How To Help Your Struggling Math Student

Helping a student who is struggling with math can be frustrating. Helping a student who is struggling with math and who is also your child? Well, that’s a whole new level of tension.  You see them struggling and want to help, but you don’t know how.

At Train the Brain, our goal is to help students move past the struggle and into long term understanding. Whether your student is in middle school or high school, we have the expertise to help them with those tough assignments and to provide foundational knowledge so that your student doesn’t have to struggle any more.

Here are some tips that we’ve found to be helpful when we’re working with math students:

  • • Be positive about math,
  • • Be flexible, but
  • • Be ready with a routine.


Be Positive About Math

One of the best strategies you can use to help your struggling math student is to make sure you’re always framing math in a positive light.  Give them a growth mindset about math.  They need to know that there are going to a lot of different skills in life that are hard, and you don’t have to be perfect at all of them.  However, saying “I can’t,” is a lot different than saying “I can’t yet.”  Helping your student reframe their abilities when studying math is essential to helping them not give up, and it will help them throughout their lives when faced with difficult tasks.  If you are trying to help your student, but at other times, you’re telling them how bad you are at math or that it’s useless, your student is going to latch on to those negative thoughts about math and use them as an excuse to avoid it. Teaching your student about having a growth mindset and helping them understand that learning is a process that takes time is going to help them stay mentally healthy far beyond their time in school.

Talk about math regularly in that positive light.  Point out how you use it, whether it’s at the grocery store, working on a building project, or talking about your job.  Math is everywhere, so find opportunities to show them where math is used out in the world.  Showing them how math is used authentically as you drive past businesses, construction sites, or even the energy department will help them see the value and real-world need for math skills.

Engage their curiosity and help them see that asking questions in class is an important skill that they will be grateful they practiced.  Shedding a positive light on needing help is a healthy life-skill for your student to learn.

If your struggling math student is like others we’ve helped at Train the Brain, their confidence has been shaken.  Help build their confidence by making a big deal about successes, no matter how small they might seem.  Celebrate your student for both completing and turning in their math homework when they hit a streak.  Sure, they might shrug and swear that you’re embarrassing them, but we have seen the positive outcome of these small celebrations in bringing confidence to students who came to us defeated and ready to quit.  This positive feedback doesn’t have to be about their math successes since we all know that every individual has both strengths and challenges.  Any celebration of success will build your student’s confidence, and that can only benefit them when faced with the task of sitting down to their next math assignment.

When it feels like there is nothing to celebrate, teach your student that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.  This is another of those important life lessons that you can teach while you work with your student on their math lessons.  By helping your child understand that growth is the key and opportunities to learn in life are endless, you’re giving them the tools for a lifetime of success.


Be Flexible

Nothing is worse for a student who is struggling than forcing them to push through when they’re mentally done.  You know your student better than anyone else.  You know when they’ve reached their max and need to stop working.

Allow lots of breaks and encourage your student to go outside and take in some fresh air.  Help them practice mindfulness, encouraging them to take some slow, deep breaths between study sessions.  If your family practices yoga, doing some stretches will help freshen their young minds and get that blood flowing while relaxing the muscles that tense up during stress.

Along the same lines, give your student choices about their math schedule and when they have to complete their assignments, keeping in mind the fact that deadlines are still important.  If you give your child choices, they will feel much more in control of their life during a time when they might feel completely out of control when it comes to their math class.

Finally, know when things have gone too far and you can no longer help.  Allow others to help.  Whether you find a study partner from among your child’s friend group or reach out to your school’s counseling department, finding a peer to help your student could be the key to their success.  If you don’t have access to a peer to help your child, reaching out to a tutoring service like Train the Brain will relieve the pressure on your family and allow you to focus on being your child’s cheering section and source of support.

Be Ready with a Routine

Normalize daily math practice.  Set time aside each day to review notes from your student’s math class or practice the lessons from that day.  By setting the time aside with them or alongside them, you are leading by example.  You’re showing them that their studies are a priority when you stop your busy life and spend time helping them as part of a routine. Your willingness to take this time will emphasize to them that even difficult learning is important in life and that learning is a lifetime endeavor.

When you make this routine a reality, put away all distractions for both you and your student.  Make this a time with no phones or any other electronic devices so that you can both focus on each other and the task at hand.  During this distraction free one-on-one time, get to know how your student thinks by having them teach you the lesson.  Repeating this routinely will bond you and your student and help you understand them even better than you did before.  This routine study time is an important opportunity for the two of you to grow together.

Your student might never be great at math, but with a growth mindset and your support, they can get better.  By emphasizing the positives, celebrating their growth and their strengths, and creating a daily routine, your student will understand both the importance of persistence for them and how important they are to you.

If you’re looking for online math tutoring, or other homework help Train The Brain is an excellent choice. Our dedicated tutors provide world-class service at a price anyone can afford. Sign up for an account today or call us at 888-299-3506 for more information.


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