# How do I help my son understand math?

Brandee - posted on 10/28/2010 ( 40 moms have responded )

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My son is 7 and in the 2nd grade. After trying to prove my son didn't have a learning disability he was simply behind, we got his results back and he is working at his potential and even though this is a first grade level he doesn't qualify for special ed services any more. I met with the school princple, schol counselor, special ed, and his teacher, they all said their professional opinion is he not be held back . So now he is in 2nd grade no help excet for the reading class and he can't even count to 100. He is very smart and has an excellent memory but doesn't understand numbers. We struggle with simple addition. He does good counting if he starts at 1 and doesn't lose his rhythm. But if you as what comes after 29 he will 2010. He can count objects and add them but this isn't practical for school. With his memory being so good I tried to get him to memorize math facts but for some reason it's like the numbers get all mixed up and lose their meaning in his head. Has anyone else struggled with this? Any suggestion? He does go to an after school program for tutoring and we work nightly. But his homework is telling time and he cannot count by one let alone 5 so it seems like it's all for nothing. I know he can learn so does the school I just don't know how to make it all make sense to him.

Sav - posted on 11/03/2010

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Brandee, I haven't read the other responses so forgive me if I duplicate. As a Math teacher, I know how important it is for children to have a visual order of numbers and autistic kids cannot relate well to the abstract. Try using magnetic numbers on the fridge so your son can get a mental picture of the sequencing of the numbers - these may need to stay up as long as a year! My son had problems with letters and I still have the magnetic letters - he's now 13! lol. When your son has counted the nos. on the fridge over and over, try asking 'what comes after 16?' 'what no. comes before 39?' Do this every day and within a month he'll have a good grasp of nos. As for counting in 5's I wouldn't even try to teach that yet. Hope this helps and don't despair. We may be in different boats but we're all in the same lake. :)
Sav

[deleted account]

For the rhythmic counting idea, try making a small adjustment. Instead of saying:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

Try saying it this way:
0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

That way, when it's time to start a new tens group, the break is after the nine and there are no extra 10's sneaking around confusing him.

Try doing that on the abacus, so he can see that each row correlates to a group: 1's, 10's, 20's, etc.

Good luck. :)

Sylvia - posted on 11/10/2010

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Victoria - posted on 11/10/2010

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Brandee I am right there with you. I have a 10 yr old son in the 4th grade. He just doesnt understand math. Touch math has helped some but he can't add 5+5 without having to have an object of some sort to help him. What his teachers have taught him is when adding the put lines next to the problem so he has a visual of what to add or subtract. And forget about multiplication he is having a devil of a time with that. If you get any really good suggestions let me know so that I can try them too.

Becky - posted on 11/09/2010

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Make it fun! What does he really like? Show him how math can relate to everything! Cook with him and help him do the measuring, look for things to count. As far as the clock thing goes- I still have trouble with a clock that is not digital- most people do not even own a clock with hands! I would suggest getting some stickers of cartoon characters or something and a clock and putting the stickers on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9,and 10. Then as he starts to understand that each sticker represents 5 minutes, you can work on the minutes in between, and eventually take the stickers off. I would guess that it is stressful for him and for you that he is having so much trouble with this, so I would suggest taking a different approach. Make sure that everyone is calm and give him a day off from math once and a while. Instead of sitting down and going over the same things over and over again, really try to find some fun activities for him that involve counting and stuff. Also there is a GREAT website called IXLmath www.ixl.com you can try it out for free and then it is a very low fee to use the site regularly- and you can sign up for a month at a time! The kids get to work at THEIR level- so he can work at his own pace, and master the skills that he is behind in. They get rewards for mastering a skill and my kids LOVED it! We used it over the summer just to maintain their skills, but they loved that they got to use the computer, they loved the "prizes" they got and they enjoyed doing the math. I hope this helps, and I wish you the very best of luck!

