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How to Bring Back Math Confidence in your High Schooler

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Math: How to Bring Back Math Confidence

The focus of math in high school is to prepare students for college education and career life. Topics covered include advanced geometry, algebra, test practice, practical math, calculus, and numerous real-life applicable practices. These topics may seem more challenging and complicated to students compared to topics covered in lower grades. Building confidence in math among high school students can be a challenging yet essential skill to master. When prior math concepts and skills are not master, Math because of a subject in school may create anxiety, stress, and huge frustration in any high schoolers. Confidence building is important because it helps students speak out about their problems, ask for assistance, and absorb high-level math concepts. Confidence also develops the ability in students to know the value of taking risks, making mistakes, and perseverance. How can you bring back math confidence in your high school child? Here are a few workable tips:


Power of Words: “NOT YET” for Every “I CAN’T”

When a student is discouraged and believes that they can’t understand a concept, assure them that math is practice and skills will build. Begin with replacing common words used when students express insecurity, for example, “I can’t” with “not yet” as a way of developing confidence in your child. The power of self-talk starts with our internal dialogue when challenges arise. Let the child know that failure in anything means there needs to be more practice, and understanding math will come. They will eventually understand with patience and practice. Also, avoid setting a time limit for your child to understand a concept. Let the student understand that it is okay not to get it right the first or second time, but they will eventually get it with dedication and persistence.

Encouragement Starts with EFFORT

One of the best ways to boost confidence in your adolescent child is by recognizing their effort. Praising a high school child’s effort and dedication in math despite the performance can encourage them to work harder and improve their performance. About 50% of adolescents suffer from self-confidence, and therefore they depend more on you as a parent to boost their confidence. Praising your kid’s effort in math can boost their confidence, which eventually will reflect some improvements. The effort comes with teaching them about the importance of hard work. Let your child realize that no people were born with mastered math skills, but rather, anybody can succeed in the subject with dedication, focus, and hard work.

Key Thought: General praise is not the overall goal but rather the recognization of their effort when presented with challenges in life. When done with focus purpose, practical action follows.

Avoid Overcorrecting but Rather Offer Support

As mentioned earlier, high school students within the adolescent age group mostly suffer from low self-confidence. When a child is overcorrected within this age group, especially for minor mistakes, there’s a large impact on confidence. It’s developmentally appropriate to seek independence but yet they need the adults around them. It’s a gentle find line of offering support compared to overcorrecting. The best thing to do is to let them complete the task and then, together, slowly and gently highlight the “mistakes” done and what could have been done instead. Remember, the student doesn’t have to get the correct answer; they only need to show effort and the desire to improve.

Key Thought: Highlight effort and desire for improvement in math.

Make MISTAKES is Part of LEARNING

The majority of students lack confidence in math due to the many mistakes that they make. Nobody loves making mistakes, and adolescents are not exceptions. High school students fear making mistakes, not realizing that mistakes are part of the process. Let your child learn that it is okay to make mistakes, despite being a major obstacle to success. Instead of criticizing a high school student for making a mistake in math, use the mistake as a platform for learning. According to Jo Boaler, the author of Mathematical Mindsets book, mistakes are a vital part of learning experiences and that it helps in brain development. High school mathematics students should learn that mistakes are not negative errors; rather, they are good learning opportunities.

Heal from MATH-PHOBIA

Aversion or fear of math leads to increased math anxiety, especially when a parent has their own traumatic experience with math course during their childhood. Parents need to change their own narrative and language around math and use words and offer thoughts, like, and math is awesome, and I always grew the most as a learner when I took on any math challenge. Simply language will help your high schooler develop their own confidence in math narrative. According to Boaler, it is a grave mistake for parents to tell their children that they were weak in math. Instead, she encourages parents who had a math phobia to familiarize themselves with the subject from a real-life perspective. They should have a positive attitude towards the course for the sake of their children. Parents can help their children be confident and successful in math by positively influencing the subject themselves. As a parent, you should get rid of your own fear of math from your own past experience to help your children love and excel in the subject.

In summary, you can bring back your high school’s confidence in math by:

  • Power of Words: “NOT YET” for Every “I CAN’T.”
  • Encouragement Starts with EFFORT
  • Avoid Overcorrecting but Rather Offer Support
  • Make MISTAKES is Part of LEARNING
  • Healing from Math-Phobia
References:
[*]Mathematical anxiety 
[*] Blazer, C. (2011). "Strategies for Reducing Math Anxiety"
[*]Sparks, Sarah (30 November 2016). "TIMSS: A Closer Look at Gender Gaps in Math and Science". Education Week. Education Week. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
[*]Spikell, M .Teaching Mathematics With Manipulatives: A Resource of Activities for K-12 Teacher. (New York: Allyn and Bacon, 1993)

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