# Mastering Math: Practical Strategies to Help Children Think About Numbers

## Format

Poster Presentation

## Location

Harborside Center East and West

## Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

## Relevance

This proposal is directly related to Strand 1. Academic Achievement & Leadership. Possibly no other academic subject generates as much fear and intimidation as mathematics. Yet the ability to think with numbers and use math is part of everyday life. Mastering mathematics is an ongoing process in which children constantly integrate new and sophisticated skills and concepts as they solve increasingly more advanced grades – and throughout a student’s academic experience.

## Brief Program Description

Moments of frustration as well as pride are common for children with math problems and for the adults who work with them. Some children give up and see themselves as failures; others exhibit behavior complications that relate to their difficulties with math. The objectives of this presentation are to increase awareness and help participants gain a deeper understanding of children’s difficulties in math. This presentation will provide participants with sound practical strategies suitable for teacher and parents.

## Summary

Mathematics learning is composed of many subskills, such as being able to add, subtract, multiply, divide, calculate percentages, manipulate fractions, deal with decimals, and balance equations. These subskills form the basis for higher math operations. Children must be able to draw upon basic facts, rules, and procedures effortlessly and automatically as they solve increasingly more difficult mathematical tasks. Mastering mathematics is an ongoing process in which children constantly integrate new and sophisticated skills and concepts as they solve increasingly more advanced math problems. Mathematical concepts learned in first grade are built upon in subsequent grades – and throughout a students’ academic experience. If a child experiences a breakdown at any stage – such as completing the primary grades without having a solid sense of what numbers are and the relationships between them-he or she may fall behind classmates. When this happens, children may become frustrated and anxious, experience low self-esteem, or lose motivation, believing that they are too far behind to ever catch up. Most researchers agree that memory, language, attention, temporal-sequential ordering, higher order cognition, and spatial ordering are among the neurodevelopmental functions that play a role when children think with numbers. For children to achieve mastery in mathematics, a number of brain functions need to work together. Children must be able to use memory to recall rules and formulas and recognize patterns; use language to understand the vocabulary; and use sequential ordering to solve multi-step problems in the right order. In addition, children must use spatial ordering to recognize symbols and deal with geometric forms and use higher order cognition to review alternative strategies while solving problems Often, several of these brain functions need to operate simultaneously. Because math is so cumulative in nature, it is important to identify breakdowns as early as possible. Children are more likely to experience success in math when any neurodevelopmental differences that affect their performance in mathematics are dealt with promptly – before children lose confidence or develop a fear of math.

## Evidence

We have all heard the words from children or uttered them ourselves: “Math is just too hard! “Many children grow up thinking they simply cannot “get” math and after a certain point may no longer try. But math-like reading or writing- is a learned process that most children can understand, build upon, and ultimately master. Some children, however, have learning differences that can make it difficult for them to grasp mathematics. Research is now emerging that point to innovative ways to teach the subject, including techniques that utilize children’s strengths to help overcome any weaknesses. One fact is certain: Mathematics is one of the most complex and cumulative academic subjects. Math demands the constant weaving of new, higher-level concepts into what a student already knows. Children need to be fluent in fundamental skills and have automatic responses so they can build a foundation of math skills. The many skills needed to be successful in mathematics are so intricate; it can be difficult for teachers to figure out exactly where a child is having difficulty. Standardized tests show that many students perform poorly in mathematics. Since these tests don’t test every area of math skill, they can create a false impression that students are generally poor in math. Some of these students may have strengths in areas of math that are not measured on standardized tests. Improving students’ performance in math is now a national priority. Math is seen as a necessary lifelong tool for doing everything from making change at a cash register to understanding the statistical analysis of a business plan. Peterson and Mercer (2004) suggest that to be successful in math, children need to know what they are doing, remember what to do, keep track of what they are doing, and become good problem solvers. Most of all teachers and parents need to understand that different children have different levels of math skills and knowledge. These adults need to be aware of a child’s strengths, and use them to help children navigate through math difficulties. It is the adult’s job to help the child figure what may be the difficulty and find ways to work around it and ultimately succeed.

## Biographical Sketch

She has over 20 years of teaching in K12 and higher education settings - research interests include youth at risk in rural cultures, learning disabilities, and behavior management.

## Keyword Descriptors

math, learning disabilities, struggling learners, strategies, skills, improving performance

## Presentation Year

2015

## Start Date

3-3-2015 4:00 PM

## End Date

3-3-2015 5:30 PM

## Recommended Citation

Taylor, Roben W., "Mastering Math: Practical Strategies to Help Children Think About Numbers" (2015). *National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Conference*. 21.

https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/nyar_savannah/2015/2015/21

Mastering Math: Practical Strategies to Help Children Think About Numbers

Harborside Center East and West

Moments of frustration as well as pride are common for children with math problems and for the adults who work with them. Some children give up and see themselves as failures; others exhibit behavior complications that relate to their difficulties with math. The objectives of this presentation are to increase awareness and help participants gain a deeper understanding of children’s difficulties in math. This presentation will provide participants with sound practical strategies suitable for teacher and parents.