For Teachers

Building Math Skills in High School Students

By The Room 241 Team February 5, 2013

Students, by the time they are in high school, should hopefully be able to motivate themselves and be ready to take higher math classes like algebra, geometry and statistics. Unfortunately, in our American society many people have a fear of math and numbers, suffer from a lack of motivation and rarely have a strong foundation to stand on for the math skills required by high school courses.

According to Joseph R. Davis, author of The Essentials of High School Math, some students may need to take time to relearn some of those basic concepts before moving forward. What is good to do may not always be easy to accomplish since high school students are beginning to exert themselves by making decisions for themselves.

Even if the students refuses to take extra help to increase their math skills, it is important they understand that even careers that do not specifically require math still require a state of mind that is capable of analyzing certain abstract and fundamental concepts. At the very least, learning to overcome their struggles by persevering will be an asset in building character.

The following are ways to help high school students build their math skills:

  • Give Inspiration

Most students who “dislike” math or struggle with math skills merely lack the confidence to be successful. It is important to give each student a boost of confidence by finding an area that interests him or her and showing him/her how mathematics is involved. Even following sports teams require math in tracking stats. Find those areas, no matter how small, in which encouragement can be used to inspire the students to continue their hard work in overcoming difficult subjects.

  • Help at Home

Math skills are not just taught in school. If the student has parents who want to be involved, encouraging them to sit with their child and help them with the homework may make a world of difference toward understanding complex math skills. Set aside a specific time each week to review homework and answer any lingering questions over what he or she has learned.

  • Get a Tutor

Even if a parent has strong math skills, it may be better to have someone else help in homework if the parent/child bond is strained because of these study sessions. Finding someone with a solid math background and complementary personality may work better in connecting with the student. Sometimes all it takes is someone else with different ways of explaining something for the concept to click.

  • Learning to Teach Yourself

By the time children reaches high school, they should have learned study skills and how to teach themselves by reading directions and following examples. Sometimes it takes an adult to help guide a student through a rough patch, but teaching a child how to independently teach himself/herself is a vital skill set he or she will need for the rest of his/her life.

  • Put Away the Calculator

Calculators are excellent tools for higher learning, but students need to understand the basics by working out problems on paper before allowing a machine to calculate simple problems automatically. If a student failed to learn his or her multiplication tables, he or she will struggle with mastering algebra. Asking the students to perform problems and identify their weaknesses will enable them to focus work on those areas in which they are weakest. Then, things are more likely to fall into place naturally.

  • Use Math Daily

Using daily situations to allow the child to practice are a huge benefit. Have the students practice tallying the cost of the groceries before you get to the checkout. At a restaurant, ask them to calculate the tip. Ask them to figure out how long it will take you to drive to the next rest stop while driving at a particular speed when you’re on a long trip. Activities in the house, like knitting, cooking, and gardening all offer mathematical concepts for the student to practice.

No matter what the parental involvement is at home, the student can be encouraged to participate by bringing back their designated questions. Working hard to build confidence in a child’s math skills is vital to his or her future success no matter what career he or she chooses.

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