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Failing in Math? Part I

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Failing in Math? Part I

In an article previously written this year, I talked about learning difficulties faced by students today. The reformation of the school curriculum as well as the quality of teaching is two major reasons leading to unmotivated students in math. These, however, are extrinsic, incontrollable factors. Consequently, I would like to stress more on the intrinsic factors such that parents as well as students can do something to improve their math.

1. Evaluation – Math Scare Index: (check off from 1 to 5 where 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree)

1. I worry that my report card in math is lower than the class average
2. I don’t like my math class in school.
3. I don’t know how to ask math questions in school.
4. I think that I am illiterate in math.
5. I need someone to tutor me and to give me extra help.
6. I worry that I will lose my competitive edge in my career due to my lack of math skills.
7. Math is only one kind of intelligence. Even though I am not good at it, I still have other kinds of intelligence.
8. I am not good with numbers.
9. Word problems scare and trouble me all the time.
10. I don’t know how to apply math in my daily life.

Add your total score.
If you have: 10 – 18: You are very confident and are at the top of your math class.
19 – 26: You can easily catch up to be at the top of the class.
27 – 34: You are not alone. Most students are like you. Work a little harder and you will pass.
35 – 42: You are not confident enough in math and you need extra help.
43 – 50: You must find a professional consultant and get immediate assistance.

2. After doing the evaluation to find out where your child ranks in terms of math, you must find out specifically what kind of problems they face. Below are several questions frequently asked by parents.

a. How come my kids always get good marks on their homework but fail on their tests? To answer this problem, we have to find out whether they really understand the concept of homework exercises. When doing their homework many kids like to ask for the answer without wanting to understand how to get to it. Some kids need tutors just to help them with their homework, but critical thinking is much more important and valuable than getting the right answer.

b. Does it help to buy exercise books for my child?
Doing many exercises may help sometimes, but often kids just become robots, doing the same repetitive things without thinking. Some kids are even worse and memorize the answer key. Exercise books are mainly for more advanced students that want to do more challenging problems.

c. How do I know if my child really understands the concept or simply pretends to understand?
Whenever teachers ask students whether they understand or not, most respond with a ‘yes’. However, later on when teacher give a similar exercise using the same concept, most students cannot answer. In a typical classroom setting, each teacher is assigned to teach so many students with differing IQ levels and understanding. It is therefore almost impossible for a teacher to diagnose the specific problems of every student. Luckily, many parents accompany their elementary kids with their homework to find out where the problem is precisely. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for secondary kids.

d. My kid has been failing math at a young age. What can I do?
Failure is part of life’s experiences. Without experiencing failure, success is hard to come by. In this article (I), I offer an opportunity for parents to examine and to assess the problems faced by their kids. I will speak about ways for solving these problems in the next article.

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