No school subject divides children more than math.
While many children thrive at topics like problem-solving, geometry and numeracy, others find math so hard to learn that they feel overwhelmed, frustrated or anxious when doing anything math-related.
If your child is struggling with math, they shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Everyone has their own strengths and challenges when it comes to learning. As their parent, you’re in a great position to help your child overcome this and make math easier for them.
In this article, we’ll be looking at why your child might find math hard and how you can support them as their parent.
7 Reasons why students struggle with math
To help your child make learning math easier, you should first work out why they’re finding it difficult. For many children, it isn’t what they’re learning in math that’s hard, but how and why they’re learning it.
Here are some common reasons why math is hard to learn for some children:
1. Concentration and attention difficulties
When your child is trying to solve a math problem, they need to concentrate and carefully follow each step. If they lose concentration or are distracted at any point in this process, they’re much more likely to make a mistake and will have to start over until they get the right answer.
Over time, making the same mistakes repeatedly can lower your child’s confidence and interest when solving math problems, especially if they feel like they’re falling behind their classmates.
Tools like Prodigy help capture your child’s attention by putting them in a game-based environment that engages them as they solve math problems.
Did you know?
Research showed that students who cited low math enjoyment when they started using Prodigy Math saw their level of math enjoyment double in just a few months.
See how it works
2. Lack of understanding
A lot of math lessons start with a teacher presenting a math problem to the class and walking them through a step-by-step method to help them solve it.
After watching the teacher solve a problem using a specific method, your child might feel confident enough to try it out on their own.
But when they’re presented with a more challenging problem later on, they might realize they didn’t fully understand the method taught in class. This can lower your child’s confidence. They may even avoid letting their teacher know, because they feel embarrassed they didn’t understand the method.
School absences like vacations and sick days are other common reasons why your child may have a hard time understanding a particular math concept. If they don’t have the opportunity to catch up on their missed learning, this can cause them to feel left behind and find math harder to learn than their classmates.
3. Learning difficulties & disabilities
While teachers do a great job of bringing out the best in their students, the classroom isn’t always the easiest learning environment for every child.
For children with learning difficulties or intellectual disabilities, it’s much harder to enjoy learning math without a teacher or teaching assistant who knows how to properly support them.
Also known as being neurodivergent, children with difficulties like dyslexia can find it challenging to read math questions or solve word problems. Other neurodivergent challenges like being on the autism or ADD/ADHD spectrums can also make it hard for your child to focus and comfortably participate in classroom math activities.
If you suspect your child is experiencing a learning difficulty and believe it’s affecting their performance in math, contact your child’s teacher or school. Many schools offer special learning programs that will identify your child’s difficulty and tailor a learning program designed to help them reach their full potential.
4. Lack of patience
Because math involves using plenty of multi-step processes to solve problems, being able to master it takes a lot more practice than other subjects.
Having to repeat a process over and over again can quickly bore some children and this may make them become impatient with math. While learning to be patient is an important step in your child’s development, they should also be encouraged to practice math with activities that are fun and engaging.
5. Not enough opportunity
From art shows and science fairs to soccer and drama clubs, children have plenty of opportunities to practice their favorite sport or hobby outside of the classroom. But what about math?
More often than not, children aren’t aware of how they can practice basic math outside of school and homework. This can cause them to lose interest and make it harder for them to feel motivated with math.
But it doesn’t always have to be that way! Engaging and educational math resources like Prodigy change that by giving your child plenty of fun opportunities to practice their math skills outside of school.
6. Being left-brained vs. right-brained
Every child has their individual likes and dislikes, including when it comes to school subjects.
Generally, learners can be separated into two categories based on the particular type of subject they prefer. This is known as being either left-brained or right-brained.
This is how it works:
- Right-brained people enjoy being creative and expressing themselves in writing or when speaking. These individuals enjoy school subjects like art, English, drama or music.
- Left-brained people are the opposite of right-brained people. They naturally enjoy being analytical and solving problems in subjects like math, technology and science.
While the verdict is still out on whether our brains are actually hardwired this way, many people believe children (and adults) have a preference for one type of subject over the other.
If your child is right-brained, it could explain why they find math harder to learn because they’re outside of their natural comfort zone.
7. Math anxiety
Is your child anxious or nervous when trying to work with math? If so, they might find math hard to learn because they’re experiencing math anxiety.
Math anxiety is a phobia that appears when someone is faced with math problems. It tends to appear when a child (or adult) is placed in a testing environment, but may also appear when they have math class or need to do math homework.
