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News from Mathnasium of Ft. Worth West

High School Math Triple Whammy

Aug 2, 2019

High school students face three challenges regarding high school math.  These challenges develop sequentially and often work together to eliminate options for college and careers. 

High School Math Challenges Explained

First, the rigor of high school math requires students to focus on Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.  This high school math sequence can and does, consistently highlight conceptual gaps in Fluency, Parts & Wholes, and Proportional Reasoning; note that fluency is the foundation of getting to, from, or by any number with ease.  A student's ease with numbers typifies fluency, however, it is better described by its symptoms like finger counting, the inability to describe half of odd numbers in particular two-digit numbers.

Second, these conceptual gaps usually translate to average or less than average results on high school homework grades and painful results on high school math tests and quizzes.  Poor high school math grades can wreak havoc on a child's high school grades and therefore high school class rank.  Class rank is instrumental when gaining access to desirable colleges, not to mention scholarship money. 

Third but certainly not last is achieving a successful score on the SAT/ACT.  As students enter their junior year, the struggle in high school math usually leads to weak scores on the math section of college aptitude tests like the SAT and ACT.  Even students that have managed decent grades and class rank can take a solid verbal score and ruin it with a weaker showing on the math portion of the exam.  We often see well-intentioned parents with bright students where weak high school math grades make a great showing on the SAT/ACT incredibly important and necessary to offset the lower high school grade point average and class rank.  The typical response is to look for a high school math tutor.  The high school math tutor, also well-intentioned, will typically respond by providing direct help on high school math homework.  This approach will give some lift to grades, but many high school math classes are heavily weighted toward tests which, despite tutoring, typically continue to underperform. The other high school math scenario, which is equally frustrating to high school students and parents, is a temporary lift in grades (usually as a result of homework help) only to slip away the next semester or the following high school academic year. 

Parents of High School Math Students

Parents of high school children are often left with the question of, "Why doesn't this work?" Preparing for high school math does not start in high school math; it starts with specific training in the conceptual elements of fluency, parts and wholes, and proportional reasoning.  High school math tutors do not have the tools or curriculum elements to remedy this.  Using an approach that pre-identifies gaps and filling these gaps in conjunction with homework and preparing for tests are essential to having a permanent and material change in high school math grades. Besides, this approach is necessary and frankly the most effective in raising the math portion of your ACT and SAT scores.

How To Solve High School Math Problems

The important distinction to make when finding a solution for your student is to ensure that the student is in the right setting with the right curriculum and instruction. Instead of letting these challenges conspire to hold your student back, intervene, and address these challenges so they work for your student; remember they are all connected.  Start early, even if you are finishing 9th grade, you can still turn it around and make significant strides heading into Geometry and Algebra II.  Homework help is usually the first line of intervention.  When you pick the right partner, it becomes highly effective to use homework problems as the basis to introduce the missing precursor math concepts that are the root cause of the current math struggle.  Also, high school math students will respond well as they see this as an immediate stress reduction and usually want to do more.

More success in homework leads to improved confidence and improved high school math grades.  Higher grades drive up GPA and class rank.  High school students and their parents can capitalize on the resulting lift from the high school math interventions and use this newfound empowerment and confidence and carry it into the next summer.  Now the student can give more time and attention to cleaning up the gaps.  This should also include a preliminary review of the topics that tend to trip up students in the next year of high school math.  As your student improves fluency and conceptual understanding, this then blends into the antidote to the math section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT and ACT. 

There are a couple of notes of caution.  Given the time constraints high school students have, it is crucial to make wise decisions when parents commonly search for a math tutor near me for high school students. Several questions need to be answered.  You will need to ask if they use a diagnostic to formulate a game plan.  This does not mean a grade-level assessment; in other words, your student is in 9th grade, so they give a ninth-grade math assessment.  What you need to listen for is that they use a legacy assessment.  This is the type of assessment that not only test the current grade but also has a series of questions that test the math topics that support the current grade. Don't be afraid to look at the assessment and notice if it has material from grade school and middle school, as it should.  Here is a brief example, students struggling in algebra need to be fluent in fractions, comprising both computation and number theory.  Fraction computation questions should determine if your student can add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions. 

Number theory focuses more on their understanding of how fractions work.  For example, can they order fractions that are close together?  Can they convert individual fractions to their two other forms decimal and percent? Do your high school math tutor instruction methods allow for independent work?  In other words, without the right combination of teaching and independent work, your high school math tutor will not be effective in achieving the independent thinking needed to perform outside of the tutoring environment.  Does your high school math tutor have a curriculum designed to teach conceptual math and curriculum elements that go back as far as your student needs? If yes to all of these, then you have met an excellent high school math tutor. If not contact us.

For more information about our approach and the science behind our methods contact one of our Mathnasium Centers in Fort Worth, Willow Park, or Weatherford for a free assessment and gameplan to help your high school student survive and thrive in math.