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27 Signs your child is struggling in math …and what to do about it!

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Besides the below 27 signs below the #1 reason your student is struggling is typically always the same!

Click here to read “The # 1 reason your student is/will struggle in math!

“I hate math!” “I just don’t get it!”

Parents who hear these words from their K-12th graders should be forewarned. Your child is struggling in math. And letting math struggles go on too long without intervening could lead to life-long difficulties in school, on college admissions exams, and beyond.

Here are 27 signs your K-12th grade child is struggling in math to look out for. Then below these signs I give you tips and tricks on how to help!

Make sure to check out our latest article “The # 1 reason your student is/will struggle in math!

27 Signs Your Child is Struggling in Math

Kids
1. Difficulty learning to count
2. Poor memory for numbers
3. Trouble recognizing printed numbers
4. Writes numbers backwards (e.g. 3 looks like ‘E’ and 2 looks like ‘S’)
5. Difficulty tying together the idea of a number (5) and how it exists in the world (5 cats, 5 dollars, 5 soccer balls)
6. Trouble organizing things in a logical way
7. Trouble with basic concepts of time (telling time, estimating time that has passed)
8. Struggles thinking abstractly with concepts like older/younger, bigger/smaller, before/after

Teens
9. Trouble with mental math
10. Difficulty estimating costs
11. Difficulty remembering basic math concepts and basic math facts
12. Difficulty learning math concepts beyond the basic math facts
13. Confused by rules and scoring systems for sports or games
14. Poor ability to budget, calculate a tip at a restaurant, or balance a checkbook
15. Trouble with concepts of time (e.g. sticking to a schedule or approximating time)
16. Difficulty finding different approaches to solving a problem

Any Age K-12th Grade
17. Reports “hating” math class
18. Gets upset or easily frustrated when working with numbers
19. Cannot follow the steps required to solve simple math problems
20. Insists he/she “cannot do it” without even trying to do it
21. Says math teacher does not teach or help (this may or may NOT be true, but still a sign of struggling)
22. Reluctance to do math homework
23. Anxious about math quizzes or tests
24. Says his/her “mind goes blank” on quizzes or tests
25. Hides report cards or says he/she did not get one
26. Caught cheating on an assignment or test
27. Wants to miss class or school

5 Tips on ‘How to help your K-12th Grader who is struggling in math’

There are many ways – free or paid – to help students struggling with math. Here are some ways to help get you started supporting your child!

1. Free Math Websites

43 Math Websites (alphabetical list of 43 free math websites)
Top 10 Free Math Websites (detailed overview of 10 great sites)

2. Free Tutoring

Talk with your child’s teacher, math department, counselors, and school administrators to learn about all the free after-school tutoring help available. Even if your child says “there is no one who can help me,” that may not be the case. Reach out and learn more.

Know any parent friends or peers of your child who is great at math? Maybe someone can help tutor for free or work with your child in a study group.

3. Get More Information

Reach out to your child’s math teacher and ask for specific ways he/she could work to improve. Some things could be classroom behavior related or ‘soft skills’ like organization, time management, or effective studying. The math teacher spends the most time working with your child in this realm and can offer great insights and support.

Or have you child take an assessment test to pinpoint specific areas of math he/she needs to strengthen. Knowing what skills are week is half the battle!

4. Look into potential learning disabilities

Have you ever heard of dyscalculia?

It is like dyslexia with numbers. It is a real diagnosis and I personally have worked with students who have it. They often struggle with mental math and simple math calculations even though they have mastered them in the past. Sometimes they report having a poor sense of direction, mixing up left and right, and fearing to work with money. If your child really struggles, this could be part of the reason. There is support and possible accommodations available.

5. Change Your Attitude! (Yes, you parents!) 🙂

If you hate math and are reluctant to do it, this will rub off on your kids whether or not you intend for it to. Take a moment to self-analyze your current ‘math attitude.’

Stop saying things like “some people are just bad at math,” “I never got it either,” and “just get through this class because you will never use it again.” Math is like being in shape; you have to work at it. Some people may need to workout longer or harder than others to get to the same level of fitness, but that does not mean some people can never get fit. Same with math! Encourage your kids to be willing to put in the work and see the improvement. Be willing to improve your own math a little to show them it is possible.

Speaking of which, brush up on your own math skills and vocabulary! Review easy-to-watch videos from our Top 10 Math Websites like the Khan Academy and Patrick JMT. You may just surprise yourself on what ‘comes back’ and finally clicks! You do not need to become an expert; a small increase in relevant vocabulary and math how-to can pay off greatly when working to help your child.

Bonus!

Remember Student-Tutor for any 1-on-1 tutoring needs. Amazing progress can be made when a child feels safe and secure to ask questions and take math risks with a tutor he/she has rapport with.

Know other warning signs or other good tips? Share with us in the comments below!

