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5 Common Math Problems for Early Learners

At an early age in schools, young students start to develop number sense –this is the ordering, sequencing, patterns.  They also begin looking at special words and symbols related to mathematics, which will help them to solve simple problems, ask questions and explain reasons and ideas, yet not matter your child’s individual learning differences all children go through the same learning difficulties, some of which we will look at now.

1. Ordering

The ability to understand basic concepts of number sense at an early age is vital for grasping harder concepts in higher grades or writing essays in high school: Firstly, secondly. So, for example, ordering: first, second, third, fourth, fifth is a common concept which takes time to understand and use because they are not the same as cardinal numbers – one, two, three, four, five.  This can also be difficult for young learners due to the change in spelling and pronunciation and they require a lot of help and guidance from parents or teachers.

2. Subitising

Another problem students have in early grades is subitising.  This is the ability to instantaneously recognise the number of objects in a small group without the need to count them. This poses a big problem for kids because they are not allowed to count on their fingers or point at the objects.  However, learning this at a young age is essential for older grades as using mental strategies becomes part and parcel of solving mathematical problems.

3. Fine Motor Skills

There is also a big learning curve in the development of fine motor skills and young kids struggle with handwriting.  Many take time to correctly write the symbols and numbers, and commonly write them back to front. This is a practice makes perfect type of activity and there are many free traceable worksheets that you can download online!

4. English within Maths

Reading and spelling numbers or basic mathematical words is another obstacle which needs to be learnt during these early educational years. AT the outset, children will struggle to connect “18” to “eighteen”. Likewise, reading instructions for mathematical problems is also a challenge as children need to learn that + is the same as “add”

5. Conservation

Another problem for all learners is the concept of conservation, which is understanding that a quantity will remain the same despite the container, or arrangement changing. For example, as with the photo below, if you have two glasses of equal volume but one is short & narrow and the other is tall & narrow then place some water in one glass, pour it into the other and then ask the child “which one has more water inside” they will always point to the tall narrow glass. The ability to understand conservation does not develop until about 7 years of age.

Often some young primary children just need additional help, practice, time and better instruction.  Therefore, tutoring and extra private study helps solve such problems and creates a solid foundation for more challenging concepts learnt in higher grades.

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