Many students struggle with math, and many parents struggle with identifying what is leading to their struggles. I don’t believe there is ever ONE reason why a student is not succeeding. In fact, it is probably a combination factors that is leading to their struggles. I do however strongly believe that every student is capable of achieving success in high school math, and if the following potential causes of a student’s lack of success are identified, and either removed or lessened, any student can achieve the grades that they want to achieve in their math courses.
Reason #1: Lack of Confidence
I have worked with many students that have told me they simply are not “math people”, and that is why they are not succeeding. This is a major mental hurdle for a student, particularly if this is something that they have been told from a young age. Imagine if as a kid, you wanted to be a professional hockey player, and your coach told you that you weren’t a “skating person”, and that you would never be good enough at skating to be able to play hockey professionally. You would certainly assume that your coach was right, and every time you fell while trying to learn how to skate, you would assume that it’s because you’re not a “skating person”, and not because falling is simply part of learning how to skate. This is exactly what happens to young students in math, and every time they get a question wrong, or find a question challenging, they assume it is because they are not a “math person”, and not because struggle and errors are part of the process of learning math. In general, for students that lack confidence in this topic, we need to remove the notion of them “not being a math person”, and support our students in believing that they are very capable of success in these courses.
Reason #2: Willingness to Invest the Time
Although everyone is capable of success in math, I don’t believe that anyone is capable of true success in these courses without putting the necessary work in. Sure, some people might have an easier time with it than others, but regardless of any natural ability, being good at math simply takes time and practice. 1-hour per day is a good minimum standard for a student to strive for if they want to succeed in a math course. Often students find this frustrating, as other courses do not require a similar ongoing investment, but in order to succeed in math, you have to be willing to spend the time working and practicing.
Reason #3: Willingness to Embrace the Challenge
Part of the learning process in math involves not knowing the right answer right away, struggling with finding solutions, and often getting things wrong. Many students find this frustrating, and when they do not know how to solve a question right away, they either give up or seek out help immediately from a parent or tutor. Students need to understand that getting things wrong and struggling are part of the process, so the more that a student is willing to struggle a bit, and get things wrong on occasion, the more they will start to move towards success in their math courses.