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Jump on the train

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Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 4:00 am

When asked how I came to open a math-only learning center, my first response is simply that there are quite a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I just happen to enjoy both math and kids. But that’s just the simple, conversational answer. The deeper issue for me is the child’s self-esteem, and I wanted to be able to positively affect that.  So for me, math is just the vehicle.

Math is the perfect vehicle because it is definitely a subject with the power to make students feel stupid. They can feel like “everyone else gets it, but it’s just a mystery to me.” Every standardized test lets them know that they are below their peers. Every report card reminds them that they can’t hack it. Every homework assignment a torture as they feel frustrated and confused.

Possibly more than any other subject, math is a train that leaves the station in first grade and never slows down. Many students fall off the train at some point and soon begin to believe that they can’t ever get back on because so much of it has simply passed them by. Without some real help, they won’t get back on, and that will have a life-long impact on their self-esteem and confidence.

Jumping onto a moving train can be tricky, but it can be done.

First, run along side. Do some math that your student can accomplish two or three times a week. It doesn’t have to directly correlate to what’s going on at school - just math they can handle. Then start chipping away at the things they never really understood when they first saw it at school. This might be material covered last year, or even earlier. No worries, we’re making progress.

Next, jump on board. We’ve now seen that we can move in the direction of the train without even being on it, so we’ve built the confidence that all is not lost. That confidence empowers us to be willing to attack a problem and ask questions.

Finally, start walking up the train toward your car. That is, keep filling in those gaps from previous material and the confidence will continue to swell. Hopefully your student ends up in the right car, ready for what comes next with a solid rebuilt foundation that makes the rest of the ride more comfortable.

In the end, not all students will be able to understand all of the math that is required of them in today’s schools, but when they have succeeded more than they had thought they could, they reap the reward of a positive self-esteem based on their accomplishment.

But what of the student who simply cannot make math make sense no matter how hard they try? In all this math work we need to maintain the loving, caring relationship that values the student more than the math.  That student needs to know that he or she has intrinsic value upon which a positive self-esteem should be built. Don’t let our education system convince them that they are less than what they should be. Math is not a measure of value.

Mathnasium is a franchise with over 330 locations and over 35 years of experience. We teach math in a way that makes sense to kids. Children don't really hate math, what they hate is being confused, intimidated and embarrassed by math.

Learn more about Mathnasium at MaranaMath.com or call 407-MATH (6284)

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