# 10 helpful math strategies for struggling kids

With some careful planning and a little creativity, you can make math practice effective and fun.

Author
Taylor Hartley

Expert Reviewer

Published: September 5, 2023

# 10 helpful math strategies for struggling kids

With some careful planning and a little creativity, you can make math practice effective and fun.

Author
Taylor Hartley

Expert Reviewer

Published: September 5, 2023

# 10 helpful math strategies for struggling kids

With some careful planning and a little creativity, you can make math practice effective and fun.

Author
Taylor Hartley

Expert Reviewer

Published: September 5, 2023

Key takeaways

• Make it meaningful – Practice should help foster understanding and appreciation for the math skill. It shouldn’t feel like busy work.
• Make it relevant – Connecting the math skills you want to practice to the real world will help your learner see the value and importance of math.
• Make it fun – With interactivity and creativity, math practice can be enjoyable and much more effective.

The prospect of getting an eight-year-old to not only wrap their head around math but also to not hate the process is daunting. Fortunately, you can lean on a few strategies to make the process more enjoyable for both you and your learner.

In short, you need to give your child a reason to care about math practice. You can do this by revealing why the practice matters, rewarding effective exercises, and even making the practice itself fun.

A lot of frustration with math comes from a lack of understanding. When you sit down to practice math problems and skills, it’s vital that your learner understands the basics plus any prerequisite skills.

Take time to review any notes or guides you may have handy with your child, and go through a few practice problems where you already know what the answer is. Have your child explain to you what each step is and why they are doing it as you work through those already-answered problems.

You can also use real-world objects to help illustrate basic math concepts. If you are working on addition or subtraction, grab a bunch of LEGOs or M&Ms, and start moving quantities around to mirror what’s going on in the math problems. Seeing the numbers laid out as actual physical objects can help young learners grasp how numbers work.

## 2. Introduce fun tools and games

Everyone loves a good game, and math is baked into plenty of popular board games and sports. Games like Monopoly demand that players constantly add and subtract, while simpler games like Candyland require counting skills. Take this opportunity to turn family game night into a little extra math practice.

Sports are also a great chance to incorporate math into everyday life. For those energetic kids who can hardly sit still, have them play a game where scoring points requires applying the current math skill you’re working on. Instead of adding up points, players could subtract different point values from 100. You can experiment with different rules and point values to accommodate all sorts of math practice.

## 3. Encourage teamwork and collaboration with siblings or friends

Learning math can be hard, and difficult things can make learners feel discouraged and isolated. Bring siblings and friends into the mix to make practice sessions more engaging, and you’ll have a built-in support system for any learners who may be struggling.

While everyone is learning and practicing, keep things collaborative rather than competitive — at least until people feel more confident in their math skills. Jumping into competition too quickly can be discouraging for those kids who need support and a confidence boost the most.

## 4. Use everyday language to explain math vocabulary

It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical language of math. While learning what numerators and quotients are is important, throwing around too many terms at once can be disorienting. Feel free to define these terms often as you use them, and try to explain what they do in terms your learner can understand.

This is where manipulatives like the LEGOs from before can be very helpful. Being able to point to a pile of building blocks and call it a sum will help learners visualize the math and will make the terms easier to remember.

Reenforce important math terms and their definitions constantly, even if you think your child has figured it out. Have them tell you what the terms mean as you practice, and encourage your learner to use them as they explain their process for figuring out the math problems.

Math worksheets are the usual go-to for those hoping to foster math skills in young learners, but those worksheets can be off-putting to reluctant students. Instead, try to make the practice more interactive and enjoyable. This takes more planning and a bit more work on your part, but it will make the time spent practicing much more effective and fun for everyone involved.

One way to make practice more enjoyable is to add elements of puzzles or mystery into the mix. For instance, as students answer problems, the numerical answers might correspond to letters. These letters can slowly reveal the answer to the riddle or even a clue for a scavenger hunt.

## 6. Connect math with real-world examples

Everyone knows the question teachers love hearing the most: “When am I ever going to use this?” Well, with simple math, you are likely to use it every single day, and the more you can prove that to your child, the better off you will be.

Bring your kid into the kitchen and have them help determine measurements and timing for recipes. This is a great chance to practice with addition, fractions, and telling time. Talk with your child about budgets; you could even help them plan out a lemonade stand to empower them to use the math skills you’ve both been working on.

