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Top reasons for weakness in math and how you can help

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12 November 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Introduction

Is your child struggling with math? 

Is your child counted as one of the weak students in understanding math? 

In this article, we will explore this problem in-depth, and also outline broad directions for an action plan for weak students and steps taken to improve weak students. 

Before that, we will discuss the possible reasons why these “weak students” are struggling with math.

"Weak students" getting frustrated with math

If we claimed that EVERY child is a “math person”, it would be difficult for most parents to believe. This is because as parents, you are only aware of the school results of your child and remarks for students' performance provided. 

Top reasons for weakness in math and how you can help?- PDF

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📥 Top reasons for weakness in math and how you can help?- PDF

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If your child has scored low, it is not entirely his/her fault. There are many factors that affect a child’s grasp of math.

Everyone has a different understanding of math concepts and some children may be slower to pick up than others.  Sometimes, even if the child is great at math, he/she is not able to perform because of 'math anxiety'. If your kid is not performing well in maths, it does not mean that they are not smart or are lazy.

You can check an interview out about fear of math here, Fear of math


What are the signs & reasons for kids struggling with math? 

There are many signs that you can look for to determine if your child is struggling with math. 

Students who hate math get math anxiety

Generally, the children struggling with math express negativity about the subject, they get upset when asked to study math, genuinely feel like they hate math or try to skip school on the day of math tests, etc.

If your child's grade is low in mathematics and higher in other subjects, that can indicate a possible aversion towards maths. 

If your child is having trouble applying math in real-life, like calculating the cost of something, counting days left for their birthday or knowing time from the clock, etc, your child may be finding math hard to follow and apply.

What are the top reasons among children struggling with math? 

  1. The inability of a child in visualizing and understanding basic math concepts.
  2. Rote learning methods: where a child is given formulas and statements to learn by heart.
  3. Labeling children as “weak students” or “weak in math”.
  4. The stress and pressure scoring high marks. Good marks should be a consequence of conceptual understanding.
  5. Report card comments for “weak students”: where teachers simply remark on the low performance instead of providing solutions to steps taken to improve weak students.
  6. A fixed mindset

Children who hate math need guidance in understanding math

Why is a growth mindset better than a fixed mindset?

It is important to understand that labeling children as weak students or good at math students is never going to help. Unfortunately, teachers as well as parents tend to do this constantly. 

Research has shown that students who are labeled “weak students” when young, tend to underperform throughout their academic lives. It’s as if they internalize the label and keep reinforcing this “weakness” in their minds.

Weak students should not be pressurized

On the other hand, students who are always praised for being strong in math might become complacent and not strive hard enough to excel further. 

Thus, we need to get rid of this fixed mindset framework – of bucketing children into fixed ability categories – and move towards a growth mindset framework, which implies that every child's ability can grow – and grow significantly. 

To know more visit: Growth Mindset

If we do a root cause analysis of the problem – why the child is currently struggling with math – we will find that it is almost entirely due to the way the child has learned math or has been taught math. 

Every child is born with never-ending curiosity. And mathematics is a subject which has the potential to give any child a playground to unleash that curiosity. 

Unfortunately, from a very young age, children are exposed to math in a highly rote-memorization oriented manner

Have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset

Children are expected to mug up facts and formulas and solve repetitive drills based on this superficial learning and not the basic concepts vital in understanding math. 

Given this, it is not surprising that many children revolt against and hate math – because what they learn in the name of math is not really math!

Hence, they end up struggling with this flawed version of math which they typically learn in school.


Assisting in the "How to score good marks in Maths?"

What is the solution? This is not a trivial problem, but with sustained intervention from the parent’s side, a lot of improvement is possible. You can follow these remarks for weak students to make them good at math:

Encourage the child to enjoy the subject  

The child will never improve in math if he/she does not enjoy the subject. You cannot force math down their throat if they are unwilling to learn. Thus, scoldings and punishments will never work.

Help create an action plan for weak students so they can enjoy math

What you really need to work towards is enabling the child to appreciate and eventually love math. That will happen only if his/her natural sense of curiosity is encouraged rather than suppressed.

Encourage the child to ask the why behind the what. Why do we need multiplication tables? Why do we learn improper fractions? Why do two odd numbers add up to an even number?

