When you mention the word Maths, many children go into shock. Their mouths turn down, and they wear a look of great puzzlement. Why do so many children struggle with maths and, in particular, problem-solving?

These 7 reasons for this struggle could help you as a parent understand why.

1. Missing out on the basics.

Maths is a subject at school known as a 'cumulative subject.' Cumulative means maths relies on skills or elements of learning that depend on each other. They are also known as building blocks, and just like a house is built on a foundation, so is a knowledge of maths and the use of numbers.

Understanding the basics of addition, for example, may hinder grasping the fundamentals of multiplication. Each grade level of mathematics builds on the one before. Miss out on a step, and the concepts and skills suffer along the way. There could be any number of reasons for gaps in knowledge ranging from illness to ear infections, emotional trauma, or changing schools at any time.

Recognizing and addressing these gaps will make an enormous difference to mathematical progress.

missing out on the basics - reasons why students struggle with maths

2. Specific learning difficulties

The most common learning difficulty associated with maths is dyscalculia or number dyslexia. Children with this difficulty have trouble learning facts related to maths. They struggle with their memory and do not know how to apply their knowledge to maths problem-solving. Children with maths difficulties find maths concepts like size and differences and problem-solving difficult. Several factors could be linked to brain development and function, leading to number becoming a learning difficulty.

3. Anxiety associated with working with numbers

The feeling of anxiousness associated with working with numbers is genuine for some children. However, anxiety can cloud the child's sense of judgement and impair their ability to work at Maths. 

Here are some signs of stress associated with this subject.

  • Emotional reactions,  like being fearful when faced with problem-solving or number-related activities.
  • Expresses negative comments about maths activities.
  • Shows nervous reactions, like avoidance and clammy hands when working with numbers.
  • Has upset tummies or tummy ache and avoidance tactics when faced with numeracy.
  • Noticeable poor achievement in the area of mathematical skills.
Anxiety associated with working with numbers - reasons why students struggle with maths

4. Does not have the ability to see the connectivity in maths between different number combinations or estimations

Some children do not seem to be able to progress beyond the rote counting stage of mathematical calculation. Numbers are too abstract for them, and the child has not developed beyond the early concrete stage of mathematical understanding. Children who struggle with maths do not see a relationship between numbers or counting patterns, and they struggle to learn facts like multiplication tables.

5. Needs practice applying maths to the real world

When a child finds it challenging to use a number in real-life situations, it indicates that maths is a struggle for them. Counting days or working out the change in a shop should be skilled children acquire as they mature. Having difficulty using quantities in a recipe and other practical applications shows that a child may have trouble using numbers confidently. They may have difficulty telling the time or figuring out how long things take.

6. Perceive as tedious

Children shy away from subjects they pretend they do not enjoy, but in fact, the reason for their dislike is they are not coping in this area of their school work. Children with maths difficulties find seeking alternative solutions to problems a challenge. They would instead give up or not try to find a solution rather than be a failure.

7. Relying on memorisation and not an application

In the early stages of numeracy, rote counting and memorizing number facts is one of the basic skills in the cumulative aspect of maths learning. However, suppose children cannot progress and put memorized facts into the application needed to problem-solve or calculate a higher order of numbers. In that case, the child may struggle as the demands of maths application grow harder. 

Relying on memorisation and not an application - reasons why students struggle with maths

It is advisable to consult with your child's teacher if you feel your child is struggling with maths. It would help to look at a chart of the milestones a child should reach at various stages in their growth and development. Your child may have some issues with predicting what comes next or knowing how to compare numbers. Knowing that maths is a series of building blocks will help you as a parent understand your child's needs.

A gap in the building blocks could lead to further misunderstanding and less positivity in maths skills. A simple assessment could find those missing blocks. Tuition in the specific areas would help enormously and save your child from a negative attitude towards mathematics.


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