Cooper gets very frustrated while doing his math homework. He has to do every problem more than once and still gets most of them wrong. He begins to call himself “stupid” and his distress brings him to tears. Cooper tries so hard but he doesn’t seem to be making progress; he is not “getting” math.

As a parent, you don’t want to see your child struggle. But helping him succeed in math–or any subject for that matter–is not as easy as doing all that math homework every day. Sometimes a bigger issue affects success in math.

So what’s a parent to do?


Be patient.

When your child struggles, especially in math, “be patient” is not what you want to hear. Action is the instinct. However, learning takes time. Children’s brains mature at different rates which is why some concepts may be easy for some to understand and difficult for others.

It takes time for the brain to develop new neural connections for more complex information to be processed and stored. This process cannot be rushed. In the meantime, you can offer lots of encouragement and support to your child. Share personal stories about how you struggled with something.


Do not blame or condemn.

This is huge. Your child is doing her best! Her brain is trying to overcome lack of understanding of the math concept, inability to pay attention, and even a potential visual problem. Blame and punishment add unnecessary stress to an already stressed child. No matter how frustrated you get, condemnation for something your child has no control over will lower her self-esteem, not encourage her to try harder. She is well aware of the struggle.  Your support and affirmation are vital for her to move forward.


Listen well.

Make sure you understand what your child is saying and trust that she is telling the truth. A big way for her to become even more discouraged is if her pleas are ignored. She may begin to think that she is stupid and will never be good enough. These thoughts are self-destructive and are hard to break. It is best to trust that what she says is true and try to help her through the issues.


Try a different instructional method.

Every child learns differently! What works well for one child may be like a foreign language to another. This is because there are many different types of learning styles and different types of intelligences. No one style is better than another, only different. Three common learning styles are kinesthetic, auditory, and visual.

  • Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. They process information working with their hands. A successful classroom setting for them is one with arts and crafts, projects,  technology, games, and motion.
  • Auditory learners learn best by hearing. These students are told something once and remember it without having to write anything down. A successful classroom setting for them is lecture style or one that incorporates music and memorable wordplay or quotes.
  • Visual learners learn best by seeing visual representations. Pictures and graphs help visual learners remember. A successful classroom setting is one that uses movies, photos, written notes on the board, acting, and color schemes.

The same strategies that work well in the classroom can work at home to tackle the dreaded math homework.


Get the Facts

Ok, so you’ve tried these strategies and nothing helps. Now what?

The problem may be your child’s math struggles are due to real, identifiable learning problems. If so, a psycho-educational assessment can pinpoint the specific causes for your child’s learning problems as well as identify strengths. Fortunately, strengths can be used to provide the best educational approaches for your child. Assessments help determine the most appropriate teaching methods and curricula as well as suggest whether non-academic activities or therapies are needed to take care of underlying issues.

At Sail Away, we offer a wide range of assessments, combined into Assessment Batteries, that generate an accurate profile of your child’s learning abilities and academic achievement. Administered by a licensed school psychologist, the following nationally normed, widely accepted assessments are offered at Sail Away to discover why your child struggles:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV)
  • Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement II (KTEA-II)
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-4 (PPVT-IV)
  • Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (WRMT)
  • Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA)
  • Test of Memory and Learning 2 (TOMAL-2)

For detailed information about each test, please click here.

Armed with the results of an Assessment Battery, a SailAway educational consultant works with parents to create a plan of action to turn the struggling student into a successful, confident learner. We can’t promise your math-phobic child will become a math genius, but we do know she can become proficient.



Semrud-Clikeman, M., (n.d.).  Research in brain function and learning: The importance of matching instruction   to a child’s maturity level. Retrieved from

Tips for Educators on Accommodating Different Learning Styles, (n.d.). Retrieved from