Maths - amazing tools for helping with problem solving

Maths can be a tricky subject for children to master. Problem solving can be the hardest of challenges for many children. Even children who are predisposed with amazing abilities to remember and retrieve their maths facts can struggle.

Parents of children with great memories are flummoxed as to why the information so easily available cannot be applied? It is puzzling, isn’t it?

A child can be so brilliant with mathematical information yet their abilities do not extend to flexible thoughts. Here lies the key, flexible thoughts and the ability to match words with mathematical facts.

Examples: Year 1 maths questions.

1. Lisa is 130cm tall. Nina is 5cm shorter than Lisa. How tall is Nina?

2. Line segment A is 120 cm long. Line segment B is 95 cm long. How much shorter is line segment B than A

Each question requires the child to think and organise their thoughts. This ordering is of prime importance

Language structure and sequence in organising one’s thoughts.

Organising one’s thoughts needs to happen when talking and reading way before it can be applied to maths problem-solving. Take the example below. (Taken from our language programme Fast ForWord. ) There are four statements, which of the statements match the picture? You have to think don’t you? It is the same sort of thinking as the questions above. If you have difficulties matching the statement to the picture you will have difficulties with the above questions.


What do you see?

This sort of difficulty can be grouped under one umbrella ‘ language based difficulties.’ Children with language-based difficulties can also have a hard time learning to tell the time when using an analogue clock.

What other sorts obstacles are there and where does your child need the help when doing problem solving? The list could be endless but the main obstacles that come to mind are the following

1. Can your child retrieve maths facts?

Being able to workout or retrieve maths facts requires a skill of using both memory and retrieval, there is a lot of activity that is done in one instance. This type of activity calls upon working memory.

Eliminating or establishing if ‘working memory’ is a concern can be worked out by answering this simple questionnaire

2. Can your child organise things into order in a logical way?

Organising requires pre-maths skill. Being able to order the days of the week or the months of the year information, alphabetically ordering words or things in numerical order is a skill that can be developed with practise.

3. Language - how are listening skills? How are talking skills?

When a child gets confused with understanding what is being said,, or expressing what they want to say they may not be processing information in the proper way. Look out for jumbled ideas and help them find the key point of what they want to say or talk about.

4. Visual tracking

When reading the maths problems, does your child skip words or re-read the sentence? When reading a maths question it is so important they are not misunderstanding the question, do to their eyes guide them properly to each word correctly? Read more on how to help eye fitness

Usha Patel