Why Students Struggle With Math and How You Can Help

It’s no secret that math can be one of the more challenging subjects in school. If your child is having trouble with math classes, it’s important to identify which areas need more practice. Here’s why students struggle with math – and how you can help!

1. Provide reassurance. Students often internalize their own difficulties with math and assume something must be “wrong” with them for having trouble. A common sentiment we hear from students is “I’m just not good at math” or “I’ve never been a math person.” If your child feels a similar way, give a friendly reminder that it’s not just them – math is hard! In fact, surveys show that teens rank math classes as the most difficult subject in school, the highest ranked overall. So if your student is having a tough time with math, tell them not to be hard on themselves. Math can be challenging and consistently builds upon previous knowledge, so it’s not uncommon for students to fall behind.

2. Look for non-academic factors. Many students have difficulties in certain subjects not for academic reasons, but due to other factors that affect their performance. Because math classes can be complex, these non-academic factors (organizational skills, attention difficulties, etc.) can become more apparent than with other subjects. A fair number of students lose points simply by not doing their homework or failing to attempt the assignment when the material isn’t making sense. Small changes, like creating a dedicated homework space that remains free of distractions, can have a huge impact on a student’s overall productivity as well as their ability to complete assignments on-time.

3. Offer to keep track of time during assignments. Math anxiety is one of the most common concerns we hear from students, and it often has to do with test-taking pressure. Many students feel more comfortable approaching math at their own pace, which is great during the learning process. However, most major exams and standardized tests that students attempt are going to be timed. Unfortunately, math anxiety tends to peak when time is a factor. Once a student is comfortable with a concept, we recommend doing some timed assignments to prepare for test days. For older students preparing for the SAT/ACT, practice tests are an excellent way to refine your time-budgeting skills.

4. Work with a tutor. We mentioned before that math constantly builds upon previous knowledge. For each new level of math a student reaches it is expected that they have mastered the concepts from their previous classes. This isn’t just the case with more complicated subjects like geometry or algebra – even at a young age, math concepts are based on blocks of knowledge that build on top of the previous one. If a student doesn’t understand place value, they will struggle when solving multi-digit arithmetic problems. If a student doesn’t understand fractions, they will have a hard time with long division. Since math classes are designed to move forward at a certain pace, students that didn’t understand a previous section often don’t get any opportunity to go back, and a learning gap begins to form. One-to-one instruction is so effective because a tutor has the unique ability to revisit previous concepts and sections that may have needed more practice. Find a tutor near you!

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