You can also look to the future and explore how math will factor into your child’s dream job. Does your youngster want to play among the stars as an astronaut? They will certainly need all sorts of math knowledge to pull that off.

## 7. Incorporate art and creativity

Math and art can go hand-in-hand. You can use LEGOs to practice counting and basic arithmetic as you plan out buildings and sculptures to build together. You can also play with geometry to make pictures and intricate designs.

Encourage your learner to create review games of their own. Challenge your child to make a game to play with his or her classmates that you can unveil at your next collaborative review session.

## 8. Promote reflection and journaling

Learning math is a journey that never really ends. No matter how much you learn, there is always something else to uncover, and some of the new skills and topics can be really challenging. As your child moves on to more and more difficult topics, it’s easy for them to become discouraged.

To help avoid this, encourage your learner to reflect on how much progress they have made. This will help them remember that they have faced challenges before, and they overcame those obstacles after some hard work and determination. If they manage to figure out addition, multiplication will make sense, too, with time.

## 9. Tailor activities to your child's learning style

Every learner is a little different, and strategies that work for one student may fall flat with another. Learning what works is sometimes a bit of trial and error. Pay attention and communicate with your learner. See how they feel about things, and check progress and comprehension often.

Note that some learners respond well to visual aids; others desperately want to try to do something themselves as quickly as possible. When practicing at home, try to appeal to different learning styles to see what helps the most. Remember to ask your learner directly what they like and what they think would help them learn.

You should also try to incorporate personal interests into the review. Word problems can be reworked to be about Disney princesses or famous athletes. These little touches go a long way in making the practice feel personal and relevant.

## 10. Build confidence and engage reluctant learners

One of the main reasons a child may be reluctant to practice math is the classic fear of failure. Your job is to remind them that all skills require a lot of mistakes on the way to mastery. An incorrect answer is not a failure, but, instead, it can be one less mistake the learner makes next time. Explain how everyone encounters challenges and setbacks in learning, even you.

You should also celebrate successes whenever possible. Encourage growth by commenting on improvement and rewarding it. Having students journal and reflect on how these feelings of success make them feel can encourage future success and make those moments of doubt easier to overcome.

## FAQs about math strategies for kids

We understand that diving into new information can sometimes be overwhelming, and questions often arise. That’s why we’ve meticulously crafted these FAQs, based on real questions from students and parents. We’ve got you covered!

Children have varying learning styles and paces, and some might find abstract concepts in math more challenging. Factors such as cognitive development, learning disabilities, previous educational experiences, and even emotional or psychological factors can contribute to their struggles.

Regular assessments, both formal and informal, can highlight areas of difficulty. Discussing with their teacher, using diagnostic tools, or observing your child’s homework and test performance can provide insights. Once identified, you can focus on these areas with targeted strategies or seek specialized help.

Yes. Many educational apps, like Doodle Math, and software are designed with adaptive learning technology that personalizes lessons based on a student’s proficiency level. These tools often use gamification, interactive visuals, and immediate feedback to engage and motivate learners, making math more accessible and enjoyable.

If consistent efforts, personalized strategies, and school interventions don’t seem to be helping, or if your child’s struggles are leading to a noticeable decline in confidence or increased aversion to math, it might be time to consider external assistance. A tutor can provide one-on-one support, addressing specific challenges and boosting your child’s understanding and confidence.

Always consult an expert whenever possible.

How to Make Math Fun

Lesson credits

Taylor Hartley

Taylor Hartley is an author and an English teacher based in Charlotte, North Carolina. When she's not writing, you can find her on the rowing machine or lost in a good novel.

Jill Padfield has 7 years of experience teaching high school mathematics, ranging from Alegra 1 to AP Calculas. She is currently working as a Business Analyst, working to improve services for Veterans while earning a masters degree in business administration.

Taylor Hartley

Taylor Hartley is an author and an English teacher based in Charlotte, North Carolina. When she's not writing, you can find her on the rowing machine or lost in a good novel.

Jill Padfield has 7 years of experience teaching high school mathematics, ranging from Alegra 1 to AP Calculas. She is currently working as a Business Analyst, working to improve services for Veterans while earning a masters degree in business administration.

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