Math anxiety shows up in many different ways. Your child may appear quiet and nervous or be reluctant to go to school when they have a math class or test. They may also show physical symptoms like nausea and shaking. While challenging, math anxiety can be successfully managed with support from professionals like teachers, tutors and counselors.
Discover the real-life value of math
One of the biggest reasons why students find math hard is because they don’t understand its value in real life. This attitude becomes harder to shake off when students are about to start high school math, which is more theory-based.
If your child is questioning the real-life value of math, explore why they think that is with them. You could explain to them that math offers plenty of real-life benefits, including:
- Better job opportunities — As a STEM subject, math skills are in high demand and will give your child plenty of opportunities to achieve their future career aspirations.
- Better money management — Being able to understand topics like interest and budgeting helps your child save and manage money more efficiently, meaning more opportunities for them to enjoy their favorite things.
- Computational skills — Math is a great way to develop technical skills in computer science, robotics and engineering.
- Problem-solving skills — The skills learned in math class give students the ability to think analytically and solve problems using logic and reasoning, helping them to make better decisions.
How to help kids who find math difficult
While there are many reasons your child might find math hard to learn, there are also lots of ways you can help make it easier and more enjoyable for them.
Here are some methods that will help make math more accessible for your child:
1. Discuss math difficulties with your child’s teacher
Keeping in touch with your child’s math teacher is an excellent way to identify where and why they might find math difficult. There are many ways to communicate with your child’s teacher, ranging from going to parent teacher conferences to simply sending them an email.
When discussing your child’s math performance with their teacher, work together to develop a strategy that supports them in the classroom and at home. The more aligned you are with your child’s math teacher, the easier it will be to support your child.
2. Adapt their learning to their preferred learning style
Whether you’re starting to homeschool your child or guiding them through their homework, it’s important you work with them in their preferred learning style. Learners often have a preference for a type of material that helps them better understand a concept. These include:
- Visual activities like watching videos and creating drawings.
- Auditory activities like mnemonics and group discussions.
- Kinesthetic activities like playing games and making things.
To work out your child’s learning style, consider asking them about their favorite lesson and what made it special for them. You could also experiment with different activities to see what they respond best to.
Interactive and engaging platforms like Prodigy are designed to suit many different learning styles. Better yet, a Prodigy Math Membership offers amazing perks to further engage your child’s unique learning style like video lessons, fun practice sheets and exclusive in-game content.
3. Find a way to make math fun
There are so many ways to make math fun for your child and develop their problem-solving skills at the same time. These include:
- Trying out puzzles and quizzes
- Visiting math and science museums (even from home!)
- Building models and paper crafts
- Game-based learning tools online
Making math fun and engaging is one of the hardest challenges in helping kids build math skills. But if your child can learn to associate math with having fun, they'll start to see math problems as an exciting challenge instead of a chore.
Having fun while doing math will also encourage your child practice it more often. And the more time your child can spend practicing math skills, the more confident they'll feel in their ability to do well at math!
Bonus tip: Try out a math app!
If your child likes to use a tablet or computer at home, a math app might be the solution you're looking for. Check out these 13 math apps that are designed to entertain kids and boost learning!
See the math apps
4. Bring math into real-life scenarios
From measuring ingredients to managing money, there are plenty of scenarios where we all need to use our math skills. Introducing real-life applications of math into your everyday activities is an excellent way to encourage your child to enjoy math and discover its many benefits.
Introduce your child to real-world math in situations such as:
- Managing money in the grocery store
- Working out the time when planning their day
- Converting measurements when baking or cooking
- Calculating measurements when building or drawing
5. Stay involved with learning
Taking an active role in your child’s education is key to helping them fully realize their potential, especially before they start to become more independent in high school. Part of this includes working with them on subjects they might find challenging, like math.
To keep involved in your child’s learning, consider spending some extra time with them on tasks like homework, especially if their teacher has highlighted it as one of their struggle spots. You can even ask your child to teach you what they’ve recently learned in math class. Following up with your child’s progress not only reinforces what they’ve learned in class, but also boosts their math confidence in a safe space.
6. Try out a math tutor
Math tutors are a great way to get quality 1:1 time to focus on your child’s weakest spots. Math tutors can also teach your child problem-solving strategies that will help them feel more confident when handling unknown questions.
When looking for a math tutor, try:
- Looking for a tutor online
- Reaching out to your school for suggestions
- Asking friends and family for recommendations
- Contacting students are training to become a teacher
Doing plenty of research early on can help you find the best tutor for your child. It's also a good idea to trial a session or two before committing. Most importantly, remember to ask your child for their feedback.
