Math has always been one of those subjects that I hear from both students and clients that they either love it or they despise it. Now, I know that may seem a little harsh, but it’s truly one or the other that I always hear from students. It is also one of the first things I ask my students or young adults that I am tutoring. After my ten years in the classroom and having a successful tutoring business, I have come to find that students don’t just love or hate the subject, it goes deeper than that. Students who love the subject always say, “I just understand it” or “My teacher is AMAZING and I really enjoy that class” or “Math is so fun and is going to be a main topic that will help further me into successful careers”. The students who loathe the class say something very different, yet telling. “I just don’t understand it” or “I’ve never been good at math so I just gave up” or “It’s so boring and my teacher just doesn’t explain it well”. It’s heartbreaking to hear, but when I hear those words I tell all my students and clients that by the end of our time together, it is my goal to turn that hate into love (Well, maybe not love, but at least understand it and make it a little less scary J). Being a veteran teacher, I have realized there are a handful of things that can help students be more successful in math class, even for those already excelling.
After ten years of teaching, the best piece of advice I can give to any new teacher or coworker is to build a relationship with your student! It is imperative from the start that you build that foundation of trust, respect, and safety for both students in the classroom or even a client. Hands down, when my students feel safe to ask any question, trust me that I am going to help them understand the material and always be there for them, along with showing mutual respect, it 100% changes the attitude of the students and learning. When students know you truly care, that’s when the real learning occurs.
Communication is key! When I talk about communication, I am speaking to all sides. Teachers must communicate expectations and speak in a language that the students can understand. They must constantly check in with their students and see where they currently are at in mastering the material. But it doesn’t stop there. I am big on students being their own advocate and I teach them ways to do this effectively. Ask for help when you need it? Ask for clarity when you don’t understand a problem that was just explained. Be up front and honest when you may be struggling or why you may be late on an assignment. Now, this is dealing with my typical age group of high school level students, but I also believe that communication with the parents is vital too. Keep them updated on upcoming assignments, always reach out when there are concerns before it can become a bigger problem and open up that door for them to feel free to reach out to you as well. The strongest shape in math is the triangle. That is because it takes the teacher/tutor, student, and parent to all communicate effectively in order to help the student reach success.
PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! Very rarely does all math just come easily to everyone. Yes, math growing up through high school always came easily to me and I rarely practiced and breezed by. However, when I entered college, that all changed rather quickly. I found that I no longer just got it, but I had to practice it over and over again. I made numerous mistakes and sometimes it was just downright difficult and frustrating. With with continued homework practice, seeking help from professors, and forming study groups I was able to master the material. I probably used more erasers in my Calculus 3 class than in any class I had ever taken. However, practice and determination were crucial to my success. There will be mistakes! We expect it! We aren’t perfect, no one is, but if you try your absolute best and practice those skills, you will soon find yourself passing that next big test!
A mindset is hard to change, and it surely doesn’t happen overnight. Changing your mindset from a negative one to a more positive outlook takes time, practice, and encouragement. Do you get it today? Nope, probably not. But can you understand it and get better? Absolutely! As Charles Swindoll said, “The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so, it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes” (2020, p. 1)
5. Utilizing Resources
In today’s technological age and educator’s continuing to further their education there are so many resources for teachers and tutors, parents, and students. In my other blog post, “What Can I Use at Home to Help my Student?”, I talk about the many resources that are available for all people in education that can give that extra support and guidance when needed. Tools like Kahn Academy, ACT.org, and Magoosh give extra help to students when they need help on specific areas in math. Teachers can utilize Zoom meetings to break up into small groups to help deliver instruction to students based on needs and the amount of resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers makes multiple tiered assignments a breeze to utilize in tutoring and the classroom.
There is also additional support that can come in the form of personalized one-on-one tutoring. Using a tutor has proven to be beneficial to student’s success in the classroom along with higher college entrance exam scores compared to those who have not sought outside help. While tutoring can be expensive, it can also be affordable. Getting together with a group of students who are focusing on the same material can drastically lower the costs based on the business practices of the tutor you employ.
While this doesn’t cover everything to help your child to be successful in the math classroom, it is a wonderful start to ensure your student is on the path to success. With effort, determination, practice, and a positive attitude, nothing is impossible.
Appelrouth, J. I., Zabrucky, K. M., & Moore, D. (2017). Preparing students for college admissions tests. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 24(1), 78-95. doi:10.1080/0969594X.2015.1075958.
Burch, P., Good, A., & Heinrich, C. (2016). Improving access to, quality, and the effectiveness of digital tutoring in K–12 education. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(1), 65-87. doi:10.3102/0162373715592706
Lee, C. S., & Ward-Penny, R. (2019). A practical guide to teaching mathematics in the secondary school (2nd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge.
Swindoll, C. (2020). Charles R. Swindoll Quotes (Author of The Grace Awakening). Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5139.Charles_R_Swindoll