And click below for free 43-page guide to math. More details and resources inside:

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Laura earned a Master's degree in Secondary Education plus Teaching Certification for Mathematics and Psychology in both AZ and CA. Her undergraduate work was in Psychology with a minor in German from UCLA where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been tutoring since the 90's, was a high school teacher 2006-2011, and still teaches for a local college. Laura is passionate about teaching, learning, entrepreneurship, and traveling the world with her husband, their dog Tuck, and her Macbook Pro. -- Join Laura on Linkedin & Twitter!

Comments 23

  1. I am Dr Ahmed Elshebiny a lecturer at Menoufia faculty of Medicine and now working in KSA . My son is in grade 4 international education with a cambridge based curriculm started only in grade 4. In his last 3 years they used American curricula in the same school based on Go Math books. He is good in all subjects except math. This became more obvious in the evaluations of grade 4. The most astonishing is that he is good in the class and good in solving problems at home but bad in the test. He is not interested in doing much training and may give you random answers. In some math areas he is the best like times tables and division . he has difficulty with indirect questions and may forgot to put the units in measurments losing more marks. He us intilligent. The best one in his grade in social studies . what us your diagnosis?

  2. My daughter is in the secknd grade and she is in private school. They are already on 3 times tables and they are doing division. I was great in math A B student however I am having a hard time trying to teach my daughter. It’s like she knows it but then she gets confused in school with classwork and right now i feel like I am letting her down. Please help any advise

    1. Jay the number one reason students struggle in math is many times the same. It is a good thing you are catching it earlier. In my opinion, third grade is the most important year for math because students learn multiplications tables. Not having those fundamentals down will make things very difficult moving forward. Might I suggest you check out this blog article and purchase our 100% guaranteed assessment test so we can figure out what the issue is! Hope this helps spark a brighter future! Blog article to read: http://studenttutor1.wpengine.com/the-reason-your-student-is-struggling-in-math/

  3. hello I’m a college student, I’m struggling with maths I don’t even understand a thing . I’ve passed all my subject but I got 0% on maths this is really affecting my studies . it stresses me big time because so student are making fun of me that I cant even count numbers, for a minute I thought of dropping out. tried to get a tutor but still I cant even hear what he is saying….. I really need a serious help before its too late.

  4. My daughter is in 2nd grade and she does well in assessments but when there are Test she has 70s instead of 90s-100s. I noticed that she’s still not sure on some addition and subtraction tactics and that she struggle understanding what they are asking for math problems, for example, she thinks “more” is always an addition. They also introduced money, time and measurements this year as well as multiplication and she is having problems with almost all of them. She does homework fine, little assessments are fine but big test she fails. What can I do to help her? I feel I need to do something now that still young.

    1. Hello, Ana! Good for you in getting help early. Mathematics is a subject that builds on itself, so it is important for students to have a firm grasp of the fundamentals early on. I would recommend you give us a call and have us put her on one of our adaptive assessment test. The test will test all skill sets she was supposed to learn in K, 1st, and 2nd grade. Afterward, we will have a clear idea of what the problem is. If you are interested, please email or call our Academic Advisor at [email protected] or 844-508-8867. We look forward to helping you!

  5. My son is in 10th grade and is taking Algebra for the 2nd time; he is still struggling with it. He even receives tutoring services twice a week during his study block, which lasts 90 minutes. I’ve checked his grades online not long before writing this and his math grade is a 26. Report cards are coming out November 7th. I don’t know what else to do. He hated math since he was in elementary school. I found a note he had written back in elementary school that he hated math! It’s a shame because he adamantly hates it now. I don’t know what happened that has caused this attitude. He needs to pass math in order to graduate. My frustration and sadness is unexplainable.

    1. Hi Tee,

      This is not uncommon. What your son is probably experiencing is a gap in understanding from one of the core concepts in math, which he may not have fully understood before moving on to more difficult concepts. If the tutor he works with only reviews the same problems over with him, that gap in understanding will remain open and prevent him from grasping the current concept.

      We know all too well how frustrating and discouraging this can be, for parents and students alike.

      I encourage you to read a more recent article we published: “The #1 Reason Your Student is Struggling in Math”. At the bottom there is a list of lessons that are considered “fundamental math” lessons.

      I encourage you to ask your son if any of the names of the lessons stand out as something he “doesn’t like” or “never understood”. These are key words to indicate those concepts as gaps in his understanding. Math concepts build on one another. If you can identify which of the previous concepts he struggled with, he can review and trouble-shoot those concepts first. This will help him to move forward with whatever math he is currently struggling with.

      If you can, identify in what grade it was that your son started disliking math. How old was he when he wrote that note? These clues can also help you to track down which lessons he needs to review.

      When things begin to “click” for him, you will most likely see a change in his attitude toward math. Many people who claim to dislike math, dislike it because they feel they do not, and cannot, understand it or get the right answers despite their efforts.