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Heather - posted on 11/10/2011

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My daughter is 14 and was diagnosed with Aspergers this past month. I thought that she was just dyslexic or had Dyscalculia. She has been in special ed because she has had a problems with comprehension and math. Now that I know that she has Aspergers, it fits, but she does not understand math at all. She uses a calculator that she is allowed to use it, even on her state tests. It is in her 504. She will be allowed to use it throughout her life, even when she goes to college. It has helped greatly. Also, on her state tests, she has examples of how to do problems, or definitions of the problems and it has helped a lot. Just keep on working with him. It will be frustrating at times, but just keep it up. Thank God for calculators. Talk to the special ed dept and find out about getting a calculator added. He may have dyscalculia. Your school may not be able to test for this, but take him to someone who can, get the paperwork and see about having an RTI (response to intervention) meeting for him. I hope that I have helped.

Sylvia - posted on 11/15/2010

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Their website is touchmath.com, they have all of their products listed and a brief description. It helped my son grasp math concepts, which has allowed him to do much better over the years. Take a look at the website and let me know if you have questions.

Heidi - posted on 11/13/2010

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Keep with it. My son had the same trouble. You have to make the numbers concreate. Try to get the cubes that represent the numbers. A large cube is 1,000, a flat sheet 10x10 is 100, a row is 10 and individuals are 1. These are plastic and can be found at school supply stores. It is likely that it is hard for him to count to 100 because he does not understand what 100 is. As 100 people is a lot different than 100 M&M's. We used a lot of counters. When my son was in 3rd grade he finally learned to count backward from 10 to 1. When he finally gets it, he will have it at a totally different level than his peers. A year ago my son was doing fractions, and just to make him think I asked what half of a half was. He said 15 minutes. I knew that he understood the numbers, and had not just memorized them. Let him use the counters to figure out math problems and become more able to connect the symbol to the concept. The concept of three is really abstract if you think about it. Story problems are better as they help make the math real. Ask him to use numbers in every day use ie how many crackers do you want for snack? He says 5 and gets 5 it makes it more tangable.

Jennifer - posted on 11/11/2010

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Have you tried lego or building blocks? Put them in groups of 2, and see if he can do it that way. He might be a visual learner, and need aids to access that part of his mind. So as soon as he understands it visually he will probably remember it forever. You said he can count objects and add them... now he needs to see a group and not count it aloud to know it's 3. Perhaps put sets of 3 together, and 1 set of 4. Tell him to look and see which of the sets doesn't belong, and ask him to explain why.

Also he could be a little like my son who got multiplication before addition. Some people have to work backward - complex to more simple. Your son might be in that category. My son, when he finally got up to walk, walked one day and ran, when he was 17 months. It could be, that you keep working at it, and one day it will just click.

Valeria - posted on 11/11/2010

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Hey Brandee. Check out the math factory on FB.I think the creator may be able to help.Good luck.Have a great day!

Heather - posted on 11/11/2010

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Lacey - posted on 11/10/2010

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Have you had him tested for dyslexia? I too struggled with math in elementary school. Mine was multiplying and dividing tho and I just needed to know the 'why'. They actually be getting mixed up in his head like you said. Learning disabilities, I think, aren't really disabilities. He may just need to learn it a different way than everyone else. Here in Washington, we have the 'No child left behind' law. They pass kids even if they are failing. It doesn't make sense at all especially if they aren't getting it because in the long run, they really are being left behind. Maybe tutoring will help, flash cards to isolate the numbers. Ur doing amazing with him and Ur fight for him is admirable. Don't give up on him. Ur his biggest advocate. I hope you find someone who will listen to you

Kendra - posted on 11/10/2010

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My son is 11 and was diagnosed when he was in his 2nd year of 2nd grade. It is your right as a parent to decide to hold him back. If at the end of the year you fill he is not ready then I would not let him go on. He will just continue to fall behind and it gets so much harder. My son also struggles in math, has an excellent memory, but doesn't retain all that well either. In the state that we live in they have a 504 that they can be tested for. What that is, is where they have so much trouble understanding the test that they will test outside of the class with someone there to read it to them. Hopefully this will help my son, but he also struggles with multi-step problems. He gets easily frustrated, and doesn't always want to take it step by step. I know just how frustrating this is. I am still there. To know that he can do 100 multiplication, but not do simple word problems. You don't understand why they have such a great memory and can remember crazy things, but then struggle on this so much. Keep pushing for him! We are there best advocate. Their diagnosis is not just a social one, it is also affecting their learning and I guess we just have to keep talking till someone listens. Just know that I completely understand and am with you on this.

