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News from Mathnasium of Cathedral Heights

Why does my child make so many careless mistakes in math?

Oct 10, 2018

It can be frustrating to watch your child struggling with math.  It can be equally - or more - frustrating if “careless mistakes” are causing grades to suffer needlessly.  How can you help your child through this issue?

First, we need to figure out the cause of the mistakes.  There are three broad categories of math errors

1)  Careless (is your child rushing through their work and/or not paying attention?)

2)  Computational  (is your child incorrectly solving basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems?)

3)  Conceptual  (is your child not understanding the underlying concept?)

For Careless and Computational errors, encourage your child to slow down and go step-by-step. If they skip a step (even if the answer is correct), have them fill in the missing step.  This helps tremendously with accuracy issues, especially in multi-digit computation.

Word problems also require careful observation and interpretation.  Have your child circle important information as they read through the problem (at least once if not twice).  This guides their strategic thinking and ensures they don’t forget an important piece of information along the way.

Conceptual errors, on the other hand, reflect a lack of prerequisite knowledge to successfully solve the problem.  Encouraging a child to stop and look at their answer and answering the question “Does this answer make sense?” can help identify foundational gaps.  Mathematical thinking skills go much deeper than basic computation - - and are needed when heading into Algebra and beyond.

These are actually “clueless guesses,” not “careless mistakes.”  There’s a big difference! And when will math class at school ever go back and re-teach key skills from two years ago?  In this case, enlisting the help of a skilled math professional to diagnose and then fill in foundational gaps - teaching for mastery and not just awareness - will help tremendously.  

More often than not, the above solutions - along with a healthy dose of patience! - will help your child.  If you’d like help with any part of this process, give us a call at (202) 618-1914 ... this is exactly what we’ve been doing for decades and we are highly successful in helping kids get better at math!