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Math Strategies for Struggling Students

We can all agree that math is one of the courses that kids struggle with the most. Even children who eventually develop an affinity for numbers and patterns will struggle early on if they have a bad teacher. They may occasionally experience anxiety because of the high learning curve of the field.

Here, we’ll go over the reasons why kids struggle with math and then dive into ways that you, as parents, can set up your children for success. Afterward, we’ll also provide you with some great resources, such as online math programs for struggling students, which can help you get started. Lastly, check out our helpful math learning resources per grade level.

Why do kids struggle with math?


1. Wrong teaching method

The first big reason that children experience difficulty in this field is that their way of learning is not in alignment with the way the course is being taught. This is especially true of children who often learn differently than what modern classrooms are offering. Some people may learn by brute force through repetition, while others need to see visual concepts and word problems to get everything to “click” properly. Other students will only learn through a perfect combination of both these methods.

2. Pacing of the course

Another reason for the struggles is the pacing of the class or the course: it may be too fast or too slow for your child. Some classrooms move at a breakneck pace and never stop to make sure the kids have caught up, which will leave some children behind unless they do extra homework. Other courses move at a snail’s pace, which will kill a smart student’s interest and lead to daydreaming and other coping strategies.

3. Lack of motivation

One other major cause of problems in math is a sheer lack of motivation or perseverance. Math is one of the hardest subjects for many kids, so they may develop test anxiety, or their mind may go blank when they encounter a complex problem. This source of anxiety can be extremely hard to overcome. This, combined with the multitude of distractions in modern life (smartphones, video games, etc.) can be a recipe for academic disaster.

At the end of the day, we may need extra intervention to help our kids. Math tutoring can be time-consuming and there are a ton of great resources available, such as the online math programs for struggling students. An online tutor could work wonders for your child, but only you can make that call. Also, try bringing games into the mix and check out this card game that replaces 100s of math worksheets.

What are some effective math strategies for struggling students?

Now that we’ve established the root cause of the problem, it’s time to begin working on a solution. Math for struggling students does not have to be a huge endeavor – on the contrary, in fact. Let’s start with these pointers:

1. Know your child.

Before you can do anything else, you need to really understand how your child acts and thinks. Are they motivated by positive or negative reinforcement? Do they have anxiety with math? Are they undisciplined? Are they being bullied in class and thereby distracted from the teacher? It sounds basic but knowing the personality and circumstances surrounding the child’s problems will help you pick the right strategies.

You should also know how your child learns. There are many ways to teach math and you want to make sure you pick the one that they have an affinity for the most. Try different math tricks that may help your kids to learn math more easily.

2. Determine their preferred learning style.

Some kids learn better through visual aids or repetition while others like to sink their teeth into word problems. Even if your student is performing poorly, you should be able to get a quick handle on what method they prefer the most by looking at their test scores or simply communicating with them. Figure out the ways they learn the fastest and focus on teaching through those mediums wherever possible. Even if a student can learn via all these ways, they may have a personal preference – pick the way that’s the most fun for them so that they have an incentive to keep learning!

3. Explore metacognition.

The concept of “metacognition” is quite simple: they need to think about their own thought process. Metacognition will help your youngling think more logically and be more self-aware of each step of the process, ensuring that they do not miss vital information and building their own ability to explain complex problems. By self-monitoring and self-checking via thinking aloud, your kid will become more independent: these are soft skills that can be transferred to many fields that require logical thinking across the STEM fields.

4. Provide contexts.

Even if your child hates word problems, it’s much easier to have a grasp of math when it’s given in real-world context. Even something as simple as assigning a value to your multiplication problems – perhaps money or video game experience points or something they can relate to – will help stave off boredom. The more connections they build between math and other fields of study, the easier it will be for them to see the value in what they are doing.

5. Refresh their fundamentals.

We can all agree that, when it comes to all fields of study, we either “use it or lose it”. In high school, some of us will use nothing but a calculator to solve easy problems. In the process we may forget about the more basic forms of algebra – things like factoring – or even things as basic as arithmetic. This may come back to bite us later in more advanced courses that require fast mental math to proceed to the next step of the problem.

It’s even quite possible for a high schooler to have completely forgotten how to multiply and divide quickly, which slows them down, keeps them glued to the calculator, and fails to provide any positive stimulus or reinforcement to their brains. The more we retrain our kids to practice the basic fundamentals, the faster they will solve their homework later. Kids tend to want to do something if it doesn’t eat up as much of their time. Train them from an early age to master the fundamentals.

6. Consider Mnemonics.

A lot of math involves memorization at first until the student has mastered the basics and can draw logical connections. Mnemonics (such as acronyms like PEMDAS) are a fantastic way to speed up the memorization process for students. Students can transfer the concept of mnemonics and songs to other fields as well, such as science or history.

7. Consider online math programs.

Parents who are busy or not very proficient at math themselves may be tempted to turn to external intervention. Thankfully, online tutoring is more effective and affordable than ever before. The techniques they employ will definitely help your child on their journey to a better understanding of math. There is no shame in turning to tutors, as sometimes a fresh perspective may be just what they need.

Online Math Programs for Struggling Students

We really hope this article helps pave the way for your child’s success in math. Math for struggling students is a very common issue faced by parents around the world. Keep in mind that there are always online programs for struggling math students, such as online math tutors found on sites like TutorOcean.

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Digital Marketing Manager with a background in Mathematics.

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