If your child is a math struggler (or maybe just not math intuitive), can you share how he or she has struggled (particular topics, skills, methods?) and what you did that is helping?


AK Whitney, is a freelance journalist and former math hater in Southern California

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The biggest favor anyone can do a kid struggling with math is to throw out any notions that it's intuitive, or that you have to have a gift for it to do well, as in, "oh, he or she is a math genius!" Would you ever say that to someone about reading? Math is NOT just for geniuses, and most of us use it every day, even if it's just counting your change at the market. Unless your child is struggling with a math disability such as dyscalculia (and that's hard enough to diagnose, but a big indicator is if the child has trouble telling that 8 is a bigger quantity than 3), he or she should be able to learn math. Remember, even the most impressive mathematicians have struggled in school at times.
It's perfectly fine to acknowledge that yes, this is going to take some work, but there's no reason they can't learn it. This is particularly important for girls, who all too often get the message that their gender means they can't do math. On a more practical level, a lot of the time kids struggle with a new concept because their foundational skills are cracked. For example, fractions mess up a lot of people because they need a strong sense of quantity and place value, and involve addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Going back and reviewing those skills can help, as well as helping relate them to this new way of thinking, will help. For more information, I would suggest you check out Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck's book, "Mindset." Dweck worked with middle schoolers in the '80s and showed that their math scores tended to improve when they were told math ability was not set in stone. Also, check out my primer on dyscalculia for Mental Floss. And finally, please read this profile on the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani. Best of luck!

Jenny Bristol, Homeschooling Parent, Writer, and Editor

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My kids have each struggled with math on occasion, and I've found that the reasons were usually based in frustration. Either they were tired, or they were encountering something with which they aren't familiar; they couldn't wrap their head around the concept for some reason. When this happens, the best thing to do is to have them take a step back, breathe, and start again without trying to rush through. Each time my kids struggle with a math concept, we do the same thing to get through it and to achieve understanding.

Here is what we do. Making sure that neither you nor your child is anxious, frustrated, or panicked, begin the problem again. Take your time. If you feel rushed, your child will sense this, and get more anxious. Break the problem down into the smallest steps possible, working it out on scratch paper. Make sure the child understands the method and rationale for each step before moving on to the next one. Anything they don't understand, calmly and patiently explain again. If they still don't understand, try reframing the problem or question, and describing it in another way. For any math concept, there are many ways to describe what is going on. One of them will likely stick with your child, but sometimes it takes a few tries first. Continue walking them through the problem. If, at the end, they seem to understand how the process works, have them work the next one on their own, step by step, with you giving feedback.

Once you think your child fully understands the concept, have them attempt a related problem (such as factoring once you've gone through the Distributive Property), with you making sure they do the steps correctly. If your child still has trouble, follow the steps in the paragraph above, again.

When your child seems to be comfortable with the problems, have them do several more on their own over the next few days. If they still remember how to solve the problems without you giving hints, they likely now understand the concept.

This kind of step-by-step learning, where kids don't feel like they are in over their heads at any step, can give them the confidence they need to tackle new topics in the future. They learn that all of their math problems can be solved by going through some particular process, even if they don't yet know what that process is. Help your kids accomplish smaller successes, and that light bulb will go <ding> much more easily in the future.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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When I taught math I had students each year that hated the subject for one reason for another. Once I pinpointed exactly why they had so much difficulty, I made it a point to be very patient with them and gave them extra practice 1 on 1. It was not to be a punishment but to reassure and build in their confidence.

The way students learn math can also be a struggle for them which is why some despise it with a passion. I also had my classes go in the labs and take Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence tests and let them see for themselves which intelligence was best for them to learn. Then I would use it to my advantage and build more problems around their strengths so that they could connect easier with their lesson.

Another great technique is to use lots and lots of models and hands on activities. For example, using a soda can to teach the volume and surface of a cylinder makes them measure the length and radius from which they can calculate surface area and volume.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Scott Braithwaite, Homework with StudyDaddy its simple

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When I had questions on the subject of mathematics and I could not figure them out, I asked the detailed questions on site homework help there they helped me very quickly to solve my problems and gave a full answer, so I understood everything at once.

Anand Sharma, Businessman

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Math can be more difficult for some than for others. However, many times, all it takes is a little motivation or a change of perspective to make math more manageable and sometimes even fun! Kik for PC

Anonymous, Engineer who used to hate math

Math can be more difficult for some than for others. However, many times, all it takes is a little motivation or a change of perspective to make math more manageable and sometimes even fun!

Many see math as a chore, an assignment, or just plain and boring schoolwork. One way I find math to be more bearable is to relate the problem(s) to real-life situations. While you're at it, make it relatable to something he/she likes. For example, if your child is having trouble with multiplication, present math problems in a real-life way that they can enjoy. If your child is a basketball fan, ask him/her how many points their favorite player would have after a certain number of 3-point shots. By relating math problems to something that your child enjoys, not only will they be able to relate better, but it will also force them to think about the math that they learned next time they watch basketball or interact with whatever analogy they used. If you're learning math in terms of Legos, there's no way you can forget about the math you just learned next time you're playing with Legos!

Another great way to get your child to enjoy math, or at least tolerate it more, is by using technology, as many others have stated. Being in the 21st century, we have the luxury of using technology as a medium for entertainment, but also for learning. Interaction is key and whatever your child can touch, speak to, or see will definitely reinforce their learning. There is a copious amount of educational software out there, whether it's for the PC, tablet, phone, etc. Children love using these kinds of technology, so why not teach them with it as well?

Nicole Eredics, Educator, Inclusion Specialist, Writer, Podcaster & Parent

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Hello, Providing your child with various ways of learning math, in addition to paper/pencil, is very helpful. Here are some strategies that I have used with elementary students and my own children: 1. For basic math facts (adding/subtracting) we used a system called "Touch Point Math" (www.touchmath.com). It is excellent and very useful for hands-on learners. My high schooler still reverts back to it sometimes! 2. For adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing, you can use graph paper to align the numbers and make it more readable. 3. When teaching equations, you can write out a list of steps for the student to refer to and provide prompts along the way. 4. For a child that gets overwhelmed with math questions, cover half the sheet, have them only do odd-numbered questions, or something else similar. A child can demonstrate his/her understanding of a math concept in several questions. 5. Use technology, if possible. There are so many great apps for learning math! There are also some wonderful sites that do an excellent job of explaining those higher level concepts. Check out Khan Academy or Learn Zillion for helpful ideas and lessons. Good luck!! Nicole

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