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Help Your Students Master Math Worries

Jan 9, 2008
Of all subjects taught in grade school, math seems to be one of the ones responsible for the most worries among students. Often this isn't so much concerned with their ability to understand the problems, but rather than a lack of belief they can actually achieve a good grade in this subject. They are so concerned about not being able to understand that they block their own ability, and getting over this math anxiety can be all that's needed for them to improve their grades.

Often this nervousness about math comes from a bad experience quite early on their education. This may have been a failure on a relatively simple test, an inability to understand a basic math principle or a bad grade. That one incident will have been enough to destroy their self-belief that they are smart enough to study math and get a decent grade. As with most things, self-belief is one of the hardest things to build up, one of the easiest things to destroy, and yet it has an ability to control the outcome of our efforts. They don't believe they can do math and so they can't.

The good news about these math worries is that it can take a very simple success experience in the subject in order to restore confidence in the subject. Math is about understanding certain analysis techniques and once these are mastered they are easy to implement. Unlike many courses that have subjective answers to tests and assignments, math is one of the school subjects where answers are likely to be right or wrong - no middle ground. Get the right answer and show how you got there, and you're likely to get a high grade.

For the first few classes work on building confidence in your subject area. Keep instructions simple and make sure all of the students understand the principles you are teaching. Even if it feels that you are going too slowly for the age group, you can always make this time up later in the year, for now the important thing is to instill each of your students with that self belief that they are able to succeed in math, it will allow them to pursue the rest of the year with confidence.

Giving your students plenty of practice with the simpler exercises of each math principle before moving onto to more complex ones will also allow them to experience the success of getting the right answer and so they'll be more confident to go onto the more difficult ones.

Taking time with those who find the principles more difficult in the opening weeks of your class will pay off in the long run as you'll see a higher percentage of students who are getting high grades in your subject. They'll also take less time in additional coaching/questions later in the year if you do the preparatory work of self-confidence in math building now.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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