Contributed by Mathnasium Owners of Orange County
Many signs reveal whether your child would benefit from extra help in math, both in and out of school. While poor grades in math are the most obvious sign that a student needs help, poor math grades happen for many reasons. Here are six signs (besides low grades) that might indicate that your child wants or needs guidance beyond the classroom.
#1: Failure to master arithmetic
Mastery of arithmetic is the ability to confidently provide a correct answer in no more than three or four seconds. Children should master basic addition facts by the end of second grade, and basic multiplication facts by the end of third grade. The most obvious sign of failure to master arithmetic is finger counting. More subtle signs include slow answers, incorrect answers, and lack of confidence in answers. By the time a finger counter figures out what the teacher’s example means, the teacher has moved on perhaps several sentences, and the finger counter may not learn any more math at all that day.
#2: A seemingly sudden or rapid fall in math grades
It is not uncommon for a student who has always gotten A’s in math to suddenly have to struggle for C’s, and quickly find him or herself in danger of an F. The sources of the students’ difficulty are usually “gaps” in their earlier math education. Most students miss a few important math concepts here and there. Teachers have little time to discover these “gaps” and fill them in. Children are amazingly inventive about finding ways to work around their gaps. But working around gaps gets harder and harder over time. At some point, a gap gets too wide to work around, and grades suddenly begin to drop.
#3: Repeated confidence before tests, but poor results
The child is able to follow and memorize the steps taught in class and described in the textbook, but the child’s understanding is mechanical. The child can only answer questions just like the examples in the textbook. Test questions often check for understanding by deliberately asking questions that are different in format from the examples in the textbook. Memorized procedures are of no help in answering such a question.
#4: Resistance to math homework
Many families face a nightly battle about math homework. The children hate the work, and resist doing it, often to the point of tears and tantrums.
#5: Your child says math is boring
This could signal either of two situations. One possibility is that your child really does find math so easy that they quickly understand each new concept. When this happens, your child will experience the rest of the math lesson as tedious repetition. Another possibility is that your child has so many “gaps” in their math foundation that they cannot understand the math lesson at all. Sitting quietly through a discussion you cannot understand is certainly boring!
#6: “I am just bad at math.”
Nobody is “just bad at math.” Some special needs children require the opportunity to learn math at their own pace. But only the most severely challenged children are unable to develop a grasp of grammar school math. A child who claims to be “just bad at math” is seeking a way out of a situation that they cannot cope with. Children often have such large gaps in their prior math education that they cannot comprehend the math lessons they are forced to sit through in class.
Gaps in a math education start out as small problems, but grow over time and have a long-lasting effect on a child’s performance in math. It is critical that parents watch for signs of trouble in school so that appropriate actions can be taken to get help.
Help with math outside of school usually involves the services of either a private tutor or a learning center. A tutor is good for short-term problems involving current class work and preparation for the next test. Learning centers are a good choice if the need is more comprehensive, either for remediation or enrichment. When you find a tutor or learning center that genuinely meets your child’s math needs and facilitates his or her learning, establish a long-term relationship with that tutor or learning center. This way, your child always has a trusted resource he or she can count on in times of need. M
Mathnasium is a chain of after-school learning centers that teach only math. Their goal is to significantly increase your child’s understanding of math concepts, and improve overall school performance, while building confidence and forging a positive attitude toward math. There are 16 Mathnasium learning centers in Orange County. For more information visit mathnasium.com or call 877-601-MATH.