Mathematics: When to worry

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Math skills are divided into different categories. Within these categories, learn about the specific signs that indicate your child may be having difficulty.

Key points

  • Math skills are divided into five different areas: number sense and numeration; measurement; geometry and spatial sense; patterning and algebra; data management and probability.
  • There are specific signs in each of the categories to look for that indicate your child may be having difficulty.​

Math skills are divided into different categories. Within these categories, here are some specific signs that your child may be having difficulty.

Number sense and numeration

  • Has trouble recognizing numbers.
  • Has trouble learning number names.
  • Has counting difficulties: does not realize numbers go in order; when counting, does not realize last number counted is the total; only counts objects one way.
  • Does not understand one-to-one correspondence by Grade One.
  • Unable to add and subtract with counters in Grade One.
  • Does not realize that adding and subtraction are reciprocal operations by the end of Grade One.
  • Number facts are slow to develop: child always uses fingers or counters to find the answer.
  • Has trouble learning and remembering computational procedures.


  • Cannot learn to tell time or use money.
  • Has trouble reading or answering questions about a simple graph.

Geometry and spatial sense

  • Has trouble learning names of shapes such as circle, square, rectangle, diamond, and oval.
  • Does not know the meaning of terms such as more, less, half, part, or spatial terms like behind, over, beside.

Patterning and algebra

  • Has trouble recognizing and extending recurrent patterns.
  • Cannot put objects in order.
  • Has trouble sorting by colour, shape, size, or texture.

Data management and probability

  • Has trouble representing data on a graph.
  • Is not aware of the frequency of occurrence of different events.
  • Has trouble determining what operation to use to solve math word problems.
Last updated: October 31st 2009