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When your child tries to write the number 3, does it looks like an E? Does he count out loud and skip the number 5? If so, you may be worried that he's having a problem with basic math skills. But mistakes like these are completely normal at his age. Preschoolers are just beginning to grasp the meaning of numbers, so they don't always remember them in sequence.
Still, if you think there's something wrong, trust your instincts and talk to your child's preschool teacher. "Because the teacher sees your child in a variety of situations at school and can compare your child's progress to that of other children, she's in a good position to notice any potential problems," says Eve Stabinsky-Ackert, an early childhood education specialist in Monroe, Conn. If your child isn't in preschool, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.
Early warning signs of a math problem
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities and early education specialists, your child may have a problem learning math skills if he:
- Cries or gets angry when working with numbers
- Has trouble remembering numbers
- Has trouble identifying shapes even after much repetition
- Has trouble distinguishing left from right
- Is extremely restless and can't sit still (keep in mind that many preschoolers are fidgety to some extent)
Even if your child is having some or all of these problems with math, that doesn't necessarily means he has a learning disability. It may mean he's being pushed too hard before he's developmentally ready. That's why it's important to talk to your child's teacher if you have concerns. She's in the best position to make an early assessment. The teacher may recommend that you give him more math practice at home (see our article on fun activities for building math skills) or talk to a learning specialist.