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Common Maths Difficulties Encountered From Age 6 Upwards

Maths Word Problems

Some children struggle with the language aspects of maths. The word problem below is a simple maths sum (64 – 23 – 17 = 24). However, some children will have problems understanding the vocabulary and will not know which information is relevant and irrelevant.

'Old Mother Hubbard buys 64 tins of baked beans for her cupboard. She eats 23 tins and 17 tins are left so long they go off and she throws them away. How many tins are left?'

Common behaviour of children with language problems in maths:

  • They may have difficulty with the vocabulary of maths
  • They may be confused by language in word problems
  • They may have difficulty understanding directions
  • They may not know which information is relevant or irrelevant
  • They may have difficulty explaining and communicating about maths, including asking and answering questions

How can Leaders are Readers help children with language problems in maths?

At Leaders are Readers we believe that it is important to include wordy maths problems into our teaching so that children grow comfortable with mathematical terminology and learn to pick out the key information themselves. However, we recognise that for some children these type of maths problems can look incredibly daunting; consequently, our teachers use a variety of techniques to make the weird and wonderful language of maths more accessible.

Mental Maths

Mental maths is a critical component to a balanced maths programme. Knowing how to correctly manipulate numbers in our head reinforces number sense. Without a strong foundation in number sense, children will be at a disadvantage in all areas of mathematics. When this foundation is in place, all maths processes become much quicker and simpler. It is the teacher's responsibility to create students who are "nimble with numbers" and to establish effective strategies to aid mental maths learning.

Children, including those with dyscalculia, may have trouble "memorizing" basic number facts and operational signs. Instead of automatically knowing that 3+7=10, or that 5x5=25, these children laboriously count on their fingers, and are unable to develop efficient memory strategies of their own. For some, it helps to have a maths chart as a basic fact reference. If students have the full set of answers in view and in the same location, it can help them to recall the answers on their own.

How can Leaders are Readers help children with mental maths problems?

Leaders are Readers believe that every maths lesson should incorporate some element of mental maths. The teachers understand that teaching mental maths is more than stringing random groups of numbers together and asking students to 'find the right answer'. They also recognise that it is more than simple fact memorization. To correctly teach these processes, the teachers at Leaders are Readers focus on teaching conceptual understanding of mathematical processes. The word "mental" does not mean that it is going to be quick; the speed comes later when students are able to do the maths in their head.

Multi-step Maths problems

Many maths problems are multi-step and require some type of systematic approach. For children who have problems with organization, or have visual, spatial, or ordering difficulties, multi-step maths problems may prove a real challenge. The child may have difficulty ordering the steps used to solve a problem, or lose appreciation of the final goal and overemphasize individual elements of a problem. For some, a multi-step maths problem may seem overwhelming, leading to a feeling of anxiety, confusion or disinterest.

How can Leaders are Readers help children to overcome multi-step maths problems?

The teachers at Leaders are Readers understand that many children face difficulties with multi-step maths problems; consequently, they ensure the children understand how to break down these types of equations into manageable chunks. It is important that students learn the methods that always work and have one thoroughly understood method, than several complex methods for different situations. The main reason for learning all about maths is to become better problem solvers in all aspects of life, and being able to answer multi-step maths problems prepares children for this.