As interesting as the subject is, over the years, math has got a bad reputation among the younger crowd. In fact, for many students, practising math is not something that comes intuitively or automatically, it takes plenty of effort. Survey reports even suggest that 37% of the students aged between 13-17 found math to be the most difficult subject. (Source)
This goes without saying that these overwhelming numbers of students struggling with math are not simply because of a short attention span. From learning difficulties, anxiety to lacking basic concepts, there are many reasons why students are not drawn to math as a subject. Before we jump into the methods to help students overcome math problems, let us first discuss the common causes due to which students struggle to learn math:
1. Basic Concepts Are Not Clear
The most common problem while learning math is that students lack an understanding of the basic concepts. Think of math as building blocks, you need to first lay the foundation before moving forward. And if the foundation is not laid properly, the blocks will fall apart. Similarly, only if your students have a clear understanding of the basics, they’ll be able to move ahead in class. For eg. to reduce fractions, students need to know division and to solve linear equations they need to be thorough with arithmetic processes.
Many students also find it uncomfortable to admit their difficulty with a certain topic in the class while the teacher has moved to the next lesson. This is the main reason why students start to lag behind in class.
2. Method of Teaching
Teachers should lean towards methods of teaching that are easy to comprehend. But more often than not, the techniques, steps, and formulas taught are not only difficult to understand but also to apply in the real world.
If students struggle with grasping a certain method, they will not be able to remember it after class. It is important in this case, that teachers modify their method of teaching to suit the entire class.
3. Lack Of Practice
Many students simply don’t spend enough time practising math concepts. Even though students have a thorough understanding of the math lesson, without practice the concepts will be lost on them. This may also stem from a lack of interest in the subject or topic.
Sometimes students will feel like they understand a concept, but when attempting to solve a problem themselves, they end up struggling through the process. It is, therefore, important for teachers to take time to revisit math topics that are difficult to grasp and help students practise it frequently by taking tests every now and then.
Read our blog on how to motivate your students in the class- 5 Effective Tips For Teachers To Motivate Their Students In Class
4. Attention Disorder & ADHD
What you might pass off as ‘not paying attention in class’ can be the emerging signs of ADHD in certain students. Students with attention disorder are prone to drifting off during class lessons and might find it very challenging to follow the teacher’s instructions. As a result, they miss important steps in the problem-solving process and later struggle with math when trying to solve problems on their own.
Children with ADHD also tend to rush through math problems. Because of the low attention span, they might not read the entire question and as a result, skip steps or make mistakes. They put down answers impulsively or their handwritten work might be messy and hard to read.
If you notice your students struggling in a similar way, it is important to guide them and give proper attention during and after class.
Tips To Help Students Overcome Their Struggle With Math
1. Try Different Approaches
As mentioned before, not every student can cope with a particular method of teaching. Therefore, if your students are struggling you might want to switch to a different approach that is more engaging and easier to understand.
Many teachers have turned to modern approaches like game-based learning to help engage their students better in class and also to make it easier for them to understand. Game-based learning also helps students with short attention span to engage with class lessons since it is essentially a video game that they focus on.
You can try puzzles, brain teasers or use an online math platform like Prodigy to assist you in class. Prodigy is a free game-based math platform for students that has numerous math challenges and puzzles for grades 1-8 which helps them in solving curriculum-aligned math problems while battling monsters, earning badges, going on quests and more. This math platform is specifically built to engage students so that they are able to solve math problems and learn about new topics in a fun and interactive way without losing any focus.
Learn how Prodigy helps your students in the class. check out Prodigy here- https://india.prodigygame.com/
2. Start with easier problems
If your students are having trouble understanding basic concepts or applying them in practising math, it is important that you start with simpler problems that they can solve easily. These simple questions are useful in developing their concepts and also grow their confidence. It has been found that students attempting the hardest problems first tend to lose interest in learning when they cannot solve them. So, always start by giving simple problems and gradually move onto difficult sums.
3. Start with easier problems
This goes without saying that students need to practise math regularly, irrespective of whether they are struggling or not. Solving different mathematical problems regularly would help students understand and grasp the basic concepts of the subject. Therefore, as a teacher, you can help your students to practise math by giving them homework on a regular basis. Especially when you are teaching challenging topics like trigonometry, geometry and such, practising it daily will get their mind acclimatised to the different problem-solving techniques.
The most important thing to understand is that struggling with math is a common occurrence among students and that it should not demotivate a student. Many children end up lacking confidence in themselves and feel like they are not ‘smart enough’ because of their struggle.
As a teacher, your first step should be to make them feel comfortable about making mistakes and build their confidence. Using these tips will go a long way in helping your students overcome math anxieties.