D - posted on 11/10/2010

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be careful tho, i hat to fight with the iep to get basic services, becos they tried to tell me they didn't have the staff.

Teresa - posted on 11/10/2010

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My son has a high verbal IQ, but when it comes to math, he just can't hold on to what he learns. Math is just not his strong suit. There are lots of techniques to help our kids learn. But in the end, the trick is if he can hold onto it.

I am curious, why did you try so hard to prove he doesn't have a learning disability? Has he been tested? My son was found to have a "Non-Verbal Learning disability." It doesn't mean anything negative, it just means that math will be hard for him and he needs extra support, extra help. Nothing wrong with that. My point is, it's nothing to be afraid of, and knowledge of it can help him get the support he needs. Good luck, whatever you do!

Jerri - posted on 11/10/2010

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i related it to my sons by teaching them how to cook. we bake together they have to learn fractions, add, and learn time. then we use the food we make to teach additin and subtraction,

D - posted on 11/10/2010

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Does he like music? A basic 4/4 beat and a small instrument like a drum . Make a song of it. Make each 5 and 10 a harder beat. Start small from 1 to 5 and then 5- 10. Your son may learn it kinectically like I did.

Lynn - posted on 11/10/2010

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If he has been diagnosed with Aspergers or ADD/ADHD, he should have an IEP through the school. And if so, they have to give him special ed services and help with math.

Jennifer - posted on 11/10/2010

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I used beads or chereos and allowing to help with cooking, food and cany is fun especially for subtraction also most children have an obsetion something they really like you can try to relate it to that

Amira - posted on 11/10/2010

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Hi my daugther is 6.6month in 2nd primary she has the same problem especially the part of what comes after 29,39,49,59 i tried to learn her that we turn 9 into 0 & the tens number we add 1 on it. somehow its better than before i hope you try it &work for ur son.

Lorrie - posted on 11/09/2010

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After he has learned to count to one hundred and you are working on addition/subtraction/multiplication.....what helped me, when I homeschooled Ryan....was playing Math tic-tac-toe. We took a dry erase board...made the boxes for a regular tic tac toe game and I put math problems inside them. We played against each other and whoever got the answer correct...put their X or O. It made it fun for him and he learned his multiplication very quickly after struggling with it in public schools. He is dx'd with ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. Anyway...just a thought. It made it fun for us.

Evelyn - posted on 11/05/2010

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hi..i am from malaysia....may i know more about Touch Math? i have a grade 4 daughter (already 10years old) and she is dignosed as intellectual disability. currently, she is using japanese method call KUMON to help her with her maths. she can only do addition maths but nothing more than that. she is also struggling in reading and i doubt she could go any further in her school syllabus. i would like to know more about Touch Math if it could help the special needs to do better with the maths!
thank you. ps me at: cpyap2003@yahoo.com

[deleted account]

Brandee, don't dispair! My son was in grade 3 when they told us he'd never learn math and sat him in a corner with colouring pages. We found a "right brain" specialist tutor and in 6 weeks (!!) our son was almost up to grade level in math. It sounds as though your son is struggling just like our boy was. Numbers get lost in the air for him, though with blocks or objects they work. He sounds like a concrete, right-brained thinker. You need a right-brained approach to learning math. Our tutor taught our son a concrete way to add - teaching him to use his body to count, tapping his chest, gave our son a concrete feeling of math. Now he does it all in his head at age 11, counting by 1's, 2's, 3's, 5's, you name it, he does it. There IS a way to get through to him. Hang in there!