Just this one change of focusing on the why rather than the what will have a deep impact on the way the child approaches math.

Take the pressure of marks off the child’s mind

The child is already struggling with math.

Adding the pressure of doing well in school exams on top of this will only increase the child’s misery, and push the child further away from a genuine fundamental understanding of math concepts.

Do not impose your expectations of marks on the child.

Do not pressurize or be angry at children who get bad marks

Know how to improve the academic performance of weak students, know the p\appropriatereport card comments for weak students.

Remember that the education of a child is a long-term marathon rather than a short-term sprint.

It is alright if the child loses a sprint – focus on the marathon. Just telling your child that you place more importance on true understanding math rather than marks and the child should work towards that goal rather than marks – will create a dramatic creative space in your child’s mind.

And yes, good marks will come as a consequence of fundamental understanding, but fundamental understanding will not come as a consequence of good marks.

So which would you prefer?

Encourage the child to explore and make mistakes

Many parents tend to believe that math is all about getting the right answers. Making mistakes is frowned upon. Children are taught complex algorithms and then expected to apply them flawlessly. Parents fret about their children making silly mistakes.

To read more about silly math mistakes visit: Math Mistakes

steps taken to improve weak students: Children should make silly mistakes

In our opinion, this focus on outright accuracy is ridiculous. Research has shown that even when children make mistakes, they learn. In fact, in some cases, they might learn more.

We should encourage children to learn math by exploring ideas rather than memorizing them – and in this exploration process, it is alright if they make a few mistakes. Let them fall – as many times as they may – eventually they will learn to walk and even run!

Encourage the child to ask a lot of why’s in school

We have seen a lot of examples where students hate mathematics because their curiosity regarding math was not addressed properly by their school teachers.

They were discouraged from asking too many questions.

Question mark: Ask the whys behind basic maths concepts

Because teachers are time-pressed to complete the syllabus, there is a tendency to skim through concepts without spending a significant amount of time on any basic math concepts.

This reason is one of the biggest contributors to a child’s eventual struggle with math.

Also read:

As a parent, it is important for you to be aware of how your child’s school teachers are teaching. Are they open to entertaining a student’s curiosity, or do they discourage questioning?

If it is the latter case, alarm bells should ring and you should be heading to school to have a word with the teacher!

Have perspective and patience with your child

Parents have an unmatched viewpoint to monitor and guide their children’s learning trajectories. Utilize this position wisely. Take a long-term perspective and have patience.

Don’t fret and don’t get frustrated, and if you do – don’t show it in front of the child and pressurize the child further. Don’t impose unrealistic or unreasonable expectations on the child just to satisfy yourself, as that will not serve any purpose in the long run.

how to score good marks in maths? Parents can help

In your daily interactions with the child, constantly reinforce a vibe of positivity around math. Remember that for a deep understanding of math concepts, the why is more important than the what.

Encourage the child to approach math from a why-framework rather than a what-framework.


Conclusion

Helping a child struggling with math to get back on track is not an easy job.

But with the right approach, spectacular transformations are possible. You can follow the above remarks for weak students and make them good at math. You need to have an action plan for weak students ready and understand how to get good marks in maths yourself.

For every parent whose child is struggling with math, we highly recommend watching this video by Carol Dweck titled The power of believing that you can improve.

 

Hopefully, this gave you some perspective on how to assist helping your children who are struggling with math. 

What will be your action plan for weak students?

About Cuemath

Cuemath, a student-friendly mathematics platform, conducts regular Online Live Classes for academics and skill-development and their Mental Math App, on both iOS and Android, is a one-stop solution for kids to develop multiple skills. Know more about the Cuemath fee here, Cuemath Fee


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What to do if my child is weak in math?

Firstly, do not label your child as ‘weak’, that will lower their confidence if they are already performing badly. Try to know the root cause of the problem. Talk to your child about the subject and how do they feel about it. You can talk to your child’s teacher about it too. Encourage him and do not pressurize him to study. You yourself need to figure out how to get good marks in maths and move towards steps taken to improve weak students.

Why is my child weak at Math?

There can be a variety of reasons for their bad performance in maths. Sometimes they just need a bit of encouragement from you and the teacher. They may also be finding it difficult to visualize the concepts. Not focusing on the fundamentals might be a reason as well.

External References

To learn more about math anxiety visit:


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