You could ask them questions like:
- What did you learn in today's session?
- Did you enjoy your tutoring session today?
- Would you like to see this tutor again?
Tip: To help make your child's math tutoring go further, encourage your child to get extra math practice outside of tutoring. One easy way to do that is to introduce them to Prodigy Math, our engaging, online math game that adapts to your child's learning goals as they play.
7. Get other professional help
Challenges like math anxiety and learning difficulties shouldn’t hold your child back from enjoying math. Getting professional help for your child, like sessions with a school counselor, can help your child develop coping strategies that will make them feel more confident with their math skills.
To learn more about getting professional help, reach out to your child’s teacher or school.
Ongoing math support for struggling students
Learning math isn’t always easy for some children, especially if they don’t have the resources or support they deserve. At Prodigy, we know not every parent has the time or capacity to completely manage their child’s math learning, even though they want the very best for their child’s education.
That’s why Prodigy is here to help you and your child. Prodigy Math is an online math game that immerses your child into a safe, fun and engaging game-based learning environment. All our math questions are made by teachers for students in 1st grade all the way to 8th grade.
With Prodigy, your child can:
- Work on the areas they find hardest — Thanks to our nifty algorithm!
- Practice math activities — Specifically designed for your child’s curriculum.
- Learn in a fun and safe space — Complete with cute pets, engaging math battles and plenty of exciting quests.
Why do some students struggle with math? ›
Some kids struggle with math because of a learning difference called dyscalculia. Dyscalculia isn't as well-known as other learning and thinking differences, like dyslexia. But experts believe it's just as common. There are lots of tools and strategies to help kids with dyscalculia thrive.Why is math so hard for my child? ›
Disorders like dyslexia, visual or auditory processing, ADHD, and others can also impact a child's ability to meet expectations in completing math problems. It's also possible for kids who do have dyscalculia to have other learning disabilities as well.Do most people struggle with math? ›
Mathematics is often considered to be one of the most challenging subjects for students. Recent surveys report that 37% of teens aged 13-17 found math to be harder than other subjects – the highest ranked overall.Why is my child failing math? ›
Students struggle with math for many reasons. Confidence, problems focusing, learning disabilities, poor study skills, and discipline all play a role in your child's success in math class.How does ADHD affect math? ›
Because the ADHD brain habituates to stimuli very quickly, it can be difficult to maintain attention to repetitive tasks, like, say, practicing math facts. In fact, kids with ADHD sometimes get less accurate the better they have their facts memorized.Why are some people weak in math? ›
The primary cause of math difficulties is an inability to create a gestalt image for the concepts underlying math processes. Individuals often attempt to memorize facts instead of being able to think, reason, and problem solve with numbers.Why does math make me cry? ›
Tears or anger: Tears or anger might signal anxiety, especially if they appear only during math. Students with math anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and work under the harmful and false assumption that being good at math means getting correct answers quickly. These beliefs and thoughts are quite crippling.Is math anxiety a learning disability? ›
Math is hard. Dyscalculia, a math learning disability, can make learning and calculating numbers downright painful. Persistent difficulties with math can also lead to intense overwhelm and feelings of academic dread, also known as math anxiety.Are some people naturally better at math? ›
Research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that some people are naturally good at math, whereas others may never be. For those who can count very well, there is something vaguely infuriating about doing business with (or even living with) people who can't count past three.How can I make math easier? ›
- Practice. As with any subject or discipline, the best way to get better is to practice. ...
- Understand Mistakes. Math is one of the subjects where your work really matters to get to the solution. ...
- Grasp Concepts. ...
- Get Help When Needed.
Is the hardest math in the world? ›
Today's mathematicians would probably agree that the Riemann Hypothesis is the most significant open problem in all of math. It's one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems, with $1 million reward for its solution.How many kids fail math every year? ›
California's New Diversity Math Curriculum Will Fail 6 Million Kids Annually | Hoover Institution California's New Diversity Math Curriculum Will Fail 6 Million Kids Annually.How do I know if my child has a learning disability in math? ›
There are no lab, imaging or diagnostic tests that can confirm dyscalculia. Instead, the focus will be on testing a child's specific math-related skills and ruling out other possible causes, such as vision or hearing problems, other brain- or mental health-related conditions, etc. Different tests can help with this.How do you overcome math difficulties? ›
- Study Smart. Read the information on study skills, time management, note-taking, and reading textbooks. ...
- Attend Math Class. ...
- Get Organized. ...
- Continually Test Yourself. ...
