When Should Your Child get Math Help or Tutoring?

Mar 15, 2017 | Novi

Your child should get math help as soon as you notice them struggling, or even before that. If your child is struggling they probably have a math gap.

Math gaps are like blisters on your feet. Have you ever gone for a walk and gotten a blister? What happens if you keep walking and don’t stop to cover it up with a bandage? The blister gets bigger and more painful until you can’t take it anymore.  You might just stop walking. Or perhaps you have a high tolerance for pain and you just ignore the blister until it pops. If you still don’t treat it and keep walking, the raw skin will then get infected and even more painful. Blisters are not medical emergencies, but ignoring them and continuing on without intervention is a bad idea. They get worse and cause grief. Kids can’t, and shouldn’t, stop doing math. So the best intervention is to close the math gap.

Math Gaps in the Foundation

A math learning gap is a skill or concept that should have been mastered, but wasn’t. New math skills are developed using prior skills. For example, strong multiplication skills is helpful to learn factoring and division.  If students have only a superficial understanding of multiplication and division, they may learn to get through the third grade math curriculum by relying on algorithms (step-by-step procedures). Then when they get to more complex arithmetic in fourth grade, like long division, they will struggle because of a learning gap from multiplication, place value, or subtraction.

The primary grades lay a foundation in skills such as:

  • Counting
  • Proportional thinking
  • Number sense (understanding how numbers relate to each other)
  • Numerical fluency (the ability to work with numbers easily)
  • “Wholes and parts” or fractions
  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division

Math Gap Intervention

Think of math skills like the popular game Jenga®. If the tower gets built solidly from the foundation up, you can keep adding layers of blocks, almost indefinitely. A kid with a solid foundation of math skills from elementary school and up can keep progressing to more and more advanced math strands. But what happens when you start pulling out blocks from the base of the tower? The tower gets less and less stable until it eventually falls over.  

At Mathansium of Novi, we like to get elementary age kids as young as seven or eight, into our center to look for math gaps. That way we can close math gaps before they try to add more skills on a shaky foundation. Correcting the math gaps of young children has a long lasting effect on their math success and their confidence level. 

Math Gaps in the Middle Grades

Upper elementary school and middle school is a turning point in mathematical education. The curriculum evolves from concrete concepts to abstract concepts. Concrete concepts are ones that are easy to prove with actual objects. In the primary grades a student can use objects to discover that 40-31= 9. When students work with more abstract concepts, like determining the rate of acceleration, they rely on their abstract reasoning and previous arithmetic foundation.

Not every child makes this transition to abstract thinking easily. Some children need extra time and support to master the new way of thinking. If the child still has a math gap from elementary school, the transition to abstract mathematical thought is doubly difficult. As middle school children start to close their math gaps, you can see their entire attitude toward math shift. They stop saying things like “Math sucks!” and “Why do I have to learn math anyway?”  Little by little, they will think of math as a challenge they can tackle.

Math Gaps in High School

Algebra is the study of symbols and the rules for manipulating the symbols and variables to solve for unknown quantities. Basic, or elementary algebra requires students to have a solid grasp on the arithmetic from middle school and elementary school. If a student doesn’t understand the underlying concepts of basic algebra, all other strands of advanced mathematics will be agonizing. If your child is struggling or struggled through basic algebra, do not let this math gap fester! High school students who make it through calculus have a much better chance of making it through college math and science courses.

It is much easier to address a math gap in the freshman year than the junior year.

Early is Best but … Better Late than Never!

The sooner the intervention happens the better the outcome. That doesn’t mean it is ever too late! Even if you are an adult considering going back to school, but worried about college math courses, we can help you. It is better to get individualized help to address specific math gaps than to muddle through another agonizing math class.

Math Intervention

If your child has an undetected math gap, our assessment will find it. Then we will create an individualized learning plan to address the gaps. Like covering the blister, it will heal. You will watch your child’s math confidence soar.

Our approach at Mathnasium of Novi is different than a tutors. A tutor helps with homework, or studying for a test, but doesn’t address the root cause of the problem- the math gap. The Mathnasium Method has been proven to deliver results.

Call Jennifer Kakaley today at 248-679-4448 to find out which Mathansium Program is right for your child and schedule a free assessment or free trial.


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