Why Is My Child Having Difficulty Counting?

By Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D.

Why is my child having difficulty counting?

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D.

Senior Director, Learning Resources & Research, National Center for Learning Disabilities

Have you taught your young child to sing the song “Frère Jacques”? Its catchy tune and the “ding dong” sounds at the end make it fun to sing. But it’s likely your child doesn’t know what the words mean.

Or do you recall your older child confusing terms like Pulitzer Prize for pullet surprise? Or phrases like bombs bursting in air for Bob’s burr stinging air?

These difficulties stem from a child not having a basic understanding of the underlying words and context within which they occur. The same can apply to why your child has trouble with math. When kids don’t have a well-developed number sense, they often approach math tasks by guessing and hoping their answers are correct. They lack a basic understanding of how numbers work and how they can be used to solve problems in school and in life.

Number sense is the underlying ability to understand numbers and work with them in fluid and flexible ways. Number sense allows you to perform mental math so you don’t have to count every time you want to solve a problem. It also allows you to tell how one amount compares to another, how things rank in order and how things compare in size and measurement.

If counting is the area of weakness, number sense could be a good place to focus attention. Your child will likely benefit from targeted instruction and lots and lots of practice.

About the Author

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D. is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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