How often do you hear from students, “

*I just don’t understand math.*” Or even more, how often do you hear from a parent, “*I never got math so Trevor doesn’t either.*” I can’t even begin to count in my years of teaching the number of times I heard this. When I moved from elementary to middle school I definitely heard it more, and not just because I had six times the number of students.When I hear from students they just don’t understand it I think it is really important to get to the root of the resistance or even reluctance to understand. Where/when did things get hard for them in math and you are sure to find a place to start. I like ot use the analogy of building a house or a building. Every year we as teachers must build upon the foundation that is presented to us. When there are gaps from the prior year we have to make sure to fill those in and if we don’t make sure the holes are filled then there will be gaps in learning.

The gaps that start out as just a brick here and there in elementary grades can slowly make a building unstable over time and therefore causing issues as students continue in their education. If a student hasn’t mastered mulitplication in fourth grade then that definitely affects them as they move into mulitplying decimals where they also need to know place value. It continues to move on and effect them as we work with formulas and able to substitute values in knowing the order of operations to use so they may correctly multiply.

Now, what can we do about the parents thinking? As a math teacher I workd hard to let my parents know that difficulties with math are not genetic. However math difficulties can be a learned behavior. When a parent becomes frustrated because they aren’t able to help their child they will start giving the excuse that they never understood math and that may be true but we can give them tools to help them.

**Empowering a child with different ways to fill in their foundational gaps is what will help them build upon their learning and connect it to what they know.**What does this mean for us as teachers? As a teacher I know that we are required to teacher our grade level standards to our students but we also can’t just gloss over what they haven’t learned in the past to cram things in during the school year. Spending time to find activities for your students that will help differentiate the learning going on in your classroom to meet the needs of your low, middle and high students is crucial.

We must take the time to meet students on their level and build successes at that level so they will start to feel intrinsic motivation to keep working on toward the end goal of being on grade level or even advanced. Building connections and relationships where we share commonalities is just as important as well.

I’ve found some great activities that I think could definitely benefit your students who are struggling and need that extra oomph to get steered in the right direction…

4. Chain of Circles by MissMathDork

**Now what can you do this week to change the thinking of a student in your classroom? How can you take away the negative notation of math and start building a positive foundation without gaps?**

Leave me a comment, I would love to hear!

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Pamela Arnold says

Amen! I read this thinking about how many times I’ve heard the same comments. One of the core things that I do is share with them that I had big problems with math in middle school and that if I can teach it, they can learn it. They need to understand that we make mistakes and have had struggles as well. I also do a lot with partnering (very deliberate in my pairings), purposeful talk, emphasizing that a mistake is a learning opportunity, student response signs that they can hold up , and as many opportunities for collaboration as I can create. I also do a lot of small grouping which helps a lot.

Jennifer Smith-Sloane says

I love that you emphasize mistakes are part of learning. I had the saying “Mistakes Are Proof You are Trying!” As our class motto and I would say it at least daily!

Lisa Dreher says

It’s the parents that I have no ideas on what to do. I have tried holding parent math nights, where I go over certain items that are common problems, but the parents who need to be there never show! With the students, I attempt to show great enthusiasm for the subject. That seems to get and keep their attention, because they are never quite sure how I will react to a correct or incorrect answer. When I do problems on the board with them or as an example, I usually put an error in, and explain to the kids that yes, I make mistakes as well once they point it out-they are always looking for them. This seems to put them at ease, sometimes.

Jennifer Smith-Sloane says

You hit the nail on the head- those who need it most won’t show! We have to do whatever it takes to reach them. My classroom blog with email subscription did just that. I had to twist my way of responding parents and have them go there first. I will definitely bring that up in a post in this series.

teresa walter says

how do you figure out what the missing bricks are? Students can’t express it. I as a techer can tell they struggle. it’s the missing pieces that is hard to find.

Jennifer Smith-Sloane says

Great question Teresa! I am working hard to but all of that into some upcoming blog posts based on my experiences with students and reluctance in math. I truly hope that they will help you.

Tchur8 says

Great post! I hear the same things so many times. I’ve also got a couple of your recommended supporting materials and found a couple new ones. Thanks for the post and sharing!

Mme Aiello says

As a French teacher, I hear the same thing regularly. It irks me the most when it relates to a student not completing work that I send home for practice. I *do not* expect the parent to do the work, but if I’ve assigned it to a student, then I *do* expect him or her to do it, and to ask for any clarification needed. Considering my students have my email address, there is little excuse for them NOT to.

All I really ask from parents is not to pass on the “I know how you feel; I hated it too” attitude towards certain subjects. Times have changed, mom & dad, and we are NOT the teacher(s) you had in middle school.

Jennifer Smith-Sloane says

So true, so true!