The information on this page provides parents with an introduction to the skills involved in learning maths and gives an insight into why some children might struggle with maths. You can download a pdf version here.

What does maths involve?

To succeed with maths, children need to learn the relevant facts, know how to apply appropriate procedures, and understand the concepts involved. For example, in arithmetic, children need to learn their times tables, know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and also understand the relationships between these different operations (e.g. that addition is the opposite of subtraction).

What skills are needed for maths?


How are these skills important for maths?

Learning maths facts, carrying out procedures and understanding concepts rely on different combinations of skills. For example, the set of skills known as executive functions; holding and manipulating information in mind (working memory), ignoring distractions and flexible thinking, are more important for learning maths facts and procedures than they are for understanding concepts.

Why do some children find maths difficult?

One reason why so many children find maths difficult is that it draws on such a wide range of underlying skills. If a child has difficulties with any one of these skills it might impact on their maths achievement. Our research suggests that children who have similar levels of maths performance might have very different strengths and weaknesses.

What if I have concerns about my child?

Talk to your child’s class teacher if you are concerned that they might be struggling with maths. You can download an information booklet for teachers about skills underlying maths here.

Useful Resources

 Uni of Nottingham Loughborough