Help Your Student Avoid Learned Helplessness When it Comes to Their Math Homework and Test

Feb 24, 2020 | Alamo Ranch

At Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch, our trained math educators often hear from families that their child can do their math at home but struggles in the classroom on quizzes or tests.

Whether you work with your child, or they work with an older sibling or even a private tutor, they may be developing “learned dependence,” also known as “learned helplessness.” Our trained math instructors identify this in many of the students we see during their initial assessment process.  It can impact advanced and struggling students alike. 

Learned dependence or learned helplessness, is a side effect of well-meaning “tutoring.”    Unfortunately, we have seen first-hand when students work with their parents, siblings or untrained private tutors that instruction isn’t really instruction.  It’s more like guiding and very common in and around the Northside Independent School District. 

The student is not really learning, but instead, they are being guided toward the correct answer.  The net result is the assignment may be completed, but actual learning and understanding does not take place. 

When students come to Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch for a free assessment, their learned dependence can be quickly identified.  Often, as they are writing on the paper, they never actually look at the paper or their writing, but they continue to look at the instructor sitting across from them. The student is waiting for a reaction from us. Instead of knowing they are on the right path, they are seeking a physical or verbal indication from the Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch math education professional to confirm it. 

So, how does the Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch team of expert instructors help break the cycle of learned helplessness, or avoid it in the first place?

After our proprietary assessment process, we create an unique learning plan for each student.  After all, each student is unique, with an individual learning style. Our instructors are teaching each student individually. 

During your child’s one on one math tutoring at Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch, the instructor is going to actively teach math and review the material with the student.  Then, as the student starts to show an understanding, the Mathnasium instructor will ask the child to work independently.  This gives our Mathletes the time to process this new math information without the pressure and stress of being watched. It also prevents learned dependence, or learned helplessness, where the student feels that they need someone sitting in front of them all the time in order to be successful.  

After all, we can't be there for their math tests!

The Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch instructor will return to the student after a few moments to ensure they are doing the problems correctly.  If we find they are making an error, we are able to step in before it becomes a habit and reteach the concept using a different method until the student truly shows an understanding of it.  This helps your child to become a confident, independent learner.

If students are simply trying to “get the answer,” it may help them get through the math homework assignment. Families may want to be engaged in their child’s academics, but if they are not truly learning then they are not making progress. 

If a student doesn’t understand something, instead of simply getting through that night’s assignment, it’s beneficial to ask questions.   Students who may be embarrassed about asking questions in class can rest assured that asking questions during their math tutoring at Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch is easy.