Homeschooling A Child Struggling With Math: 12 Tips

If you have a child struggling with math, please know that there’s so much you can do to change that narrative. Whether ADHD, Autism, another learning difference or none at all, we all know the importance of helping our kids grow in math.

So today I’m sharing 12 principles and strategies all about how to help a child when they struggle with math.

Ready to end the stress? Let’s get started.

12 Tips When Homeschooling A Child Struggling With Math

1. Understand Behavior Is Information (Even In Math)

If child is struggling with math or any subject, remind yourself of this key principle:

Yep. Tears, meltdowns, or any resistance to learning is your clue that something is going on behind the scenes.

When you see this, I encourage you to use this behavior to your advantage.

2 – Miconceptions That Make Math Harder

If you’re serious about helping your child overcome struggles with math, it’s important to clear up some misconceptions about learning.

As such, we need to address a serious elephant in the proverbial “homeschool math” room. So , what is this “so called” elephant in our homeschools?

Well, it’s none other than the US school system.

Drop What We Think We “Know” About Teaching Math

When we homeschool moms run into brick walls with our kids, we can easily become overwhelmed.

What do I do?

I don’t know what else to do.

I’ve tried everything.

Lord knows that I’ve run through these questions a thousand times myself (even in the past week). I so get it.

But what I’ve found is that the biggest problem is when we get stuck in what we think we know about teaching and learning. The greatest way forward with our kids is to stop and go backwards.

The number one issue that needs to be addressed when homeschooling a child struggling with math?

Examine the validity of “math should be taught like ______” mentality.

  • Hint… it doesn’t take 12 years to learn math,
  • Teaching math well is not counted in number of problems, pages or hours spent,
  • Completing the curriculum or grade level is not the goal;
  • Focus on helping your child take the next step– no matter how small.

Small chunks of intentional teaching & learning over time will yield fruit. Take the next step.

3. Change The Narrative When Our Kids Struggle

In truth, most of us grew up in the traditional education system. In the end, that’s the framework from which we often teach math in our homeschools.

But the reality is that in that system, children are often pushed along without the solid math foundation that they truly need.

This makes math extremely stressful and often, unattainable. Unquestionably, this perpetuates a belief in many students (ahem… grown adults) that they’re inherently “bad” at math.

This mindset alone can make or break a student’s academic success.

4. Assess The Child In Front of You

Whether a new homeschool mom or a veteran, when kids struggle to learn, we’ve got to look at the child in front of us and assess the situaion.

(And this is something I have to do all the time- trust me.)

The best thing to do is to assess your child’s current skill level in various areas of math.

In the end, when a child is resistant to any type of school work, it’s often due to a gap in specific foundational skills. When we tease out these weaker areas, we’re better armed to help our struggling students accordingly.

Don’t Rush Through Math To Be On Grade Level

It’s especially important to stop and search for root issues because each math skill builds upon the others. Think about it.

  • A solid understanding of addition facts is essential to understanding subtraction.
  • Multiplication fluency is essential for understanding and mastering division.

Finding your child’s pain point is necessary in order to move forward.

Kids cannot confidently move forward in math if they actually NEED to step backwards to master the preceding concepts.

Find The Gaps In Math- Formal Or Informal Math Assessments

When a child is struggling to learn math or any subject, we need the right goals for that child.

By completing some sort of math assessment, you’ll have a better idea of where to start.

Sonlight has several assessment tools listed on their website to help determine where your child is in math. Check out some of their assessment options here.

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Informal Math Assessment Option- Ask Questions

On the other hand, if your child struggles with math test anxiety, you may have to approach it another way.

As such, you can ask yourself some basic questions to give you a starting point.

For example,

  • When he’s working on two-digit by two-digit multiplication, is it the basic facts he’s struggling with? Or is he struggling to remember the steps involved?
  • Does my child understand the math terminology and is she understanding the actual instructions?
    • Hmmm… Maybe I need to review what a factor is before moving on to Highest Common Factor?
  • If I read the word problem aloud to my child, is he better able to process the needed calculation and steps involved?
    • Is it a calculation issue or a language-based issue?
    • Attention or anxiety issue?

RELATED POST: How To Help A Struggling Reader (Language Processing Issues & More)

When Your Child’s Struggling With Math-
Actionable Tip #1:

  • When a child struggles with the steps involved in a math process, create a reference sheet outlining the proper steps.
  • Allow your child to use visual supports until the steps are automatic.
example math reference cheat sheet homeschool
This is a simple chicken scratch cheat sheet that I created on the fly for my middle daughter. After walking through multiple problems with her, I then color coded each step so she could use this support when working on her own.

5. Focus On One Math Objective At A Time

Once you have a better idea of where your child is struggling in math, it’s often best to focus your homeschooling on one math concept at a time.

Side note: This is refered to as mastery-based learning. There are many mastery-based homeschool math curriculum options out there and many struggling students do well with them.

With a small amount of intention and focus, your child can more efficiently learn the skills needed to move on to the next math concept.

