Why is math so hard?
Let’s say I have the following math problem to solve: Jimmy has five apples and Jan
has three apples. Who has more?
Let’s count the ways language weaknesses may impact our ability to solve this
1. Math concepts: To solve math word problems, we have to understand
linguistic concepts that determine quantity (same, as many, equal, more,
less). In this case, we need to know what more means.
2. Answering questions: To solve math word problems, we have to have the
ability to answer questions. Then, we need to decide the appropriate answer.
In this case, we need to know when someone asks a “who” question, they are
looking for a person in our answer.
3. Sequencing steps: Understanding that things occur in a specific order is
essential to solving math problems. To solve this problem, we would need to
follow a sequence of events. First, count five apples. Then, count three apples.
Finally, figure out which one is the bigger number.
4. If we really have a tough time solving this problem, the medium through
which someone would explain to us how to answer this question is by using
5. Now, if someone asks us to explain how we solved this problem, we would
need to be able to use language. We would have to choose appropriate
vocabulary, form complete sentences, and sequence those sentences in a
Language and math are connected!
As children continue on their academic journey in mathematics the vocabulary,
question types and number of steps to sequence only increase in difficulty! If a child
is struggling in math, beyond their understanding of numbers and one-to-one
correspondence, it is important we evaluate that child’s understanding and use of
language. As seen above, LANGUAGE IS AT THE HEART of solving this
If you have concerns with your child’s understanding or use of language, and you
feel this may be impacting his/her math abilities, contact Butterfly today about a
speech and language assessment! Our Speech-Language Pathologists specialize in
language development. They can help use your child’s strengths to improve his/her
language weaknesses that may be impacting mathematical skills.
No wonder math is so hard!