Question: Our school-age child gets straight As in every subject except one: when it comes to mathematics she really struggles to keep her head above water. We're having a hard time understanding why this should be. Could she possibly be suffering from some kind of serious learning disability?


As a matter of fact, there may be a highly specialized reason for your child's problems in school. Since she gets straight As in every other subject and struggles only in math, it’s possible that she is suffering from a learning disability known a dyscalcula. This is also referred to as mathematics disorder, and it can involve difficulty understanding mathematical terms or concepts, decoding written word problems, recognizing numerical symbols or arithmetic signs or following sequences of mathematical steps.

If your child is seriously lagging behind in math, ask the teacher to arrange for a formal evaluation by the school psychologist. If it turns out that the issue isn't a learning disability but simply a matter of needing additional help, we strongly suggest that you find a math tutor or enrol your daughter in a specialized math learning program in your community. A situation of this nature can put a great deal of stress on family life at home, and for this reason it can be a blessing to obtain some help from outside rather than trying to tutor your child yourself.

Meanwhile, bear in mind that math isn't everything and that every child can't be expected to excel in this particular sector of the academic curriculum. It’s extremely important to affirm your child’s strengths rather than focusing on her weaknesses. Find ways to shine a spotlight on the things she’s good at. Encourage her to get more deeply involved in the subject fields she really enjoys. Where math is concerned, help her to see her assignments as positive challenges rather than frustrating obstacles. Go out of your way to cooperate closely with her math teacher. Praise your child for her effort rather than simply her achievement, and resist the temptation to criticize 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 loves her dearly.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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