How to Teach Math to Someone Who Just Doesn’t Get It

Fact is that most people either really love math or really hate math. You’re children are either one or the other. But when you have one who just doesn’t get it, then teaching math can cause a lot of unhappiness and even cause you to doubt your abilities. You might feel like a failure because you can’t help your child in this area of his/her education. But once you realized that it’s not your fault and that your child is just not an abstract thinker, then you can figure out a way to teach math that will help them succeed in life.

When teaching math, the most important thing to remember is to always KEEP the RELATIONSHIP.

The biggest problem in teaching a child who just doesn’t get math is the conflict. Oftentimes when kids struggle with a subject, math, science or even language arts, we push them to understand it. This leads to them putting up a wall against us and hurting our relationship with them. Homeschooling is all about relationships. And what I’ve learned in all my years of teaching is that you can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn or who has shut you out.

Keep your relationship. It's so much more important than any academic subject. Click To Tweet

Start praying before each lesson. This is a good reminder to be patient, stay calm and take a breath. By doing this, you are letting God in to your homeschool [see 3 Important Facts to Know Before Starting Your Homeschool]. This also lets your child know that you care about them and their understanding of the lesson. Prayer encourages them.

be patient stay calm and take a breath

Discern whether the struggle is due to a CHARACTER ISSUE or just ALL THEY CAN HANDLE.

In order to do this, you have to know your kids better than anyone else. You have to know when they need to be pushed or when they are doing the best they can. Know what makes them tick, how they think and learn. It’s really important to not push them past what they can handle. If you need to take a break, then do it. Anytime you get impatient or frustrated, apologize. This will keep their hearts open to your teaching and the pressure off of them and you. Just find what works for you child and go with that.

Once you’ve ruled out character issues, then TEACH MATH for MASTERY.

All your child can probably handle is the basics. Then they can use a calculator to figure out what is else needed. But sometimes the struggles your child encounters is because he/she never understood the basic facts. So if you need to, go back to basic addition and subtraction. Then work from there. Work as slow as you need to until the facts have been mastered.

In math, it should never be about getting through the book that year. It should always be about mastery. And the thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to not stay on track and focus on mastery. So if you need to take two years to get through a math book, then so be it. Remember math topics build on one another. You don’t want to encounter the same struggles year after year (that’s what happens in traditional schools). So focus on the foundational principles of math when your kids are young. Giving them a strong foundation and mastery will help them do better as they get into higher math.

teach math for mastery

When you have someone who just doesn’t get it, BE REALISTIC with YOUR expectations.

Know that your kids all learn differently. They all learn at different speeds. Some are at different stages mentally and are limited in their ability to process math skills. By setting unrealistic expectations, you’re setting yourself up for disappointments and frustrations. So when you teach math to someone who just doesn’t get it, don’t try to push through with a curriculum just because you have to finish. That will only frustrate you and frustrate your kids. Bad attitudes are contagious. If you have a bad attitude while teaching your kids, how do you think your kids will feel?

5 Tips that will help teach math to someone who just doesn’t get it:

TIP 1: Review! Drilling consistently will help in mastery. It’s very important to review every single day.

TIP 2: Do all the problems. If you child is struggling then they need more practice. Give them this opportunity to fully understand the concept before moving on to the next one.

TIP 3: Make math fun. Differentiate your lessons every once in a while. Instead of doing flashcards for facts review, do a math game on the computer or a file folder game. Mixing things up will keep your lessons fresh and interesting.

TIP 4: Find curriculum that works for you as a parent. Consider how your child learns but also know your abilities. If you’re overwhelmed with trying to teach ALL your children at the same time, then find something that teaches a lot of it for you such as Teaching Textbooks.

TIP 5: Give feedback. This is very important if you want your child to succeed. They need know that they are doing something wrong. And the sooner they know, the easier it is to for them to find their mistake and correct it.

5 tips to teach math to someone who just doesn't get it

If you want to listen to this session, register for free at This is the first session of Day 2 entitled “In the Trenches: A Look at Math in a Real-Life Homeschool” with Kathie Morrissey of the Curriculum 2.0 Online Homeschool Summit. Even though the summit is over, I believe you can still view the free sessions. I’ll post more summaries of the free sessions soon, so stay tuned!
Here’s my summary of the first session of day 1 entitled “Prepare for our Best Year of Christ-Centered Homeschooling Ever” with Davis and Rachael Carman: 3 Important Facts to Know Before Starting Your Homeschool

3 Important Facts Before Starting Your Homeschool