Dear Dr. Linda,

I am in second grade and have a problem about math. My teacher just keeps giving me homework and it’s driving me crazy. Because she keeps giving it to me on weekends and spring and summer breaks. And it’s only one level and it’s too hard. But the other people who have special needs get to be moved into a higher or lower group and they learn even more because it’s their level. I’m feeling very overwhelmed.


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Dear Emi,

It’s not that often that a second-grader writes to me. Thank you for the opportunity to help you solve your problem.

To begin with, math in the second grade can be overwhelming, so I understand why you feel the way you do. You want to be with the kids who are getting extra help because they have special needs. This way, someone will be there to help you learn the math and that will make you feel better.

However, for some reason, your teacher is not recommending that you be in their group. Probably, your teacher feels that you don’t need the extra help. So, let’s try to figure out what’s happening.

Do you count on your fingers? Some second-graders need to count on their fingers, but their teacher says they can’t. So they hide their hands under their desks so the teacher won’t see. These children become so nervous when they have to do math because they are focused on hiding the fact that they’re counting on their fingers. When we hide something because we’re not supposed to be doing it, it makes us nervous.

Here’s an interesting fact about counting on your fingers. It was found that children who were allowed to count on their fingers in elementary school eventually did better in math than children who were not allowed. So, if that’s what’s happening, use your fingers if you need to. Talk to your parents and teachers about how you feel and work together to find a better way that keeps you from being so overwhelmed.

In the meantime, if you want to find tricks to help you go faster without using your fingers, get your parents to help you go on the internet to and sign up for a free Dyscalculia toolkit. It’s chock full of ideas that can help you go faster.

Another reason some children hate math is because their teachers, to help students go faster, do an exercise called “Math a Minute.” This is fine for some kids, but it makes a lot of students nervous. If that’s happening to you, tell your parents and your teacher that you can’t handle that right now.

It’s OK. Many adults need more time to do certain tasks and so they give themselves more time. But as the student, you don’t have the luxury of giving yourself more time if your teacher wants you to do “Math a Minute.” So ask your teacher for more time if you feel that being timed may be causing you to feel overwhelmed.

You may also feel overwhelmed because you don’t really understand what’s going on. It may be that you didn’t learn some things you need to know to understand what’s going on now, or it may be that you get so anxious in class when it’s being taught that you don’t hear all of what the teacher is saying. In either case, talk to your parents and your teacher about working alone with your teacher or with a tutor a few times to see whether that helps you understand it better. If that’s what’s causing you to feel overwhelmed, once you learn to do it, you’ll feel calmer and you may even start to enjoy math.

Finally, you mentioned that you get homework on the weekends and vacations. Could it be that math is not really the problem? That the real problem is that it’s interfering with your free time?

I can understand that. School is your “job” right now. Most adults want their weekends and vacation days to rest and do fun activities. Kids deserve that, too. Again, talk to your parents and together talk to your teacher to see whether homework scheduling could be switched to different days.

Let me know what happens,

Dr. Linda

P.S. Adults, just so you know, before I wrote this answer to Emi, I contacted her parents.

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