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Email me I want to see if I can help you but honestly it depends on which state you live in and things like that. Plus there are ways to force the district to give your child the services he needs but its a lot of work. Don't get me wrong it pays in the long run but in the meantime it is A LOT of work and anyone who has gone through a due process hearing knows this intimately. Anyway adrialove@yahoo.com

Joy - posted on 11/03/2010

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brandi is right. if he can get a diagnosis, it changes everything. but don't count on the public school system to inform you of the things that you are entitled to. because i unfortunately found this out the hard way. your childs best advocate is and has to be you. if he's on the autism spectrum, then you get the autism society involved. there should be a representative that will be an advocate and mediator with the school system with you. also, he should get a child psychologist outside the public school system. mine will go with us and advocate as well. make no mistake, when you go into a public school and meet your child's "team" most cases it is simply the School's Team. Bring your own Team to the table. we even had to get a lawyer involved as an advocate to remind everyone of our child's legal rights and entitlements before the school consented to them. good for you with the after school program. very proactive. as far as the school's Professional opinions, don't put much stock in them. the person that finally reached my son where others failed was not some special ed guru with lots of certificates and degrees on the wall. it was just a young, fresh faced teacher with out any special ed training at all. she was the low girl on the totem pole so to speak and she has done amazing things for my child. sometimes with the higher jobs and higher titles, comes an over inflated ego.

Etel - posted on 11/03/2010

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Hello there, even though I am not autistic or any of the related disabilities, since I was a child I remembered numbers as series of pictures. It is like a huge measuring tape with the peaks being at 10, 20, 30 and so on, going down-hill till the fives in between e.g. 5, 15, 25, etc and then up-hill again till the next "big" number. It is similar with years. I am by profession an archaeologist and years, centuries and such are a basic feature of my daily work. Whenever I say a date I actually see it in my mind. I am not sure if I am making myself understandable but it works for me. I would try it with your son. Experiment with different things, and I am pretty convinced that you will find one that works.

Good luck and all the best to you and your family.

Etel

Alet - posted on 11/02/2010

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I wish I knew! My son was good at Math in the lower grades, but now battles in Grade 6. Long devision with fractions is a nightmare... I feel like I need a magic wand!

Wanda - posted on 11/02/2010

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He may actually have a math disability called discalcula. How long ago was he assessed for sped? Does he have any other health conditions, he may qualify for a 504 plan instead of special ed.

WJ - posted on 11/02/2010

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my son gets frustrated easily so i try to turn homework into a game. What i did with him was to use a deck of cards - i removed the face cards, because they were just to confusing - and we played the game of 21, or blackjack if you will. he could count the dots on the cards, and after many games he started to rely on the dots much less. once that was mastered we tried the same game only adding up to 31. I also had my son help me when it was time to roll all the coins in the piggy bank. he enjoyed count out 5 piles of 10 pennies so i could roll them up. he still struggles with math, but he is finally starting to get the basics, but the time tables are really tough for him to grasp.

Michelle - posted on 11/02/2010

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You can demand a re-opening of IEP but it may come down to he just needs assistance with math. Some schools offer tutoring to kids with these issues so that they will be able to function on the state exams - you might look into that as well.

Fiona - posted on 11/02/2010

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My child is a visual learner so we used lots of lego to teach the number patterns. We did this while he "played" with the lego. Make a stack of 10, now 20, now 30 etc. My boy is smart but because of the processing issues my child faces, we also did "tests" in grade 4 to help him remember his number facts. He had 110 questions and 6 mins to complete. At the beginning he was only getting about 25% right, but after 3 months he was getting 100% right. We made it a game and there were lots of rewards (extra TV time, chocolate) for even the smallest improvements.
The other thing that may help is music. Music/Dance is based in maths. It helps integrate what he will learn in class without him having to sit completely still. He will also see it as "fun" rather than "work".
Having been through the past 5 years of teaching my son what he misses at school, my advice is to find out exactly where he is meant to be and then work out a plan to get him there. Include the teachers because if they see that you are willing to make the effort, they will also make the extra effort required. (Remember, a lot of parents say they will do something and then do nothing, so it may take some time to get them onside).
Good luck and God Bless.

Amy - posted on 11/02/2010

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We use 100s charts all the time with my son. (autistic spectrum) We have one for rounding and one for addition/subtraction. My son also is very bright, he just can't grasp the concept of numbers. The charts have helped a lot. I highly recommend them.
-Amy

Jodi - posted on 11/02/2010

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I agree with Touchmath. That was the thing that made since to my son when he was about 2nd grade. It is concrete and easy for the child to organize.

