math from being a daily point of contention. Ask God to give you the wisdom and patience you need, and to give your child the understanding he/she needs.