October 2012 Newsletter
Dr. Lynn Hellerstein

Math Can Be Fun!

October is winding down and you probably have had parent-teacher conferences by now. How is your child or student doing in math?

Some kids do well at math, some don’t. Those kids who struggle in math do so for a number of reasons:
  • Can’t remember math facts
  • Does poorly on timed math tests
  • Does well unless he has to read instructions or do story problems
  • Doesn’t understand the concept of time or money
  • Does well except makes errors because he misaligns columns and numbers due to poor handwriting or a visual problem
  • Inverts numbers
  • Can’t understand the basics of shape, size, or form
  • They believe it’s too hard

Math Problems?

Let’s look at a couple scenarios of why your child might struggle with math. It’s important to understand where the breakdown is, as solutions are different for each scenario.


Some kids make silly mistakes, like adding instead of subtracting, or misaligning columns so that wrong numbers are added. This could be indicative of visual problems (not seeing small detail well), visual motor problems (poor eye-hand coordination), or impulsivity (he just goes too fast). Using graph paper, or turning a piece of notebook paper sideways, can assist them. It creates vertical lines to keep their columns organized when calculating with columns, like 46928 + 345, in my example below. If this doesn’t help over time, they may have a visual problem.

Math Facts

Memorizing math facts is a challenge for many. I bet you can remember memorizing the dreaded multiplication tables in elementary school. Some kids can easily memorize math facts, but can’t pass the timed math tests that teachers give routinely. If you think it is just a matter of speed of completion, then ask the teacher for more time on the test or give your child a fewer number of math problems. Have the teacher check to see if your child knows his facts orally, as some kids can tell you the answers much easier than writing them down. Have addition, subtraction, multiplication and division sets, and decrease the exposure time necessary for your child to come up with the answer. This helps increase automaticity of the math facts, which enables speed.

Click here to view the Math-Fact Strategy Activity that can be used to memorize facts in all four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It relies on visualization and a similar concept as the Spelling Visualization strategy: see it, then write it. The key is creating the picture to write from!

Feel free to send questions, comments or insights on your journey of transformation.

With love and gratitude,

Lynn Fishman Hellerstein, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO

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