[deleted account]

I have a very similar problem with my daughter, except she excels in math it is reading that she struggles in! She can hardly remember her ABC's and she is in the 2nd grade as well. She's been in speech therapy since she was 3 y/o and has shown some signs of autism, although no one else would be able to see this except for people who are with her 24/7! When she needs repetition to learn and when she becomes frustrated she gets out of control. There are tiny reminders of her younger years of 'lining the cars/dinosaurs' in a straight line instead of playing with them and never making eye contact with anyone! Those days are now gone and she is a very loving and outgoing child, but she does need much study time...REPETITION...is the key for her, it gets so frustrating sometimes to me thinking that she has it only to find out the next night that we have to go over it again...UGH! I hope this helps.

Julie - posted on 11/01/2010

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I presume he has been tested for number dyslexia! you will keep going around in circles and get nowhere,his intelligence is fine he just isint able to process numbers,it must be so frustrating for him,Im not American so I dont know how your system works but my heart goes out to you,I think special help is needed here you are doing amazing work with him I just think it needs a different approach,poor little lad,he is so lucky to have such caring parents!

Dr. Virginia - posted on 10/31/2010

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I would try using things like apples, oranges or other common objects easy to handle to teach the concept of sets and build from there. For example, one "apple" is the basis for 11-19, two "apples" 20-19, and so on. If he can see and feel more "apples" and the patterns, it might help him get the concept down rather than just using words. Try to find objects that interest him (matchbox cars, pieces of candy, etc.) It would really help him to use his senses in learning rather than just words. Most school districts are struggling with budgetary problems, so it will be more difficult to get the school to do their job of adequately educating your child. It's better to put your energy into helping your child yourself than fighting with the school to do more. Days turn into weeks which turn into months and before you know it, it's the end of the third quarter and your son will not have received any meaningful help. The only one you can really count on is yourself, to be committed to your child.

Melissa - posted on 10/31/2010

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Have you tried Touch Math??? I have three children: a straight A-B student, An Autistic child, and an average child. They all use it.

Brandi - posted on 10/28/2010

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What state are you in? Does your child have a diagnosis through the school? Has he been tested? I don't know the laws in any other state than Indiana, but I imagine they are close to the same. Demand that he be tested for Autism Spectrum and other learning disabilities. You can also contact your local Autism Awareness/Support group for advise on resources. Indiana has an organization call Ask About Special Kids that helps parents go through the process of obtaining a diagnosis that may qualify your child for special needs services provided by your school district. I can go into more detail if you need it? My family is struggling with the same issues with my 4th grader. We held him back in 1st grade, but I had to demand it. I believe you have the right!! We are looking into even more tutoring than what he is getting. Sometimes I feel like we are never going to break down that wall of anxiety. Good Luck!!

User - posted on 10/28/2010

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Hi Brandee,

So, begin with one to ten. Make sure he has that down. Then create a page with ten squares. His job is to find ten small objects (think buttons) and put an object in each square.

Now go on to twenty. Do the same thing...with the squares. Do one to twenty for two weeks....

Keep repeating the pattern.

As for telling time, talk to the teacher and tell her we are working on number concepts at home. I really can't support working on time when we are still struggling with counting to and understanding the concept of what 20 .... see what the teacher says.

As well, it isn't unusual for a child in grade two to be using counters during number work. When you say he struggles with addition, do you mean under ten (3+2=) or larger numbers (16+ 5=)...

To help with addition, do facts of...
so, the facts of 8 are 1+7, 2+6, 3+5, 4+4, 5+3, etc...work on each set for a week or two...do not mix and match. Work on each set.

Be patient. Get number oriented games (Snakes and ladders is good)...matching puzzle games...

Get an oversize calculator and get him used to punching in numbers you call and adding them together...just to ease the "tension" of trying to memorize...make this a game so he can start to visualize numbers in a whole new way.

Play to his strengths...remember math is more than numbers...shapes, patterns, measurement, spatial awareness...look at his overall math intelligence and let him know that he is still a smart little cookie even if numbers are hard.

Have fun together!

Sheila

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