Expert Insight: Kids and Math

As long as schools have existed, there have been kids who say they hate math. We asked Sam Younis, owner of Mathnasium Learning Centers in Dunwoody and Decatur, for insight.

What are the signs a child might need extra help with math?

Sometimes the signs are obvious. Kids avoid their math homework or complain that math is “boring” or “stupid.” Sometimes they lash out or cry when parents try to help. Studies have shown that math anxiety can actually overwhelm the very part of the brain that is responsible for mathematical reasoning. Repetitive timed drills can compound this anxiety and prove counterproductive.

Other signs are more subtle. Kids can go under the radar by scoring A’s and B’s on homework and quizzes, and then failing tests. Careless errors may not cause alarm, but can reflect underlying gaps in a child’s math foundation.

When these gaps are addressed, parents are surprised to learn that their children never actually hated math. They only hated the feeling of being frustrated and intimidated by it.

What happens if signs are ignored?

Kids who struggle in math and never address the root causes willface increased difficulty as they develop. They buy in to self-defeating narrative, saying things like, “I’m just not a math person” or “I’ll never be good at math.” The effect on their confidence can extend well beyond the math classroom.

Why would a student who excels need outside resources?

A huge misconception is that only “struggling” students need help.

For a time they are able to score high grades with minimal effort. But advanced students often break down in frustration at the first sign of difficulty because they haven’t faced challenging schoolwork before. They later experience a sharp dropoff in their math confidence when they place into accelerated classes.

Ironically, these advanced students have a disadvantage as compared to students who have routinely experienced frustration and learned to overcome it.

What prevents people from getting help?

In many cases, parents don’t know where to start to get the help they need. Sometimes they are concerned about the demands of supplemental education when kids are already so overextended with after-school activities and sports.

Parents who turn to online resources and after-school assistance offered by the school often see short-term relief such as passing an exam or turning in homework. However, for lasting gains in confidence and math fluency, a longer-term approach that focuses on strengthening core skills will deliver the best results.


How can parents select the best fit?

Most parents check the credentials and logistics, but forget to ask about how the program builds accountability and encouragement. If students don’t buy in to the program and don’t feel supported, they are not likely to reap the benefits.

It’s also important to know the tangible ways progress and growth are measured. There should be systems in place to communicate regularly with parents and students about progress and to make adjustments to learning plans.


To learn more call 404.974.4690 or visit


by Sam Younis