Learning Tips for Students Who Find Math Difficult
February 09, 2024
Math can be difficult to understand for many people, from high school students to business employees.
Math and reading test scores for 13-year-olds in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest level in decades, and experts warn that continued poor performance could threaten the nation’s economic competitiveness, reported the Associated Press.
Learners and workers in the U.S. may be intimidated by the many equations and formulae that come with calculus and trigonometry, but the help of technology and alternative learning tools can help make the learning process a lot easier.
Here are some tips to engage with math more effectively.
1. Give Math a Real-world Context
One of the best ways to engage a reluctant student in math is by giving it relevance beyond the classroom. Let’s take budgeting, for instance. Showing a student how percentages are used to calculate discounts at the grocery store can make math concepts more tangible and relatable.
When they see that what they’re learning has direct applications in daily life, they’ll be encouraged to understand and engage with these principles rather than feeling overwhelmed or disconnected. They’ll also see exactly how important learning this subject can be.
2. Implement Games and Puzzles
Contrary to what many students think, math can be fun! Integrating games and puzzles into teaching breaks up the monotony and makes students more excited to tackle hard problems. For example, playing Sudoku can help improve logical thinking and problem-solving skills.
On the other hand, a simple game of cards can subtly introduce probability theory. These activities increase engagement by making learning enjoyable while seamlessly reinforcing key math principles. This way, even the most hesitant learners will be able to appreciate math.
3. Offer Different Ways to Approach a Problem
Imagine you’re teaching how to find the least common multiple (LCM). Some students might be comfortable with the list method, where they write down multiples of each number until they find a common one. But, others may prefer the more popular prime factorization method.
By offering such diverse LCM finding methods to your students, you can cater to various learning styles, promoting engagement and enhancing understanding. This approach helps switch off any reluctance by transforming math into a more accessible and exciting subject.
4. Adapt Your Learning Tools
If your student is struggling, it may be time to switch up your learning tools. Incorporating visual aids or hands-on materials can help bring abstract concepts to life. For instance, using colorful abacus beads could make arithmetical operations more comprehensible for tactile learners.
Meanwhile, illustrated charts or diagrams might better appeal to visual learners by clearly depicting geometric shapes or algebraic representations. The key is finding what tools resonate best with your learner and leveraging them effectively in the teaching process.
5. Personalize Lessons with Interests
Capturing a student’s attention is half the battle, and integrating personal interests into math lessons can do just that. For instance, if your student has a fascination with sports like football, try incorporating statistics from their favorite game into probability exercises.
Or, if they love art, explore geometric shapes through creative design activities. The key is making math resonate with what they enjoy or are already interested in. This strategy makes learning exciting and helps learners see the relevance of mathematical principles around them.
6. Praise Effort over Accuracy
One of the most effective ways to engage a hesitant learner is by reinforcing their confidence. And a great way to do this is by celebrating their effort as much as if not more than, their accuracy. Cheer their persistence in working out a complicated math problem.
Or, praise them for sticking with an equation, even when they initially get it wrong. This attitude helps cultivate resilience and perseverance, which are essential life skills. Plus, it assures them that the classroom is indeed a safe space to learn, explore, and even make mistakes.
7. Foster a Growth Mindset
A crucial step in engaging a reluctant student with math is fostering a growth mindset. Remind them that proficiency comes with practice, and it’s okay not to have all the answers right away. Promote the idea that struggle is part of the process and each mistake is an opportunity.
Let them know that failure isn’t a reflection of their abilities or potential but a natural part of life.
Instilling this concept helps them perceive challenges as hurdles they can overcome rather than insurmountable obstacles, boosting engagement and nurturing a lifelong love for learning.
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Featured image credit: SonerCdem, iStock.