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Learning about numbers and math concepts is complicated, and many children encounter problems along the way. Some kids just need to overcome minor hurdles while others experience more complicated and enduring struggles that can be a sign of a learning disability.
If you're worried about your child's math skills, talk to his teacher. "Because the teacher sees your child in a variety of situations at school and can compare your child's progress to that of other children, she's in a good position to notice any potential problems," says Eve Stabinsky-Ackert, an early childhood education specialist in Monroe, Conn.
Early warning signs of a math problem
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities and early education specialists, your child may have a problem learning math and numerical concepts if he:
- Cries or gets angry when working with numbers
- Has trouble remembering numbers
- Writes numbers backwards (for example, his 3s look like Es)
- Can't follow the steps required to solve simple math problems
- Insists that he "just can't do it" without even trying
- Is anxious about math homework and tests
- Can't add or subtract simple equations in his head
- Can't think abstractly (he has trouble grasping concepts like "bigger and smaller," "before and after," "older and younger," etc.)
If your child has most or all of these problems, it doesn't necessarily mean he has a learning disability. He may be being pushed too hard. That's why it's important to talk to your child's teacher. She's in the best position to make an early assessment. She may recommend that you give him more math practice at home (see our article on fun activities for building a 2nd grader's math skills or fun activities for building a 3rd grader's math skills) or talk to a learning specialist.