Dear Dr. Bill,
My daughter started 4th grade this year. She typically gets straight A’s, but one subject she really struggles with is MATH. We spend a great deal of time helping her — because she forgets things easily and doesn’t seem to understand simple math problems like how many pennies in a dime or how many minutes in a half-hour. My daughter prays about this all the time and never complains about doing extra math problems at home. And my husband is VERY patient with her, but it’s a stressful experience for all of us. What should we do?
There is a possibility that your daughter may suffer a learning disability called “dyscalcula.” This is also referred to as Mathematics Disorder, and can involve a difficulty in understanding mathematical terms or concepts, decoding written problems, recognizing numerical symbols or arithmetic signs, or following sequences of mathematical steps.
If you daughter is seriously lagging behind in math, ask the teacher to arrange for a formal evaluation by the school psychologist. If it’s not a learning disability but simply a matter of needing additional help, I’d find a math tutor or enroll your daughter in a specialized math learning program in your community.
Since you’ve said this is putting a lot of stress on your family, it’s better to seek outside help rather than trying to tutor your daughter yourself.
It’s also important for you to affirm and encourage your daughter’s strengths, rather than focusing on her weaknesses. Help her to view learning math as an energizing challenge, rather than a frustrating obstacle.
Work closely with your daughter’s math teacher and praise her for her effort, rather than simply her achievement.
Also, avoid the tendency to criticize her or express disappointment when she fails. Remind her that her self-worth is not based on grades or accomplishments, but on the fact that she is made in God’s image and that He dearly loves her.
Thanks for writing, Kim.
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