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Math Trouble

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

Q: My daughter has a real problem with math. I've talked to her math teacher, but frankly, his attitude is: "She's just nervous." I've had her stay after school for tutoring with this teacher, but it's just not working. She says that he doesn't try to explain the steps to her. I've noticed that if I try talking with him about her concerns, he just says, "She's nervous." I'm really at my wit's end. I've spoken to the school counselor, who said she'll talk with him. Also, she suggests a private tutor, but I can't afford that. Any suggestions?

A: At all grade levels, math is a subject that builds on previous instruction. For example, if your daughter hasn't learned her multiplication tables, then division will be difficult for her.

Go back to your daughter's teacher and ask him the following questions to find out more about why she is currently having math problems:

  1. Does she have gaps in her math background? If so, what are they?
  2. Is she working on grade level? If not, what grade level is she working on?
  3. What did her last standardized test scores reveal about her ability in math? What were her strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Does she turn in all her classwork and homework? What is the quality of that work?

The answers to these questions will give you a more complete picture of your daughter's math abilities. It's more important to address her math skills than to say that "nervousness" is causing her problems. Most students are not nervous about math if they are confident about their math abilities. Resolve your child's difficulties with math and her nervousness should disappear, unless it is caused by this teacher.

Tutoring definitely is an excellent way to strengthen your child's math skills. Explore the possibility of getting free tutoring by contacting the education department of a local college or university. Also, many high schools have lists of students who will act as math tutors for a very reasonable price. Furthermore, if you work well with your child, you should try to improve any areas in which she has weaknesses. The teacher should be able to advise you on specific ways to help your child.

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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