Smashing Outdated Myths About Getting Math Help

May 23, 2017 | Novi

Recently during a conversation, a parent was reluctant to admit that her child was getting help from a tutor. She felt a little embarrassed that extra help was required and her daughter wasn’t able to just “get it”. This suggests there are some myths out there that create a stigma around getting help to enable your child to succeed. Contrast this to parents of prospective athletes who are excited to let everyone know that they are investing in lessons to help their child become more skilled in athletics. Why is this perceived differently?

Let’s take a moment to dispel some myths about getting help, specifically in math.


Myth #1 Bright children learn math without much effort.

Research studies show math achievement has much to do with attitudes and methods and not simply innate ability. As one example of research, Stanford professor of math education, Jo Boaler, has outlined in her book, Mathematical Mindsets, how the brain responds to positive approaches resulting in improved confidence and ultimately success. Even a “bright” student who is able to grasp math concepts may be hindered by methods used.


Myth #2 Children who struggle in math at school just aren’t very good at math.

Children learn in different ways and at different paces. Classroom limitations and curriculum choices make it difficult for a teacher to maximize every child’s potential. Trying to accommodate all the different learning styles and paces is very challenging.  Unfortunately, reality is that they don’t always accomplish this nor is it realistic to expect this.

Children have different strengths when it comes to learning math. Some math students can memorize facts quickly, others require visual examples, and still others perform better with the use of manipulatives. If a child is struggling, it may be more of not connecting with a method that is being presented in class, possibly due to the curriculum that has been selected. This doesn’t mean the curriculum is bad or that your child has a problem….it just may not be right for your child.


Myth #3 All students who get outside help are behind in math.

Many students who seek supplemental help may actually be at or above math grade level. Their reason for pursuing help is to challenge themselves above what is being taught in their class. Being able to stay challenged will help the student remain engaged and avoid losing interest due to boredom.

Many also seek help to prepare for upcoming ACT or SAT tests. Some students are looking to improve their score to reach the threshold required for acceptance.  While others may be looking to improve their score enough to be awarded academic scholarships.


Myth #4 They get plenty of math at school. They shouldn’t need any more.

Like sports, success comes to people willing to log the extra hours and invest in opportunities. Many nations around the world have programs providing extra help to ensure all students are getting everything they need to succeed. The extra practice pays off as shown on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The top seven countries in math are from Asia and employ these methods. By contrast, the US ranked as number 35 out of 72.

Marc Tucker in his article, Asian Schools Take the US to School, notes these nations first acknowledge the problem that not all students will be able to keep up and if not addressed, will fall further and further behind. To help combat this, formal programs are in place for students to get back up to speed as soon as possible -- even if it means coming into school earlier in the day, staying longer, or coming in on Saturday. In the US, there isn’t yet the commitment from parents and schools alike to pursue something as formal as this.

In the absence of these formal safety nets, there are very good outside supplemental programs to fill the void. Given that the top performers in the world are getting extra help to succeed, this should be motivation to use this best practice to get the same help for our own children. After all, aspiring athletes wouldn’t hesitate to look to the top performers in an effort to duplicate their success.


Myth #5 Learning gaps only happen when a child misses school.

Children lose learning opportunities due to all kinds of situations.  Stress and health issues can lead to children struggling or retaining information. A mismatch of learning style to teaching style, poor study skills, learning disabilities, and individual developmental differences affect math learning and retention. Children who need glasses or hearing aids, but aren’t yet aware of the issue or don’t bring them to school, lose valuable instruction. A distracting classmate will affect instructional and learning time. If you think your child has a learning gap it’s important to address it right away because in math each concept builds on the previous one.


Getting Math Help Is Actually Smart

Are you one of these parents who keep it quiet about your child needing math help, or worse yet, don’t get help at all because of the stigma associated with it?  Now you know the best math students in the world get all kinds of help to succeed and you’re actually the smart one to seek extra help. And this extra help has little to do with your child’s innate ability to learn math.

Mathnasium is a great place to start with getting your child the help they need.  Our method identifies very specifically their individual needs to help them catch up and get ahead. We teach math in a way that makes sense to them because everyone learns differently and works at different paces.  This is the basis behind our individualized approach, whether your child is attending to catch up or be challenged.

Contact Jennifer at (248) 679-4448 and learn more about the right program for your child.  Have them come in for a free trial session and watch your child light up with interest in math again!


This article is copyright protected. Mathnasium of Novi is the only Mathnasium with permission to use it. For more info visit

Photo Copyright:'>stockaerogondo / 123RF Stock Photo