Why am I bad at mental math

IML - Institute for Mathematical Learning BraunschweigAdvisory and research facility for diagnostics, therapy and prevention of weaknesses in numeracy / dyscalculia

Secondary consequences of poor numeracy

Bellyache, tears and fear of school

When children grapple with math problems for a long time, practice a lot and still fail again and again, this often has dire effects that extend far beyond math lessons. Poor numeracy isn't a disease - but it can make you sick.

Many counseling sessions start with a phone call from worried parents: Maths has always been an unpopular subject. But lately the child has not been able to cope any more. Homework takes forever and there are always arguments about it. They write bad grades, have a stomachache before class work and slowly lose interest in learning in general. With regard to math, you gradually no longer know what to do.

The vicious circle of arithmetic

We have heard stories like this many times. And we know their logic. Persistent experiences of failure in mathematics, caused by dyscalculia, affect the child's soul in the long run. The use of time and effort that remains unsuccessful is frustrating. The desire to learn arithmetic disappears. That is easy to understand. Who has fun doing something they haven't mastered? So the child tries to avoid mathematical demands, it avoids preoccupation with numbers, arithmetic and everyday math topics like money and time. And so the gap behind the classmates is getting bigger and bigger, the deficits are widening. And make the situation worse - a vicious circle of math frustration, self-doubt and ever-increasing problems of understanding.

Emotional problems

Unfortunately, it is often not just an aversion to the subject. When a lot of effort does not lead to anything and ultimately all practice seems pointless, doubts often arise about one's own abilities. The child thinks they just can't do math. And the suspicion quickly rises against the whole person: “I think I'm a math failure.” Such labels are unwanted by parents and teachers: “The boy is not gifted for mathematics. He's more of the sporty type. ”- and the lack of skills has turned into a character judgment. Classmates can also make a careless contribution with derogatory comments. And hardly any child remains calm and relaxed in the long run if it considers itself a failure. Sadness, listlessness and fear can be the result as well as irritability, nervousness and defiance up to and including aggressiveness. When talking to parents it often becomes clear that the alleged lack of concentration or hyperactivity mainly occurs when doing math homework.

Mental problems

If the problems spread or if they last for a long time, they can literally develop into mental illnesses. In the many years of our activity we have dealt with children who had manifest fear of school. Those who withdrew and were diagnosed with "childhood depression". There were children who developed tics in situations of excessive academic demands. Children who became bed-wetting again in third grade. There were even teenagers who were suicidal. In such cases, of course, professional medical help must be sought. Here, numeracy therapy can only be an accompanying, supportive measure. But we think one thing is important: If the cause of psychological problems are difficulties in the mathematical performance range, this must not be disregarded when providing assistance, a more precise diagnosis of the arithmetic difficulties should be made in due course.

Social problems

Often times, desperate parents tell us that the child's difficulties in maths affect the whole family. Not only that there is tension, arguments and tears when doing homework. Concern about the child's future now leads to a generally depressed mood, the ease in dealing with one another has suddenly disappeared. Quarrel and disagreement between parents often arise. While the mother experiences the difficulties in detail with her homework every day, the father suspects that the child is simply lazy or that the mother is not explaining well enough. Or one parent reports that the other simply cannot stop practicing - although it only makes the child even more desperate.

Rivalry and arguments between siblings are often an issue. When the cheeky little sister calculates better with six years than the eight-year-old brother and makes no secret of it, that sometimes has an impact on sibling love.

Health problems

A tense learning situation, emotional strain, stress and self-doubt can sometimes result in impaired health. Bellyache and headache are typical symptoms of school problems. Sleep disorders and morning fatigue are often related to stress at school. Rashes and muscular tension can sometimes be the result of school problems. A thorough medical diagnosis is important.

Article in the  from 07/25/2007
Our trade journal  Issue 8