teach a child with math learning disabilities

Teaching a Child With Math Learning Disabilities

How to Teach a Child with Math Learning Disabilities


teach a child with math learning disabilitiesLearning disabilities are not always apparent. Simply put, if the child has difficulties picking up skills in a particular subject or area, they might have a learning disability. These are typically developmental problems related to attention, movement, or any academic subject.

For instance, these issues can be visible at a particular stage of the child’s life. So they could be making good progress until fourth grade, for example, but have a problem developing their skills further. Thus, the slower or difficult learning pace can be a clear sign of a math learning disability. So we can call this a developmental learning disability.

It is essential to understand that this could be different for every child. Furthermore, it all tones down to a point where the demands exceed the child’s capacity. This could happen at any age and any point in the child’s life and academic progress.

Although there is a higher chance of a learning disability or math learning disability if you are born with certain risk factors. For example, if a parent is not good at math, there is a higher probability of the child having the same issues.

Developmental vs. Acute Learning Disabilities

On the other hand, the risk could be external as well. If a child has had a brain injury that caused a shift in their capacity to think and learn, they can develop learning disabilities. This is known as acute since the child did not have developmental learning disabilities.

When we talk about developmental skills, we mean progress over time. It takes years to develop a certain skill set, and mathematics is no different.

So we use the term ‘dyscalculia’ for math learning disabilities. A child having this condition may show a variety of symptoms.

Mainly underachievement in mathematics is a clear mark of dyscalculia. However, it is essential to understand that a child might be an excellent speaker or writer or perform relatively well in other subjects. And yet, the opposite case is also possible where the student has other learning disabilities in addition to dyscalculia.

How to Teach a Child with Math Learning Disabilities

Dyscalculia problems typically revolve around understanding mathematics’ basic units  (numbers and processes) of mathematics, making unconscious mistakes while performing calculations, and recalling numbers and formulae.

Practicing can be helpful in the case of dyscalculia, but it usually does not work in the long run. This is because dyscalculic students tend to be forgetful of the mathematical concepts they learn.

On the other hand, a child with no math learning disabilities might be better off with simple tutoring. The main key is to instill confidence in such students. Also, remember that no two students are the same – everybody has their own pace of learning, and each student has difficulties with various problems or topics.

Themba Tutors work with all kinds of students. We also cater to students suffering from dyscalculia, regardless of how severe the symptoms are. With patience and understanding, we even tutor students that have not been diagnosed with learning disabilities but are only looking for extra help with their school work.

Examples of How a Child can Struggle with Math

teach a child with math learning disabilities

So how do you know if your child is struggling with math? First, it is essential to remember that math learning disabilities can appear at the elementary, middle, or high school level. There is no certainty of when the issue can arise, but a significant sign is that the child has severe difficulties compared to their classmates.

These students usually have trouble with underlying skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the number line. Almost the entire Math subject is on these foundational skills, so a child with dyscalculia might have problems with automaticity – applying these skills smoothly to solve higher-level math problems.

You can also look  for the following symptoms of dyscalculia in middle and high school students:

  • Losing track while counting.
  • Trouble with remembering mathematical formulae and rules.
  • Being unable to recall facts related to multiplication, addition, and other basic operations.
  • Having a poor understanding of the base ten systems.
  • Finding fractions difficult to solve.
  • Confusion about where to place numbers while performing division or other sequential processes in arithmetic.
  • Having a problem understanding longer numbers. For instance, those with more than three or four digits in them.
  • Confusion between quantitative information such as speed, size, and weight. Math problems involving these qualities can also be problematic.
  • Problem following visual cues such as maps or directions. Even following step-by-step processing or methods to achieve a task can be difficult.

So if a student demonstrates difficulty compared to their peers, it is best to opt for a neuropsychological evaluation. It will help you understand whether or not your child has learning disabilities in math. A neuropsychologist can highlight learning difficulties in-depth, providing an overview of patterns and behaviors your child might be suffering from.

A proper evaluation can help detect whether your child has dyscalculia or a math learning disability. However, other issues could impact the child’s ability to learn math, such as executive function difficulties and ADHD. In this case, personalized tutoring/coaching is the best way to move forward.

In either case, we at Themba Tutors understand that looking for a neuropsychologist and a tutor could get tricky. To keep things simple, we provide solutions to children struggling with Math. On the other hand, if your child needs a neuropsychological evaluation, we can help you connect with a licensed neuropsychologist.


All in all, a student is believed to have dyscalculia if mathematics frustrates them. Hire a professional who can modify the curriculum to meet your child’s needs. A neuropsychological evaluation is required if you feel your child suffers from recalling mathematical problems they solved only the day before. It can help diagnose dyscalculia, along with other probable learning.




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Craig Selinger, CEO of Themba Tutors (serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut), is a NY State licensed speech-language pathologist, executive functioning coach, and learning specialist with over 18 years of experience working professionally with over a thousand families. His expertise includes language-based learning issues, e.g. reading, writing, speaking, and listening, executive functioning, ADHD/ADD, and learning disabilities. Check out his interviews with top-notch professionals in the field on Spotify.
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