What Are Some Common Math Skills Children Struggle With?

doing math homework independently

Why is it Hard for Some Students to Develop Math Skills?

When it comes to math, students may encounter a variety of difficulties that can impede their progress at any stage of their academic development. While the exact causes of these issues are not yet fully understood, experts have identified five primary math skill types that can be problematic. These skill types are not mutually exclusive, and students may experience one or more deficits simultaneously. Any of these math skill deficiencies can negatively affect a student’s ability to learn and perform math effectively (Misunderstood Minds . Math Difficulties, n.d.).

The first math skill type that can pose a challenge for students is incomplete mastery of number facts. These are the basic computations, such as addition and multiplication, that students must memorize in the early grades of elementary school. Without a firm grasp of these foundational concepts, students may struggle to progress to more advanced mathematical topics

Another potential challenge is computational weakness. Some students may struggle with math despite a good understanding of concepts because they are inconsistent in their computational skills. They may make mistakes due to simple oversights or misunderstandings, such as misreading a sign or placing numbers in the wrong column. These students may require extra support and remedial instruction, even if they possess the potential for higher-level mathematical thinking

A third challenge that some students may face is difficulty transferring knowledge between abstract or conceptual math topics and the real world. This skill is crucial in understanding what mathematical symbols represent in the physical world and can be a stumbling block for some students

Making connections is another important skill that some students may struggle with. Without the ability to connect mathematical concepts, students may find it difficult to anchor these skills in a meaningful or relevant way. This can make it more difficult for them to recall and apply mathematical knowledge in new situations

Language difficulties can also pose a problem for some students, particularly those who struggle with reading, writing, and speaking. In math, these students may struggle with the often-challenging terminology and may have difficulty understanding written or verbal directions and word problems

Finally, a rare but severe issue that some students may face is an inability to effectively visualize math concepts. These students may struggle with perceptual skills, which can make it difficult to understand and solve complex mathematical problems that require visualization. These challenges may require extra support and accommodations to help these students succeed (Misunderstood Minds . Math Difficulties, n.d.).

Signs of Math Skills Difficulties

Expresses negative comments about math
  • Your child says things like “I hate math” or “im not good at math.”
Gets anxious around math
  • Looks nervous or is more fidgety 
Output difficulties 
  • Have an inability to remember fundamental math concepts, procedures, rules, or formulas
  • Experience sluggishness in retrieving information or executing procedures
  • Encounter challenges in maintaining accuracy during mathematical tasks
  • Struggle with handwriting that impedes the pace of written work or makes it difficult to decipher later
  • Experience forgetfulness in the midst of a mathematical problem-solving process (Misunderstood Minds . Math Difficulties, n.d.)
Organizational difficulties
  • Experience challenges in arranging a series of steps in a particular order
  • Get caught up in various steps or components of a problem
  • Lose sight of the ultimate objective and overly concentrate on individual elements of a problem
  • Have difficulty recognizing essential elements of a math scenario, particularly in word problems or other situations where some data is not significant
  • Be incapable of comprehending the suitability or rationality of produced solutions (Misunderstood Minds . Math Difficulties, n.d.)
Attention difficulties
  • Become distracted or fidgety during math tasks, which may interfere with their concentration and focus
  • Lose their place while working on a math problem, resulting in incorrect answers or incomplete work
  • Appear mentally fatigued or excessively tired when doing math due to the intense cognitive demands required during mathematical problem-solving
  • Benefit from strategies such as frequent breaks or chunking tasks in order to manage these difficulties and complete math tasks more effectively (Misunderstood Minds . Math Difficulties, n.d.)

To learn more about how MathProject can help your child improve their math skills, visit our website or contact us for personalized information and program options. Our dedicated team is here to support your child’s math journey and boost their confidence in mathematics.