Helping Your Pokey Child with Math

A pokey math student is usually a person who does not like math…they don’t understand it…they avoid it as much as possible!


There are a few possible reasons for the pokiness; these three are the most common:

  1. Lack of number sense: when a student does not have a sense of quantity, they tend to be dependent on their fingers or other counting method. Memorizing math facts is excruciating!
  2. Math facts are not memorized: this means that they lack “automaticity”. They have to think too long in order to figure out the answer.
  3. Visual Motor Integration” difficulties: they may know the answer but the process of putting it down on paper is arduous – handwriting is not an automatic process for them. It is like there is a disconnect between their brain and their hand!


Number sense is typically developed in pre-school. Unfortunately, a student who does not pick up this skill by kindergarten will not have the opportunity through any traditional math curriculums. A skilled math mediator can help a student catch up in this critical skill.


Memorizing math facts, once number sense is established, is feasible only through regular sequential practice – working with number families: +0, 1, 2, 10, 5, etc. Picking up the speed necessary for this skill to be automatic can be done in a variety of ways. A fun way to do so is through technology like computer programs or tablet apps. This will increase their ability to automatically know a math fact, but there still may be a visual motor disconnect.


Visual Motor Integration improvement is a difficult one to address without help from an expert - an occupational or educational therapist. Once a student demonstrates automaticity verbally or on a device they need to practice on paper with timed speed drills. Keep track of your child’s improvement. With each practice, chart how many problems they can do per minute: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed operations.


Keys to practice:


* Make it short and sweet – no more than five minutes at a time with paper and pencil practice and ten minutes on a device

* Make it every day! Repetiton is the key to mastery!



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