- Replace Negative Self-Talk with Positive. ...
- Use All Your Resources.
Children with ADHD typically have trouble with math, which requires sustained attention, good working memory (how much information can be held on tap at one time), tracking (knowing where they are in a problem), and self-monitoring. As students move into higher grades, math performance tends to decline.What subjects do ADHD kids struggle with? ›
Struggles with reading, writing, and math are common among students with ADHD. Use these strategies and tools to help your child overcome these and other learning challenges in core school subjects.What are signs of dyscalculia? ›
- difficulty counting backwards.
- difficulty remembering 'basic' facts.
- slow to perform calculations.
- weak mental arithmetic skills.
- a poor sense of numbers & estimation.
- Difficulty in understanding place value.
- Addition is often the default operation.
- High levels of mathematics anxiety.
Research shows that the way math is taught in schools and how its conceptualized as a subject is severely impairing American student's ability to learn and understand the material. Americans continually score either in the mid- or bottom-tier when it comes to math and science compared to their international peers.What is math anxiety called? ›
Dyscalculia is a learning difference that affects math skills such as counting, recalling math facts, and understanding math concepts. Math anxiety is an emotional issue involving self-doubt and fear of failing.Why does my mind go blank when I do math? ›
For example, while doing math, a person may need to remember several numbers and the steps for solving the problem at the same time. It may be that anxiety uses up someone's working memory, leading to a feeling of the mind “going blank” as they have issues remembering all the information they need.
Is math hating normal? ›
Unfortunately, math does tend to generate strong negative feelings for some students. While hating math may be “normal” in the sense that many kids feel that way, it is a symptom of a problem and should be addressed.What is math trauma? ›
What is Math Trauma? This condition can occur when a student has a negative experience in math class - such as feeling humiliated or getting a bad grade - which leads to a fear of mathematics. Math anxiety can cause students to avoid math altogether, leading to further setbacks.What percentage of students have math anxiety? ›
Researchers think that about 20 percent of the population suffers from it. But having mathematical anxiety does not mean that a student is not good at math. Even accomplished mathematicians, such as Laurent Schwartz and Maryam Mirzakhani, reported having suffered from it.Is math anxiety genetic? ›
Genetic factors accounted for roughly 40% of the variation in mathematical anxiety, with the remaining being accounted for by child-specific environmental factors.How many people are weak in maths? ›
According to Boaler, only 3% of the human population face genuine difficulties while doing maths.How can kids make maths stronger? ›
- First, understand how children learn. ...
- Development of early math skills over time. ...
- 1- Stay in touch with your kid's math teacher. ...
- 2- Use technology in a beneficial way. ...
- 3- Turn maths problems for kids into play. ...
- 4- Discover the power of the real world maths.
Mathematicians score highly on extraversion, meaning that they rely on external stimuli to be happy, such as people or exciting surroundings. They also tend to be high on the measure of conscientiousness, which means that they are methodical, reliable, and generally plan out things in advance.Is math easy for everyone? ›
Maths is the easiest subject to learn if you practise it regularly with full efficacy. Thought concepts may take time to fit into your mind, but all the concepts are easy to understand, and everyone can understand.Can any one be good at math? ›
Many people believe one is born with the talent to be good at math while others are just not. However, many studies have proved there's no inherent mathematical ability; everyone can become proficient in math if they put in the effort and time.Why is math extremely hard? ›
Maths is cumulative
Another reason many people find maths so hard is that the subject is cumulative. A foundation is built and then new concepts are taught which are based upon an understanding of this foundation, and these in turn are used to understand more complex concepts.
Why do I feel maths so hard? ›
Answer: Students tend to hate mathematics because it is a challenging subject. Often students lack a strong foundation in the subject, which makes it harder for them to practise problems as they move into higher classes.What is the hardest math grade? ›
In most cases, you'll find that AP Calculus BC or IB Math HL is the most difficult math course your school offers. Note that AP Calculus BC covers the material in AP Calculus AB but also continues the curriculum, addressing more challenging and advanced concepts.Has 3X 1 been solved? ›
After that, the 3X + 1 problem has appeared in various forms. It is one of the most infamous unsolved puzzles in the word. Prizes have been offered for its solution for more than forty years, but no one has completely and successfully solved it .What are the 7 hardest math problems? ›
Clay “to increase and disseminate mathematical knowledge.” The seven problems, which were announced in 2000, are the Riemann hypothesis, P versus NP problem, Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, Hodge conjecture, Navier-Stokes equation, Yang-Mills theory, and Poincaré conjecture.What is the most failed math class in high school? ›
Algebra is the single most failed course in high school, the most failed course in community college, and, along with English language for nonnative speakers, the single biggest academic reason that community colleges have a high dropout rate.Is it normal to forget math so easily? ›
It is perfectly normal for humans to forget things after a period of time. However, here are some tips to help you "relearn" the material you have forgotten.Can someone with ADHD be good at math? ›
This can be incredibly frustrating for parents and teachers, and the student themselves – especially when they know that they are capable of doing better. Although math may not come easily to children with ADHD, most can perform at grade level with modified instruction and additional support.What are the five areas of math disabilities? ›
- Incomplete Mastery of Number Facts. ...