RELATED POST: Understand How Your Child Learns Before You Choose Homeschool Math Curriculum

tips to help kids with word problems
Share With Another Mom Who Needs Help. Pin Me To Your Favorite Pinterest Board. TY! 🙂

Spend A Month Working on Multiplication Facts?

If your child is weak in multiplication facts, you could plan to spend the next month working ONLY on multiplication facts.

Play math games. (Follow me on Pinterest for tons of ideas).

As mentioned previously, simplify how you teach homeschool math by focusing ONLY on one concept or skill. One step at a time. Lower the stress level to move forward.

6 – Remember To Breathe & Not Give In To Fear

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to plow through the basic concepts because you think your child should be further along. By doing this, your child will never get what he’s missing.

Fear is a LIAR.

We all know that we can’t get to the top of a mountain without taking one step at a time. Likewise, math is the same way.

You’ll be shocked at how little time it takes your child to make huge strides when focusing on one skill at a time.

7 – Short Bursts Math Throughout The Day

Additionally, processing too much new information at one time is overwhelming for kids and adults. This is especially true when working on a subject that causes stress and anxiety.

Again, get super focused on one or two math skills and plan short, powerful bursts of intentional, one-on-one instruction.

Homeschool Math Actionable Tip #2: Word Problems

Kids often struggle with math word problems and need extra supports to move forward. Let’s take an example:

EXAMPLE: Sarah has 5 dozen cookies. She wants to share them evenly with her church small group of 8 friends. How many cookies does each friend receive?

  1. Read the problem aloud to your child.
    • (This is NOT cheating.)
  2. Hash through each piece of information together.

    Literally, pause after each phrase and discuss. For example,
    • Ask, “What does it mean that ‘Sarah has 5 dozen cookies?’
      • Review the term DOZEN
    • Ask, “How do we find out how many 5 dozen is?”
      • If your child can’t answer aloud, draw an image of 5 squares with 12 dots in it.
    • Then move to the multiplication step, etc…
    • Baby step your way through it….
5 squares with a dozen dots in each

Will this take a long time? Yes!

Will you get every math problem on the assignment completed? No.

5 problems done step by step with growing mastery is a win.

Simply by doing this, you’ll have a better understanding of where there may be a disconnect.

Trouble with word problems is often an indication of reading comprehension or language processing issue. See Reading, Writing & Relationships for more info.

8. Homeschool Math: Make It Stress-Free & Fun

In the end, stress-free pockets of math throughout the day allow math concepts to move from short-term to long-term memory.

And this is the goal! Long-term retention.

Small chunks of intentional teaching will yield fruit.

RELATED POST: 19 Teaching Tips: Homeschooling ADHD

Too much at one time is overwhelming for kids and adults. This is especially true when working on a subject that causes stress and anxiety.

Get super focused on one or two math skills and plan short, powerful bursts of intentional, one-on-one instruction.

In learning, less is often more.

9. Resources For The Child With Struggling Math

If your child doesn’t know multiplication facts, then check out Cross Seven Classical Memory Work Songs and Videos.

I recently discovered this amazing company and I am thrilled with it.

The program is based on the classical model of education and sets foundational math facts and concepts to song, visuals, and movement.

As someone who has been committed to the classical model for years, I am simply blown away by Cross Seven for kids who think and learn differently.

RELATED POST: Best Homeschool Math Curriculum reviews by veteran homeschool moms

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10- Multisensory Approach: Multiplication Tables Simplified

In addition to Cross Seven, Times Tales is also an excellent resource that uses a multisensory approach to help kids memorize math facts.

Using cartoons narratives combined with mnemonics and repetition, kids are easily engaged and equipped to memorize math facts without the tears.

11. Get The School System Out Of Your Head

I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t repeat this enough.

Traditional school settings are not always academically efficient. This is simply because it’s a system and has to include multiple non-academic variables in order to function. Think about:

  • Recess,
  • Lining up,
  • Taking roll,
  • Packing up backpacks to go home, etc…

I mention this to put things in perspective. That is to say, long drawn-out lessons are NOT necessary for effective learning.

Stress-free learning is the goal always. When stress is down, areas of the brain responsible for receiving and processing academic information are open for business.

Friend, when you ask yourself if you’re doing enough, deep breaths, you are.

12. Pros of Homeschooling A Child Struggling With Math

When you feel defeated about your child’s math struggles, remind yourself of this. Homeschooling allows us to flip the educational model in order to serve the needs of the individual child.

To that end, read math-related books such as the Sir Cumference Series. Pair the drudgery of math with your child’s interest with Minecraft Math books.

Work through puzzles.

Play board games such as Payday or Monopoly.

Practice basic math skills, but don’t feel as if you aren’t doing enough. Working on basic math skills will always be time well spent.

You ARE the Teacher, Homeschool Mom

Finally, Friend, let me encourage you. You can do this. With this in mind, take hold of your child’s hand, and learn together.

Yes, things aren’t easy when our kids struggle with math or anything, but give yourself and your kid some grace.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE #33: 11 Homeschool Math Tips To End The Stress

RELATED POST: 7 Tips For The New Homeschool Mom

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