Overcoming Math Challenges

Overcoming Math Challenges

If your child has failed a class, then you understand the frustration that young students feel when they fall behind. It’s easy for them to believe they’re stupid when their peers grasp material that sounds like gibberish to them, especially when every attempt to understand it leads to the same dead ends and mistakes as before. Math especially is difficult for those without an innate understanding of it because even though it’s based on consistent, mechanical principles, numbers are too abstract for some to be able to grasp without help.

Luckily, math intervention research has put new tools in the hands of teachers and parents to help students. By identifying those who are at risk of falling behind as early as possible, supplemental instruction can be crafted according to their needs that reaches them when it’s most critical.

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is split into three tiers. Tier I encompasses students that generally perform well but have had some recent difficulties. Tier II students function below their grade-level and require more in-depth instruction to correct their course. Tier III is the most intense intervention, and it’s reserved for those that have persistently under-performed and are at serious risk of failure.

The science behind various methods is still a little shaky, but the overall results are promising. One researcher suggested that teaching whole numbers between Kindergarten and 5th grade, and then rational numbers through 4th and 8th grade, would improve results, but so far the data doesn’t back it up. Systematic instruction, on the other hand, has shown to dramatically increase a student’s understanding of the subject. While one-on-one instruction isn’t possible in most schools, students still receive a greater amount of feedback on their work, and they’re asked to explain their reasoning so the teacher has an easier time grasping how the student reached their conclusions and how to get a correct outcome a higher percentage of the time.

If an educated professional isn’t available to help a child, there are computer programs that might be able to help. As we learn more from math intervention research, more and more companies are stepping up to the plate with RTI courses that combine the best methods into a comprehensive and consistent whole. Nothing beats one-on-one interaction with a teacher, but when tutors and teachers are unavailable, unaffordable or understaffed, these programs give kids a fighting chance.

The end goal isn’t just to improve grades; it’s to ground math in the real world and show its various applications in ways that are compelling to students. Understanding math is important, but what’s even more important is passion for learning, and the ability to reason through problems and reach a satisfactory conclusion. That’s where conventional teaching methods fail their students, and it’s why math intervention is necessary in the first place. A child that can use what they learn is far more likely to comprehend it, and a child that loves what they’re doing will overcome every problem they face along the way. This research is important because it provides more information on how the human mind works, but the best solutions involve personal contact, quality feedback and even a hint of passion.