- Try it yourself. ...
- Computational Weakness. ...
- Difficulty Transferring Knowledge. ...
- Making Connections. ...
- Incomplete Understanding of the Language of Math.
One of the common reasons why students are Scared for Mathematics and why they fail in the subject is because of the peer pressure which they are not able to handle. They have self-doubt on their abilities and are unable to cope with the pressure of performance at school and other levels.How can I help my child who is struggling in math? ›
- Practice With Your Child Every Night.
- Identify Problem Areas.
- Make Math Fun.
- Find Daily Applications.
- Be Positive.
- Get a Tutor.
How can I get my child to be good at math? ›
- Make math fun. ...
- Mix in math. ...
- Use real world examples to teach math. ...
- Encourage children to solve problems. ...
- Tune into technology. ...
- There is nothing to fear but fear itself. ...
- Stay informed. ...
- Be a champion for challenge.
Typical symptoms include: difficulty counting backwards. difficulty remembering 'basic' facts. slow to perform calculations.Is struggling with math genetic? ›
Research shows that genetics may also play a part in problems with math. Brain development: Brain imaging studies have shown some differences between people with and without dyscalculia. The differences have to do with how the brain is structured and how it functions in areas that are linked to learning skills.How common is maths anxiety? ›
Maths anxiety or a fear of maths is common, and although it can limit performance in certain situations and contexts, it's not linked to intelligence or ability. In one study involving children, most of those with high maths anxiety scored normal to high results on curriculum maths tests.How do I get rid of math anxiety? ›
- Study Smart. Read the information on study skills, time management, note-taking, and reading textbooks. ...
- Attend Math Class. ...
- Get Organized. ...
- Continually Test Yourself. ...
- Replace Negative Self-Talk with Positive. ...
- Use All Your Resources.
Mathematical ability is known to be heritable and related to several genes that play a role for brain development.What do you do when your child hates math? ›
Help dispel the idea that math is boring by having fun with math. Let kids play with patterns or create math-based art. Teach them math games or use fun math activity sheets. And if you really want to jazz up math time to help kids stop saying “I hate math,” try the Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities.At what age should a child know math? ›
Learning to read, write and do math is always a milestone in kids that parents treasure. Children will learn to read between the ages of four and six and write and do math between six and 10 years old.What age should a child be able to do math? ›
Between the ages of 5 and 7, your child will start working on simple addition and subtraction problems and basic fractions. Money and time will suddenly have concrete meanings. Counting by ones transitions into skip counting by twos, tens and fives.Is dyscalculia caused by ADHD? ›
People sometimes call it math dyslexia, but this can be confusing because dyscalculia is a different condition. It can be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- up to 60% of people who have ADHD also have a learning disorder. It also tends to run in families.
Is dyscalculia a form of autism? ›
Is dyscalculia a form of autism? No, dyscalculia and autism spectrum disorder are two different conditions. They both fall under the same category, neurodevelopmental (brain development) disorders, in the DSM-5 but are still very different.Do kids outgrow dyscalculia? ›
Will my child “grow out of” dyscalculia? While it is possible that children may grow out of some types of dyscalculia (especially a proposed type involving difficulty learning sequences and strategies; Geary, 1993), in most cases your child will NOT grow out of dyscalculia.Are some people just naturally good at math? ›
Research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that some people are naturally good at math, whereas others may never be. For those who can count very well, there is something vaguely infuriating about doing business with (or even living with) people who can't count past three.Can anyone become good at math? ›
Many people believe one is born with the talent to be good at math while others are just not. However, many studies have proved there's no inherent mathematical ability; everyone can become proficient in math if they put in the effort and time.What makes someone good at math? ›
grasp mathematical concepts and strategies quickly, with good retention, and to relate mathematical concepts within and across content areas and real-life situations. solve problems with multiple and/or alternative solutions. use mathematics with self-assurance. take risks with mathematical concepts and strategies.