Category: Math-related Disorders

“This is Too Hard!” 5 ways to help a child with a learning disability


It’s painful watching your child struggle in school, but there are things you can do to help. Find out how to turn “This is too hard!” to “I can do this!” with these 5 tips.

  1. Remind them that even very smart kids can have a learning disability; it’s not necessary an indication of intelligence. Explain that Albert Einstein had ADHD and Thomas Edison had dyslexia and look how brilliant they were!
  2. Enroll them in personal brain training. Most learning disabilities are due to weak cognitive skills. If weak cognitive skills are, indeed, causing your child to struggle, that’s actually good news because there is something you can do about it: weak skills can be strengthened. One-on-one brain training provides a way to strengthen the core skills the brain uses to think and perform. And because every brain training program is customized, even extremely smart kids can benefit from brain training. LearningRx brain trainers work with clients of all ages about five hours a week, for 12 to 32 weeks, depending on the program. Workout sessions are customized to meet the individual objectives—and strengthen weak skills—unique to each client. And because workouts consist of game-like mental exercises, clients of all ages typically enjoy the experience.
  3. Make decisions based on facts, not assumptions. Many parents mistakenly believe that learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, are a lifelong label, or that some kids are genetically destined to always be bad at math. These are myths that can keep parents from seeking out help.
  4.  Don’t give up! At LearningRx, we hear time and time again about parents who put their child in tutoring with little to no results. That’s because tutoring is a great solution when there is an identifiable, external reason that a student did not grasp classroom content the first time it was presented in class. Perhaps a child was sick or on vacation, or a relocation in the middle of the school year created a gap in curriculum. It’s also possible that something (like an extended illness or pregnancy) impacted the consistent delivery of material. The point is, when something has interfered with the delivery of content to your child, hiring a tutor to reteach that content makes sense. On the other hand, brain training does not reteach missed content, but instead exercises and strengthens the basic skills the brain uses to think, learn, and perform. In other words, brain training improves the way the brain grasps information the first time it is presented. So, if your child is struggling in more than one class, or struggling year after year, weak cognitive skills may be to blame. And if they are, brain training can strengthen those skills.
  5. Start with baby steps. You don’t need to figure everything out at once. Begin by taking one or two small actions to get the ball rolling. Talk to your child’s teacher about specific issues your child displays, such as speaking out of turn, difficulty staying organized or taking longer than most students to complete tests. Call your local LearningRx to schedule a cognitive skills assessment. The one-hour assessment will provide a detailed look at your child’s individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and will give you invaluable information you need in order to decide on the next best step to help your child.

Born That Way? Why a Link Between Genetics and Math Struggles is Mostly a Myth


If you or your spouse struggled with math when you were in school, it might be tempting to chalk up your child’s dyscalculia (the technical term, which simply means “trouble with numbers”) to genetics. But the truth is, there’s no such thing as someone being born bad at math, and it’s certainly not a pre-determined destiny. But for most people, math struggles are caused by these two specific things.

In her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley writes about Americans’ lackadaisical attitudes toward math, despite its thread being woven into practically every profession. From measuring floor covering to making change for customers, understanding math is crucial, and yet we sometimes downplay its importance. As she explains, part of the problem is that in the United States, many believe that math is an innate ability, like being double-jointed.

“There’s no such thing as someone being born bad at math, and it’s certainly not a pre-determined destiny,” says Tanya Mitchell, co-author of Unlock the Einstein Inside; Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart In Your Child ( “We do our kids a huge disservice by steering them away from the challenges of math to alleviate their fears. Instead, we should be eradicating those fears by targeting the fundamental building blocks to learning math: cognitive skills.”

According to Mitchell, although genetics can play a role, most people with dyscalculia have poor visual processing and memory skills. For example, weak visual processing skills might cause someone to transpose numbers (68 becomes 86). When working memory is weak, someone doing mental math (say, 23 +28) might forget that they “carried the one,” leading them to answer 41 instead of 51. She says most blocks to excelling in math aren’t about information, but are linked to the skills the brain uses to learn, process, understand, remember and apply that information.

Math in the United States

Ripley writes that part of the issue is that compared to other educationally successful countries, the United States places too much emphasis on sports rather than academics. It’s not uncommon to see children, teens and parents at sports practices and games or athletic competitions for hours after school, leaving them rushed to complete the bare minimum of homework before bed. And it’s certainly not that these kids and teens are unmotivated; in most cases, when it comes to immersing oneself in studying and homework, it’s just about lack of time and energy.

The United States is far from the top when it comes to math education. In fact, Ripley points out in her book that American students scored 26th on a test of critical thinking in math, below average for developed countries. And it has nothing to do with parental involvement. Ripley found that American parents tend to be more involved in school than parents in the other “education superpowers.” The problem is, their involvement has little to do with learning and more to do with fundraising, serving on teacher-appreciation committees and attending PTO/PTA. And while those things are all wonderful, research shows a parent’s involvement in their child’s education is more about quality than quantity. And quality involvement starts at home, like working with your kids to help them excel in math.

So why do Americans put so little focus on math?

Ripley explains that it’s in part due to the fact that many American adults don’t like math either. A surprising percentage doesn’t believe it’s critical to success later in life. In one 2009 survey, most of the American parents said it was more important to finish high school with strong reading and writing skills than with strong math and science skills.

How To Help Your Child

For parents who want to know more specifics about how to help their child excel in math, here are some starting points.

First, stop allowing accommodations in the classroom. You’re not doing your child any favors to prepare for life as an adult by giving them special treatment.

Second, be willing to invest more in outside education. This could mean hiring a tutor if your child falls behind due to frequent family moves, purchasing SAT prep materials, or paying for your high school student to spend his summer studying abroad or attending a pre-college program.

Third, be as involved with math as you are with sports, music lessons and school fundraisers—if not more so. Talk to your child or teen about math, find out where they struggle and rule out other possible issues (like vision or hearing problems, bullying, test anxiety, etc.). Some school districts now offer refresher math courses for parents so they can better help their children.

Finally, have your student’s cognitive skills tested. The root causes of most learning struggles of ANY type are weak cognitive skills. With ADHD, it’s attention. With dyslexia, it’s phonemic awareness. With math, it’s usually memory and visual processing, among others. Once you know what you’re dealing with you can take measures to target those skills at home and with one-on-one brain training.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that math doesn’t matter. It’s no coincidence that the countries that understand the importance of math are those whose students excel in the subject. You may not have the power to change the country, but you can start by placing value, time and energy on math at home.