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He Hates Math

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My fourth grader is struggling in math, and all we ever hear is how much he hates it. He meets with a tutor once a week, and I work with him nightly. But when a test comes, he bombs it. I believe he understands the subject, but makes careless mistakes because math isn't high on his priority list. How can I make math more interesting for him? I'm running out of ideas, and my husband is seriously considering retaining him.

A: You need to pinpoint your son's weaknesses in math so that he can improve his work. Can he recall all the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts quickly (under three seconds)? Can he easily handle working with double and triple digit numbers? Does he know how to read and do the appropriate math operations to solve story problems? By talking to his teacher and studying his daily papers and tests, you should be able to get the answers to these very important questions.

Children frequently hate math because they have a shaky foundation in the basic skills and find it very difficult to do the required work. Fill in the holes in your son's knowledge of math, and he should begin to enjoy it.

It's great that you and the tutor are working closely with your child. To maximize the benefit of this help, you must coordinate your efforts. Do go beyond helping him just complete his homework to helping him improve his basic skills and learn how to solve story problems.

In helping your son, you and the tutor should avoid relying solely on drill type work, as it can kill interest in math. Instead, find games that will let him use the skills he needs. For example, Dominoes and Twenty-one are fun to play as well as great ways to teach addition and subtraction. Learning stores carry many enjoyable educational games that will make math more fun for your son.

Retaining your son in fourth grade does not offer any guarantee that he will master the skills he needs in math. Instead, he needs specific help on his weak areas now.

More on: Expert Advice

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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