How does a lack of fundamental skills affect learning math? (or anything else)

Building a solid base of math skills is important for success. Students with a weak basic math skill set find it increasingly confusing and difficult as it progresses. The student may get math anxiety and stress. The foundational learning skills below need to be strong in order to learn math.

Visual skills

Visual processing – it is the skill to see and understand what you are seeing, process the information you see in your brain, it is important in learning math. It may make it difficult learning basic math concepts such as size, magnitude and position. They also may confuse likeness and differences.

Visual tracking – If the student’s eyes do not track properly from word to word they will have difficulty reading and copying questions.

Visual memory – this is the ability to remember something that you saw. This is significant in math for problem solving.

Visual Discrimination – this involves looking at a figure and discerning the shape, color, and size. Without this skill most math problem solving, geometry problem solving and patterning will not be successful.


Auditory and working Memory – a low working memory is when you can’t keep many things on your “screen”. For instance, in subtracting you may have to “hold” a number in your brain while you do the work. Like in this example: 12-8, start at 8 and count up to 12 and keep track of how many you have counted – they forget they are counting to 12 by the time they get there. With a low working memory they may forget the number. Multistep problems or directions are very difficult. Highlighting things or writing down steps may help them.

Perceptual/Spatial skills – this helps a student see two or more objects in relation to themselves or in relation to each other. They develop these skills by working with 2 and 3 D objects. These skills help with problem solving, particularly in geometry.

Visual motor integration (eye hand coordination) – this is necessary for a student to see something (such as 10 questions written on the board) and be able to use motor skills to transform it (copying the 10 questions down in their math book). If this skill is weak they will have difficulty being successful in math class. They may not write the questions down correctly, even if they have the skills to solve the problem.


This builds the basis for learning: it is the framework for sequencing patterns needed for reading and math. The motor system interacts with the brain to control balance, coordination, directionality and spatial awareness. This is developed by rolling, crawling, spinning, jumping etc. This links to being able to place a word or number on a page. The brain’s motor, balance and equilibrium must be developed to then be able to process information

Cross lateral movement – this is when your limbs cross over the centerline of your body, so crossing arms or legs over your body. When children perform cross lateral movement blood flow is increased in all parts of the brain making it more alert and energized for learning. They use both sides of their brain.

Large muscle movement – this is also important in that it needs to be developed before the next step of reading, writing and math.

Directionality – this is the way print is tracked and written, you start at the top of the page and go down, and left side to right. If they are not able to do this they could be confused when doing math problems.