How to Help Math-Phobic Students This School Year

This post is part of our 2017 Back-to-School Series. Throughout the month of August, visit the Varsity Tutors blog for back-to-school advice, tips, and tricks for all ages.

Did you spend countless evenings arguing with your student over his or her math homework last school year? Don’t worry—you’re not alone, and the good news is math class doesn’t have to be so painful this year. There are ways that you can help your child gain confidence in his or her math skills. For instance, you can help your math-phobic student this school year by understanding what’s causing the trouble, learning what the math expectations will be this year, and dedicating time each day to math homework and practice.

Understand what’s causing your student trouble in math class

Understanding the cause of your child’s troubles is essential to helping him or her succeed this school year. Spend some time with your student leading up to the beginning of the school year, and listen to what exactly is causing the math struggle. It might take some time for the truth to come out, but pinpointing trouble areas will be helpful in the coming year. For example:

  • Maybe your student isn’t fully confident with the basic skills, such as fact families and times tables.

  • Perhaps it’s a certain skill, like long division, that stops your child in his or her tracks.

  • It could be that dreaded word problems constantly make your student scratch his or her head.

Whatever it is (and it could also be a few different areas), make sure that you and your child are on the same page and can work toward strengthening those skills.

[RELATED: How Parents Can Help with Elementary Homework Challenges]

Spend a set amount of time every day on math

Once you’ve figured out the trouble spots, reach an agreement with your child about spending a set amount of time working on those skills—even ten minutes a day can make a difference. Perhaps your school sent home a math packet to work on, or perhaps you can review division flashcards together. Varsity Tutors also has an extensive collection of grade-appropriate online math help.

Find a math tutor this school year

Now might be a great time to find a math tutor for your student. The time right before school is crucial for getting your student back into the swing of things, as well as refreshed on concepts he or she has already learned. This sets your child up for immediate success. Finding a tutor now is also a good idea because by the time a student needs help, it is often a race against time to get him or her back on track. Being prepared before the start of the school year can eliminate stress and help your student feel more confident in math class. It can also help your child ace that first test, which is often a moment when confidence is either built or crushed.

Learn as much as you can about this year’s math expectations

Is there a math syllabus you can access on your school’s online parent portal? If so, read about the upcoming year and know ahead of time what will be expected of your student. If the teacher has a strict homework policy and you know your student struggled with this last year, talk with your child about what can make homework a better experience. If your student’s teacher is basing the grade on only three tests per semester, talk with your child about how to work on test preparation and note-taking strategies. See how accessible the teacher is and prepare any questions for back-to-school night. Remember, everyone wants to help your student do well!

Stay on track with math this school year

It’s wise to review and practice skill-building in the summer, but constantly communicating with your child throughout the year is necessary as well. There may be resistance and avoidance in trouble subjects for students. This requires even more checking in. This also means following up with the teacher if your student falls behind or is not understanding the material.

It is possible to make this year less fraught with tension in the math arena. Good luck to you and your student!


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