Math is learned in stepping stones, so before higher levels of math are achieved, simpler components must be mastered first. If the jump from one concept to another is too much, find a middle ground or more connections between the two. Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. Meaning, back to basics. If your child is struggling with multiplication, perhaps they need to practice their times tables. If algebra 2 is an issue, go back and review basic algebra.
Once the child has mastered foundational concepts, the movement into more complex ones should be gradual. Start off slowly with small successes.
Use Repetition and Practice
Math is a lot like reading; small components are put together and used in different combinations, and sometimes it just takes practice and memorization. A student struggling with math may simply be slow at mental calculations because they haven’t gone over them enough times. Much of math is memorization, so it’s helpful to go over and over even simple concepts until they are second nature.
Encourage practice and ensure that there is nothing wrong with taking the time to gain speed. The more times a concept is rehearsed, the easier it will be to pull up when it is needed. There is no reason to rush, as it is more important to understand thoroughly.
Relate Math to Preferred Topics
Some students think they just don’t like math – often it’s because they find it difficult. Find ways to relate math to a topic your child is interested in. For example, if your child likes to bake, make cookies and discuss fractions with measuring cups. If your daughter loves softball, then relate math to batting averages and sports statistics. Helping students realize that math is related to the real world (and actually useful) may help them change the negative association they have with math.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Not only must patience be exercised while interacting with the child struggling, but patience must be instilled in the child as well. Your child may be convinced that he or she is bad at math in which case they just look at the paper and say “I don’t get it.” Have him or her take a deep breath and read the instructions slowly. Encourage your child and take it slowly. Sometimes it’s tough to help your own child so maybe an older sibling can help. Or look to a place like Mathnasium that can help your child form a solid foundation in math using a combination of mental, verbal, visual, tactile, and written exercises. Remember, with practice, patience, and persistence, your child will make it through!