How to Help a High Schooler Struggling in Math Class

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When your kid was young, you helped them ride a bike, learn the alphabet and spot the difference between an oak tree and a pine tree. You helped because you knew how to help. You knew all the answers.

But now that they’re a little older, faced with the complex world of trigonometry and algebra, you may be scratching your head. Unless you’re a mathematician yourself, all those tricky concepts and formulae might look as foreign to you as to them.

So, how do you help a high schooler struggling in math class? How do you set them up for success when you aren’t even sure what “success” looks like?

That’s the question this article hopes to answer. You might not be able to solve their complex math equations for them, but here are a few ways to support and empower your young math learner. 

Be an Encouraging Presence

To start, you can be a source of encouragement. Experts like to refer to “growth mindsets” versus “fixed mindsets.”

The latter camp might believe that skills are inherent – you’re either good at something, or you’re not.But adherents to the growth mindset believe that skills are something you work toward; anyone can achieve them with the right attitude, effort and drive. Develop a growth mindset at home. Make sure your kid knows that they can be good at math if they put their mind to it.

You’d be surprised what those simple words can do for a young learner questioning their abilities.

 Consider an Online School

Perhaps it’s the environment in which they’re learning math that’s holding them back. Traditional brick-and-mortar schools require everyone in a classroom to keep the same pace, even if they find something challenging.

Online schools, by contrast, are self-paced, allowing students the extra time they need to absorb and understand mathematical concepts fully. Moreover, online schools (the excellent ones, at least) offer 24/7 tutoring to teens, so they never feel unsupported. Finally, your teen may find they learn better away from the distractions and pressures of high school social life. Look into an MCV4U, MDM4U or MHF4U course online to see if it’s right for your teen. 

Help Them Ask for Help

Asking for help is tricky, especially if you feel inadequate to begin with. It can feel like an admission of failure.

But that’s farthest from the truth. Try to recharacterize asking for help not as a weakness but a strength. All the best mathematicians needed help. Even Einstein had to ask his assistant for help on a mathematical problem! Asking for assistance is the sign of a curious and dedicated mind and should be encouraged. 

Get in on the Fun

Finally, get in on the fun. Just because you’re out of practice, it doesn’t mean you can’t re-learn math with them. Modelling dedication, tenacity and a love of learning might help them value those characteristics more. Crack open a math textbook and follow along – you might be surprised how applicable it is now that you have finances to worry about!


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