Early Detection: Recognizing Signs Your Child Might Need Extra Help in Math

Parents often suspect their child is having difficulty with math, but still aren’t entirely sure. Here are some early signs your child might need extra help in math!

1. Negative comments.

Listen to them – kids will often make remarks or comments that are clear indicators they either a) dislike mathematics, or b) lack faith in their own math skills – oftentimes both. As tutors, we’re trained to pick up on these statements – even if they’re only spoken in passing by students (often lightheartedly).

Negative reactions or comments to starting math homework are common, as well as the classic “I’m just not a math person” line. In any case, parents should be on the lookout for similar statements as indications their child may be experiencing math difficulties in school.

2. Slipping grades.

To state the obvious – if your child is doing well in virtually every other area except math, this is generally a pretty clear indicator that attention is needed! However, this advice tends to apply mostly towards younger kids – and there’s an important reason why.

As students get older, math skills often become intertwined with other subjects. For example, reading and comprehension skills are required to solve most word problems. As a result, these academic difficulties tend to become less isolated and often begin to “spread” to other subjects. 

So while we do recommend parents remain on the lookout for unusually low scores in math subjects, remember that it’s often not as “cut and dry” and students will frequently show difficulties in other subjects as well.

3. Academic anxiety.

Does your student become stressed or overwhelmed when working with numbers? In many cases, parents report noticing signs of “math anxiety” outside the realm of homework. Students who become flustered with organization-based tasks, counting and measuring, or simple tallying may be suffering from math anxiety – especially when put on the spot for an answer.

  • Tutor Doctor Tip: Math anxiety is extremely common, and likely to be the top form of academic-based stress we deal with along with test-taking anxiety. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies students can implement to tackle their math anxiety! Click here to learn more.

4. Frequent shortcuts.

Parents should be on the lookout for students who rely excessively on external tools or shortcuts. A perfect example is finger counting – for younger children who are first learning their numbers, this is completely normal behavior (and a wonderful way to teach basic arithmetic). However, when we see students in 3rd and 4th grade still counting their fingers for what should be basic mental math, there’s a problem.

With older students, a similar situation is relying too much on calculators. Students often become “rusty” with hand operations over time – which can become a real issue on high-stakes exams (like the SAT) that contain sections which do not allow the use of a calculator. 

Why is math so difficult to begin with? Check out The Top 5 Reasons Students Struggle with Math!