Confronting The Hidden Issue Behind Many Students’ Poor Math Performance

Experts say awareness and training are the keys to addressing the problem. Confronting The Hidden Issue Behind Many Students’ Poor Math Performance Giphy

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It’s one of the idiomatic “3 R’s” of education, but too often students who struggle with “‘rithmatic” are deprived of the tools that would help them reach their full potential.

And experts increasingly believe that the problem lies in the fact that there isn’t enough testing going on to identify various types of math-related learning disabilities.

A widespread issue

The most common form of math disability is known as dyscalculia, and some estimates suggest as many as 7% of all students could suffer from a form of the neurodevelopmental disorder.

Signs of the disability can vary from child to child, but many of these kids:

  • Find it difficult to recognize numbers and other patterns
  • Struggle with basic math functions like addition or subtraction
  • Forget directions when completing grade-level problems

Even if a student is performing well in other subjects, issues with math could still be a sign of a disorder — much like dyslexia can impact reading comprehension.

But while schools have increased testing for dyslexia and other disabilities, math disorders remain largely undiagnosed.

“Mom, am I stupid?”

The mother of one third-grade student recalled the tough road that led to realizing that her daughter was struggling with dyscalculia. The 9-year-old had demonstrated difficulty counting, telling time, and completing other tasks in the past and her mother sought tutoring — but it didn’t seem to help.

“We hit a point where she was asking me, ‘Mom, am I stupid?” said Laura Jackson.

Eventually, a friend told her about the disorder and she realized that’s what was holding her daughter back.

For many other parents, however, there’s little if any support available, in large part because of a lack of clinical research. But experts are now trying to increase awareness and promote methods to help address this common — but often overlooked — problem.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee October 19th, 2023
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