Many frustrated parents often think of this question.

Why does my child have an issue with learning math?

How long will it last?

Will it impact future pathways?

The issue of learning isn’t as detrimental as many of us think, it often comes down to processing speed. Processing speed is the term that refers to how quickly the brain can pick up on a concept and mimic or understand it and move on to the next one.

Processing speed varies greatly from student to student as our brains develop at individual rates. We all end up with fully developed brains, but some move at a faster pace and this can bring advantages and disadvantages for each.

Let me provide you with an example.

My partner and I both love working with math and have enjoyed it as a subject throughout public school. I have a fast processing speed and am always naturally trying to get an answer quickly and move on to the next question. My partner has a much slower processing speed, so she doesn’t try to get an answer quickly, but she does want to just think about what the answer means once she does get it.

We both get the answer, but I tend to get it, and then move on. Faster processors tend to put less thought into what the answer means and more into what’s next. It often looks like they grasp concepts quickly, when, in fact, fast processors often merely mimic the process to get an answer. I was able to quickly get the algorithm to find an answer and replicate that process over and over again, making it look like I really understood the math.

My partner has a slower processing speed as so she doesn’t speed through to get the answer as quickly, but in taking her time she also thinks about what the answer actually represents rather than merely racing through the steps toward the end. Students with this slower processing benefit from more visual systems that allow their brains to better understand what is happening with the math, allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of what is going on.

Each processing speed has its issue in the classroom, the faster speed quickly grasps concepts, although on a shallow level that relies on mimicking a set of steps to rapidly get an answer and move on. The slower speed takes the concept and works through it slowly, wanting to understand what is happening at a deeper level so it can have a thorough understanding of what is going on and what the answer means. Each comes out of a classroom environment with learning, but also with some gaps depending on the individual.

It is interesting to note, that historically, it is the slower processing speed that has generated the best mathematical brains. Although this slower processing speed has also generally done more poorly in the classroom environment that we work with today.

Students often don’t get enough time to just sit and work through the math they learn, our curriculums have a lot in them and classrooms have a lot of information to cover in a school year. Math is particularly hard in the fact that it is one of the few subjects that is scaffolded, meaning the mastery of the material from Grade 5 is important for a student to then be able to tackle the material learned in Grade 6. Slow processors sometimes miss the time they need to just let their brain catch up with the learning and get a good hold of what is being learned.

In the end, processing speed is often confused with intelligence, but that is not the case. Research has proven that the speed at which students grasp information has no relationship to how intelligent they are. Math is no exception. People (not just children) often have similar perceptions, if they are fast with math, they think they are not as good at it.

Speed should never be a factor in math learning, it actually is often an early source of math anxiety in children who are slow processors and need some extra time to work through math concepts.

Dropkick math keeps class sizes small to make sure we allow all our participants, young and old(er) the chance to work and learn at the pace that is best for them, ensuring that all brains grasp the important concepts that are key to future math learning. So come on out, take your time, and give math the slowest or fastest dropkick possible, your brain will thank you for it!

Have a great day.

*Dropkick Math*