Mathematics is a very common problem area for students. For children dealing with the challenges of developmental disabilities — whom we call “alternative learners” — math can be a particularly tricky subject due to issues with executive functioning and critical thinking skills.
Children who exhibit difficulty maintaining focus and attention may lack the concentration needed to work through difficult math problems, while Working Memory concerns can make it difficult for children to fully absorb material — inhibiting their ability to recall and use relevant information during tests and homework.
Deficits in other skills, such as Organization, Planning and Self-Awareness can result in students failing to ensure they have all needed materials to complete their work, cause them to improperly prepare for tests and exams, and make it hard for them to recognize areas in which they need more help.
Below, you’ll find some simple tips and strategies to help strengthen these key critical thinking skills to help improve your child’s math performance.
5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Thinking Skills and Math Success
1.) Focus – Ensure your child has a dedicate place in the home to study and do homework. Ensure this areas is free from distractions — that means no T.V., movies, games, music or social media. Also, reward consistent concentration, and make sure your child doesn’t overdo it. Focus can wane over pro-longed periods, so make sure your child takes periodic breaks for a brief snack to get energy levels back up.
2.) Working Memory – Use flashcards to review key material that must be memorized — from geometric formulas to times tables or the order of operations. Consider using flashcard apps such as BitsBoard to build your own study material, and work with your child to go over subject matter until she can demonstrate that the material has been full learned and internalized.
3.) Self-Awareness – Go over recently graded homework, classwork assignments and test scores to pinpoint areas of concern. Make a list of the problems or equations your child seems to consistently be struggling with, and ask your child to explain what is she finds difficult about that material. Use this information to inform which specific areas should be focused on and studied more so than areas in which she seems to fully grasp the material.
4.) Organization – Help your child learn how to take thorough, well-organized notes. Pick a recent chapter from the textbook to outline, and walk her through the process. Also, ensure your child has a way to ensure all needed materials are gathered together neatly. This could mean organizing a loose leaf notebook with folders and labels to separate out important material, and showing her how to keep her backpack, locker or desk tidy.
5.) Planning – Keep a dedicated calendar for your child to use out in the open, in a common area in the house, one which she can readily access and read. Use it to keep track of deadlines for assignments and upcoming tests and quizzes, and try to get her into the habit of looking it over when she gets home from school, both to update it with any new important dates, and to see what she should be preparing for when it comes time to do her homework. Little steps like this can go a long way towards ensuring she’s properly prepared for class.