8 Tips to Improve Your Math Grades if You're Underperforming

Jan 15, 2019 | Tallahassee

Students who struggle in math can get discouraged.  As a parent, you may be asking the question: what can you do to improve and change things for your child? 

-  Step one: Identify the reasons a student is underperforming. 

-  Step two:  Develop a learning plan to tackle the problems. 

Mathnasium of Tallahassee and our math instructors focus exclusively on math tutoring and have valuable resources to help students achieve success.

At Mathnasium of Tallahassee, we see a few common themes when students struggle:


  • Elementary School:  Often elementary school students have challenges when doing multiplication and division.  Fractions, especially fractions with unlike denominators, become a point of confusion.  Challenges with factions can have a negative impact on a student’s math abilities for years to come until this skill gap is finally addressed and the student can show mastery of fraction skills. 
  • Middle School:  Gaps in math foundations of students who scored well in elementary school will become noticeable in middle school pre-algebra classes.  Fractions can often be a source of frustration. Students who struggle with multiplication will then struggle with concepts such as greatest common factor or lowest common multiple.  If a student begins taking Algebra 1 in middle school, two challenges often emerge.  The first relates to a student’s math gaps, such as not understanding the difference between GCF and LCM.  The second, regardless of a student’s ability, they are not prepared for the volume of work.  Algebra moves quickly and students often find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the pace of the class and the amount of Algebra homework they receive.  Even students who have been successful in math in the past can suddenly feel like things are moving beyond their control. 
  • High School:  By high school, most students are into Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, Calculus and Statistics.  Geometry can often pose a challenge for students as they struggle with the spatial aspect of the subject.  Algebra 2 can be difficult because students are out of practice on their Algebra skills after having spent the previous year in Geometry.

While the reasons for a student’s struggles may be varied and plentiful, there is time to adjust and finish the school year on a positive note. 

Here’s a list of eight strategies and tactics that can help change the direction of a student’s math learning:

1. Stay Positive
In the face of a lower than expected start to the school year, it’s natural for a student (and parents) to become frustrated, disappointed, or even defeated.  Do not give up.  An important step in improving the situation is to stay positive.  Negativity can only exacerbate the situation.  With hard work, and the right learning plan, you can achieve success. 

2. Identify Where You’re Struggles are Rooted
Before a plan of action can be developed, it’s necessary to pinpoint what is impacting a student’s performance in math. Is the decline or slow start a sudden change vs. last year’s performance? Are certain math concepts always troublesome?  Often, challenges can be traced to concepts that were introduced earlier in a child’s math education and the student was unable to achieve mastery, even if they passed the test with a good grade at the time.  This is why Mathnasium of Tallahassee gives each new student a math assessment. It is likely today’s challenges can be traced back to earlier concepts that were not mastered or have been forgotten.  Simply focusing on tonight’s homework and tomorrow’s test doesn’t allow a student to get to the heart of their issues for long-term success. 

3. Acknowledge it’s OK to Ask for Help
Some students and parents are uncomfortable with the idea of asking for or seeking academic assistance and math tutoring.  Many students at Mathnasium of Tallahassee acknowledge the main hurdle they overcame in starting their math tutoring experience was simply admitting it was OK to ask for help. They had done well in the past, and in their minds, getting math tutoring was seen as a failure or weakness on their part.  In fact, admitting that you can benefit from help and then taking the appropriate steps to get that assistance is a sign of great strength in a student (and adult). 

4. Actively Engage and Ask Questions in Class and with a Math Tutor
If students are relying on the answer key in the back of a text book (yes, many of your child’s math books have answers in the back) or looking up answers online and then just using what they read on a website, it may help them get through the homework assignment, they are not truly learning.  Often, students suffer from poor grades because they do well on the homework assignment but then struggle on tests.  While test anxiety may play into it, there is a likelihood it’s related to the student getting through the homework with outside resources (i.e. – answer keys or math websites) and as a result they don’t truly understand what they are learning and are unable to apply the concepts on tests.  If a student doesn’t understand something, instead of taking short cuts, it’s beneficial to ask questions.  Ask math teachers. Ask math tutors. Students who may be embarrassed about asking questions in class can rest assured that asking questions with a math tutor at Mathnasium of Tallahassee is easy.  During one-on-one instruction, the type of tutoring environment provided at Mathnasium of Tallahassee, the student is more comfortable asking for additional explanations and clarifications.   

5. Develop Priorities and Get Organized
Keeping notebooks, backpacks and desks organized allows students to focus on the work vs. being distracted by clutter, lost notes and missed assignments.  Time management also plays a factor in creating optimal learning environments.  Daily classwork, homework and extracurricular activities all compete for a child and their family’s attention.  By developing daily, weekly and monthly plans students can ensure they are fitting in time to study and practice math skills.  Whether it’s sports, playing an instrument or math, consistent practice leads to long-term success. Children may be underperforming in math class because they are not devoting enough time to studying and practicing for math tests.    

6. Find Your Learning Style
If you’re struggling in math, a possible solution is to find a different way of learning the material.  The Mathnasium Method is designed to teach math in a way that makes the most sense to a student.  There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to math.  Parents realize this when they try to help their child with math homework, only to have the child explain that’s not how they are learning it today.  Some concepts the student will immediately understand in class.  In other cases, they may need alternative teaching methods or techniques. Once a student can answer a math question using one technique, they more easily understand the approaches being used in class.  At Mathnasium of Tallahassee, our best-practices in math education allow for students to truly master concepts using the best learning style for the child.  

7. No Procrastinating
Students struggling in math will develop a habit of avoidance and procrastinate when it comes to doing their math homework and studying for tests.  Unfortunately, putting off the work only leads to more complications.  Social media, video games, streaming videos … these all serve as a temptation to delay starting.  This eats into the time that could be used to get the work done.  Needing to rush through the work or forcing the student to stay up late compounds the stress of math homework, leading to arguments between children and their parents.  Creating a dedicated math learning window can help keep students focused.    

8. Make Math Learning Fun
Yes, math and fun can go together.  Sadly, many students struggle in math because they have lost their confidence and motivation to learn.  If math has become a chore, Mathnasium of Tallahassee can help turn that around.  Our math tutoring and teaching methods, including games and techniques that relate to children, lead to an enjoyable experience and reduce stress and anxiety surrounding math.   


While past math academic performance may not have gone as hoped, it’s never too late to improve the situation.  In fact, many times students who employee techniques to improve their math learning see it carryover into improvements in other subjects as well. 


You may also be interested in reading:

3 Tips to Achieve Math Tutoring Success at Mathnasium of Tallahassee

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Math Tutoring and Homework Help

Elementary School Math Instruction

Middle School Math Instruction

High School Math Instruction

Algebra Tutor and Homework Help

Geometry Tutor and Homework Help

Frequently Asked Questions

More About Mathnasium of Tallahassee

Mathnasium of Tallahassee, located in Bannerman Crossings, teaches math in a way that makes sense for students in elementary, middle and high school. Customized learning plans produce results for students seeking gifted and advanced math enrichment, tutoring assistance to catch up, math homework help, and test prep for the SAT and ACT.

The Mathnasium curriculum and the Mathnasium Method combine to benefit students at all levels of their math education. The development of number sense leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, improved performance and greater confidence. This growth aids students in their classroom work, standardized tests, future education and career plans.


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