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News from Mathnasium of New Caney

Why do Kids Struggle with Algebra?

Jul 29, 2019

Related Topics:  Elementary School Math Tutoring  |  Middle School Math Tutoring  |  High School Math Tutoring  |  Algebra  |  Geometry |   4 Tips to Better Performance on the STAAR Test   |  Frequently Asked Questions   | Math Myth Busters

Why do kids struggle with Algebra?

We’ve asked algebra teachers what skills they wish their students were better at coming into Algebra class? Their answers were always the same 3 skills: Multiplication facts, Fractions, and Integers.  So why are kids universally weak in these 3 areas?

  • Multiplication facts – Most k­ids just don’t know them well enough. They’ve learned a song or jingle to help them count up by instead of just learning an individual fact.  This makes them always have to take the long counting route to come up with the answer.  If they get off on their counting along the way, they end up at the wrong answer.  Since Algebra­ has so much multiplication in it, the faster they can pull the facts from memory, the more efficient and less frustrating the work is going to be. At this point, kids are also now able to use calculators, so they start to get out of practice on their basic skills.  They lose the ability to check the reasonableness of the answer given by the calculator.  In fact, there are many area of Algebra where calculators cannot help.


  • Fractions - In all of math, fractions are the skill that most kids lack. Usually when a fraction shows up in a problem, there is no quick review given to remind students how to do it. In fact, we see many students skip the problems that contain fractions. The problem is, most of your daily life contains fractions: 1/2 tank of gas, 5/8" wrench, 3/4 cup of sugar. Our kids need to feel comfortable with fractions, so they can function as adults.  For more information on why kids struggle with fractions, visit our fractions page.


  • Integers – Positives and Negatives. The two questions we are asked all the time are, “Do I add or subtract?” and, “Is the answer positive or negative?” If you depend on remembering the rules, you will probably get something backwards. Instead, if you think of the number line as a ladder, it makes more sense. If 0 is ground level,  we go up (Get bigger) when we add and go down  (get smaller) when we subtract. It also helps to remember that a negative sign just means we are doing the opposite.  Now an integer problem becomes a series of three questions:
  • Where do we start?
  • Which direction are we going? (are we getting bigger or smaller)
  • By how much?


So, let’s say we are trying to figure out -3 + -4. We start at -3. Then we need to add, which usually means we get bigger. But we are adding a negative number, so we do the opposite. This means we are actually getting smaller by 4, so we end up at -7. (See the graphic for example)


The fact is – unless your child has a solid foundation in these skills and confidence in their ability, they will continue to struggle in Algebra and beyond. The skills and concepts are only going to build and become more complex, so making sure they know what they are doing now will set them up for success.


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What is @Home?

  • Mathnasium@Home is the same quality math education you’re used to from Mathnasium delivered on a new online platform. 

How does Mathnasium@Home work?

  • Students and instructors will log onto our virtual classroom to work together, just like in the center!
  • We’ll prepare a customized learning plan for your student based on their most recent assessment. If you’ve been attending in center, your student’s learning plan has been digitized so they can pick up right where they left off.
  • Instructors will work with students at up to a 3:1 ratio, where as the centers were at a 4:1 ratio.

Do visits have to be scheduled? What times can students "attend"?

  • Yes, visits do have to be scheduled! Please speak with your Center Manager and center directly to request your scheduled dates & times.
  • We’ve expanded our hours of operation to better meet the needs of families while their students are out of school. @Home instruction will be available 5 days a week. 

How long are sessions?

  • Session type based on your current grade level in school - not your Mathnasium level
  • Below Algebra 1 - 60 minutes
  • Algebra 1 and above - 90 minutes

Can you help with schoolwork?

  • Absolutely! You can email your Center Director a picture or scan of your student’s homework and we’ll include it in their next math session.
  • It would be very helpful to send us the homework, in advance, so we can prepare and upload the work to our online platform.

Do we have to share audio/video?

  • Audio and video sharing are highly recommended but not required. There is a chat feature in the classroom that will allow students to type their questions, but we’ve found it much quicker and easier to communicate with students verbally. This will also mimic their experience in-center!

Do I need any special software or equipment? 

  • You just need a laptop and a decent internet connection! 
  • Headphones are recommended to minimize distractions during your student’s session.
  • Students are welcome to use Wacom boards, mouse pens, and touch-screen laptops if they wish. These are not necessary, normal instruction can take place with a mouse and keyboard!​
  • iPads and mobile Apple devices are not supported by the platform at this time.
  • Some laptops with restrictions do not allow our platform. If you are logging on with a school-provided laptop, it may not be able to load the classroom.

Do I need to pay extra?

  • Nope! Mathnasium@Home is the same cost as in-center instruction.

Can I switch between regular and online? Or supplement regular visits with online?

  • Because we create a specialized curriculum for students, it isn’t possible for us to switch them back and forth between online and in person quickly. Because of this we require you to commit to one method of instruction for each calendar month.
  • You should communicate with your Center Director about your student’s needs to pick the best delivery method for them.

How do I sign up? 

  • We’re currently working to get all of our current families situated on the new platform before we enroll any new customers. If you’re a current family, you should have already received information about the onboarding process. If you’re a new or returning family, please fill out the lead form above and we’ll contact you!