  6. My son is in 11th grade and repeating geometry. Even with repeating the same concept that he saw last year, he is still struggling with it. He goes to tutoring after school with his teacher, but he just doesn’t get it. I fear that he has shot down an is no longer interested in learning it. I don’t know how to help him. He has always struggled with math, but since HS it has gotten worse.

    1. Hi Saray,

      We had a similar commment on this article from another parent who was concerned about their child’s math performance.

      The problem with your son repeating geometry over and over is that it’s more than likely the concepts he does not understand came BEFORE geometry, and are being applied within this subject. What I’m talking about is what we call a gap in understanding.

      Somewhere along the lines of earlier math, it’s possible that he didn’t fully grasp or understand a foundational concept. Since math concepts build on one another, it’s not unlike building a house on unsteady ground — the house may be built well, but if the ground is not steady, it’s going to cause problems!

      Interesting that he is already going to tutoring with his teacher. Have you ever asked him what they go over? Maybe she is only reviewing the same concepts to him. If this is the case, I can understand why he would feel frustrated or discouraged. There’s nothing worse than coming into a class feeling prepared and seeing that your grades still don’t match up.

      If you go to “Subjects” at https://www.khanacademy.org, you can view “Math by Grade”. By taking a look at the different subjects under each grade with him, you might find there is one he doesn’t recognize or that he remembers struggling with earlier on.

      You’re essentially looking for the hole in the bucket, so you can patch it up.

    1. Hi Sherrie,

      The most common thing we see with students who are struggling in math is that they have missed a core/basic concept in the past and it is causing a domino effect. Math lessons build on one another, so it’s important that she have a solid understanding in the foundational math concepts to learn future math concepts.

      The first course of action I want to recommend ANY time a student is struggling with math is that we go back in time and troubleshoot those core concepts to search for any gaps in understanding. One of the best ways to do this IS through tutoring, because someone who has experience finding and addressing these gaps in understanding can customize a strategy to your child.

      Student-Tutor (as you may already know) offers math tutoring! It’s even in our company name. 😉 Our tutors are not only well-versed in their educational subjects, but we also look for tutors who can effectively communicate concepts and ideas to students. You can read a little more about it here: http://student-tutor.com/tutor-selection-process/

  7. Help, my son is 11 and can’t do simple math like 2+5 and 20-12. He gets frustrated and shuts down and/or cries, he does the same with his reading and spelling. What can I do to help him?

    1. Hi Allison,

      It’s highly possible that somewhere down the road, he didn’t fully understand/missed a foundational concept that is now acting like a road block in his learning. With academic tutoring, he could sit down one-on-one (from the comfort of your home) with a tutor specializing in his subjects and work to pinpoint those problem areas and fill in those gaps.

      Here is our page for Academic tutoring: http://student-tutor.com/academic-tutoring/

  8. awesome post! I don’t have any children, but i believe i struggled and still do with math. I wish this study would have been around when i was in grade school. I grew up with a fear of handling money, and still have problems with concepts of before/after. Basic math on a good day is semi-good; but on a bad day i seriously sneak my calculator(cell phone) out for the waitress’s tip after dinner. i feel embarrassed every time. It’s only when i see someone else struggling with the same issue, when I’m actually ok with that handicap. Anywho, I would say this condition is more common than people think, and i do try and constantly do exercises to help curve this as i get older. thank you for taking the time write this post!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello, thank you for the comment!

      What do you mean with “even with tuition”? Do you mean that she is getting tutoring but still failing math?

      If that is the case, I really recommend talking with the tutor and setting up a plan that you can keep tabs on and make sure is being followed [or get a different tutor]. I would guess that many components are contributing to your daughter not doing well, including perhaps:
      – lack of confidence (maybe a feeling of ‘learned helplessness’ like nothing she does makes a difference)
      – lack of organization (many students have low grades because they do not keep on top of due dates or get their assignments turned in)
      – test anxiety (knows the material but is so stressed, goes ‘blank’ and misses problems she should get right)
      – missing mastery of past concepts (sometimes not fully understanding past concepts makes it impossible to master further ones — those holes need to be identified and plugged!)

      So, I would talk about each of these with the tutor and with your daughter to see what she thinks is contributing too. Go at it like “we can overcome this problem…it’s not that you CAN’T do math…we just have to figure out what areas we can improve and you will be able to be a pro and love math again!”

      I hope this helps.

      If you do not have a tutor yet and would like help from us, please reach out.

      Laura

  9. My daughter is in grade 10 academic classes and gets high 80-90 in all her classes except math which she has a 43. She tries and we have a tutor. She is so stressed out she cries and says its like reading a different language she just doesnt understand it. Why ?. Is there a testing we should get done. If so how do we get it? Please help

    1. Hello Cindy! We actually offer comprehensive assessment test that will pinpoint all academic difficulties. I sent you an email with our academic advisor. Please give him a call and he can help take that stress away!

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