Teaching struggling math learners

There are many factors that can contribute to a child's sense of failure in math, but once a child begins to struggle, the first challenge is to help him feel successful again.  Once the child begins to succeed and enjoy math again, it will be much easier to make progress.

Maturation is one of the most common contributors to math struggles. It is easy to see a child's physical development, but sometimes we forget that a child's brain matures at an individual rate as well. There are some concepts a child may find difficult at one age, whereas a year or two later the child can master those same concepts with very little effort. There are many different math concepts to teach, and what works best is to teach what comes easily for a child and put aside concepts that will be easy for the child to learn at a later time.

Because most of us were raised in a grade-level school setting using typical textbooks, parents often have the perception that math must be taught in a certain sequence. However, if you examine all of the different math approaches available today, you will see that none of them use the exact same teaching sequence for math concepts. There are cases where the child must learn one concept before attempting a more advanced concept [for example, it is helpful to be able to multiply before learning how to divide], but the more advanced concept can usually be set aside and taught later if the child is getting frustrated with it. [In our example, if the child understands multiplication but struggles with division, you can put division aside and work on geometric concepts like surface area and volume that help with practicing multiplication.]

The Math on the Level Concept Chart lists every concept that is learned before a child starts algebra, shows where in the Teaching Guides to find the directions for how to teach each concept, shows where to find the practice problems, and conveniently keeps track of what each child has been learned. Therefore, you can easily choose concepts your child is ready to learn without the worry of forgetting or missing something.

One way in which Math on the Level benefits struggling learners is by helping you teach in the way each child learns best. For example, if your child is an auditory learner, you can concentrate on verbally explaining new concepts rather than making your child use pencil and paper. The curriculum includes many ideas on how to use manipulatives for children that learn best using them; but for the child who gets frustrated by manipulatives, you can teach math visually instead of tactilely. You always can teach at a pace which works best for your child and avoid harmful pressure and stigma from "feeling behind" someone else's expectations.

Children who struggle to understand math also find that learning through life experiences and activities (like cooking or playing games) makes math time more enjoyable. The real-life aspect of Math on the Level is particularly effective with struggling learners, for it helps them understand math concepts better and see where math is used in their world. The Math on the Level review system also identifies gaps in their retention in a relaxed, low stress way, and the 5-A-Day review method helps them stay motivated to learn just as it keeps them sharp in what they already know.