Empowering Your Child in Math: Tips for Parents

Feb 27 2024

While it’s easy to celebrate children’s strengths, it’s important to remember that they will experience struggles as well. One example of this is a child struggling with math.

Although helping your child through their disinterest, misunderstanding, or frustration in mathematics might seem daunting, there are several ways you can identify these challenges. You can also help them overcome these difficulties at home to ensure their future success and happiness.

6 Signs Your Child Is Struggling in Math

1. Your child is speaking negatively about math.

One easy way to identify early struggles with math is to simply listen to your child. If they vocalize that they don’t enjoy math or insist they aren’t “good” at it, this is often an indicator that they aren’t currently experiencing success in the subject. When children are successful and excel at something, they tend to exhibit a positive attitude that reflects their level of accomplishment.

2. Your child does not understand their homework.

Another easy way to identify a lack of confidence in math is to monitor your child’s approach to their homework. Homework can quickly indicate which areas they’re struggling in, and which areas they’re succeeding, by revealing their approach to the work.

Is your child rushing to get through their math homework? Are they taking hours to complete it? Is your child constantly asking for your help? The answer to these questions can help you easily indicate whether math is a strength or a weakness for your child.

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3. Your child’s math grades are lower than other subject areas.

One of the most straightforward ways to gauge whether your child is struggling in math is to pay attention to their report cards and progress notes. While this might be easier to monitor for middle and high school students who are assigned traditional grades (A, B, etc.), younger students’ are often graded on a numbered scale. In this case, it’s important to look at any comments from the teacher, as well as any improvement (e.g., moving from a level 2 to a level 3). As a result, it can be helpful to reach out to your child’s teacher directly to discuss what they’re seeing and if they suggest additional academic support.

4. Your child is not hitting major milestones.

It’s good to have a general idea of what milestones are expected of children at different ages. If your third grader, for instance, still hasn’t learned their place values, it might indicate they’re struggling to keep up with their peers. If you’re unsure what these milestones are, it’s best to reach out to your child’s teacher to ensure you’re on the same page.

5. Your child has trouble with mental math.

While children in grades lower than third grade are still developing more abstract math skills, a good indicator of your child’s progress in math is their ability to think flexibly. Children who look at math problems as a story, more than an academic exercise, demonstrate the potential to continue developing their math skills as the curriculum progresses. Students who aim to memorize these exercises, however, may need some additional support as math problems become more challenging.

6. Your child has difficulty recalling math concepts from the prior year.

When a new school year begins, teachers will kick off their curriculum by reviewing the previous year’s skills and lessons before starting new coursework. If a student struggles to remember what they learned the year before, this is often a red flag for teachers. This is because when students have trouble recalling material from the year before, they’re not starting on a level playing field with their fellow classmates. This can eventually lead to struggles in math later in the school year. 

Tips to Help Empower Your Child in Math

The good news for parents and caregivers is that there are several methods and activities they can utilize to improve their child’s math skills and attitude toward the subject. Here are just examples of actions you can take at home. 

Incorporate Math Into Everyday Activities

One of the easiest ways to empower your young learner in math is to highlight its role in everyday life. As a parent, you use math in several daily activities at home. These are excellent opportunities for parents to discuss math with their children in organic ways throughout the day. Simple activities like cooking, baking, and counting money are easy ways to reinforce the ideas and concepts they’re learning at school.

Establish a Positive Homework Environment

Almost every parent takes some kind of role in supporting their children’s development in math. And while children are impressionable and model the examples that are set for them at school, they’re also susceptible to parents’ attitudes toward math at home. Therefore, it’s best to effectively communicate to your child any frustrations you may have had yourself with math. Doing so can encourage them to open up about their struggles as well.

Identify Problem Areas

To pinpoint the origin of your child’s struggles, it helps to take a hands-on approach. Parents and caregivers who spend time with their young learners, talking through their math assignments, can more easily identify where they’re having problems. Consider asking your child to outline where they're getting stuck or confused. Giving children the opportunity to reframe their challenges often helps parents understand them better.

Celebrate Victories and Progress

It’s common to celebrate your child’s victories—especially in areas where they already excel. However, celebrating victories and improvements in areas where they may struggle, like math, can have an even greater impact. Acknowledging your child’s progress and efforts allows them to see they have a support team that’s invested in their success and can help drive them to continue working.

Collaborate with Teachers on Personalized Learning Strategies

It’s important to remember that you already have a great support team for your child’s math development—teachers. Establishing a relationship with your child’s teachers and proactively connecting with them before “big” events, like an upcoming report card, can help you understand where your child may need extra support before grades are due.

Consider Tutoring or Additional Support

If you’re working with your learner at home and already connected with their teachers, but they’re still struggling, it might be time to consider a tutor. Sitting with a student one-on-one helps to really identify where their disconnect in understanding is, and which methods may be most effective for their unique difficulties.

It's also important to pay attention to potential learning differences that may be impeding your child’s progress. Sometimes students understand the process to a math problem, but really struggle with the division or multiplication part of it. For those students, providing aids like a calculator can help them overcome their unique roadblock to success.

Understand the Importance of Early Intervention

While an early love or dislike of math influences a young learner’s abilities in the subject, it’s important to remember that early intervention can make a difference. By adopting a growth mindset early on, parents can ensure that struggles and roadblocks don’t impede future learning.  

Your child should know that their struggles aren’t set in stone, they just haven't mastered certain skills yet. By staying involved in your child’s education, parents and caregivers can set their young learners up for success early on.

The Right School and Tools for Success

Choosing the right school environment is essential to your child’s development of math skills.

For example, if you believe your child would benefit from more individualized attention you’ll want to consider schools that have smaller class sizes. Independent schools like Friends’ Central School provide a tight-knit community that allows teachers the time, space, and environment to get to know their students. These teachers have the freedom to identify their students’ strengths and challenges and adjust their instruction and support accordingly.

Alternatively, if your child is particularly gifted or exceptional in math, independent schools offer advanced math courses that other public institutions may not. This encourages and empowers students to seek out other classes and offerings that’ll expand their knowledge, like the Mathematics department at Friends’ Central School.

With the right program, school, and support system, even students struggling with math can find success, enthusiasm, and empowerment in their academic work.

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Topics: Lower School, math

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