Math Myth Buster #3: "The Black Hole of Math”

Oct 14, 2015 | Wildwood

Like lot of parents, Bailey’s* mother came to us because she was struggling in math class…again. Bailey has passed all of her math classes but not without a lot of extra support. In the past, Bailey’s mother has hired a private tutor and she regularly goes for extra help after school.  

Bailey’s mother is grateful that she’s passing, but she’s also resigned herself to the fact that Bailey will require extra support until she graduates from high school, and perhaps beyond.  She explained, “We’re doing everything we can so she can just get through math. We’ll all be happy when she never has to take another math class again.”

Since teachers have an obligation to keep pace with the state curriculum, students who struggle with math typically don’t have time to fully develop the skills that they need as building blocks for future concepts. After school tutoring helps students to develop knowledge of the skills currently being taught, but sometimes just enough to pass a test. Students never actually master the skill, and so when it’s time to use that skill as a basis for another concept, they quickly become lost.

Those gaps accumulate until they’re like a black hole, and soon the student feels like they’ve lost all footing. And their parents feel like they’re throwing money down a hole just to keep their child afloat.  At Mathnasium, we help students address current homework challenges, but we also spend a significant amount of time “filling the black hole.”  Our assessment helps us identify the skills each student needs to learn. Then we build an individualized learning plan to organize those skills into chunks. Students are able to tackle them at their own pace and (finally!) gain mastery while still keeping pace with their school work.

The Mathnasium method helps students connect one math concept with the next and learn math in context, rather than as series of disconnected “steps” or “formulas” to memorize. We encourage students to use mental calculations and number sense as a starting point to figure out problems, rather than relying on a process that doesn’t have any meaning to them.  Mathnasium students learn “how” but more importantly, they learn “why.” And we fill the gaps. This means that students are actually able to emerge from the black hole and continue succeeding in math without extra help.

If you haven’t had a chance to learn about the Mathnasium method, we hope you’ll schedule an appointment for a visit. Your child CAN learn math, and we’re here to help.

Dave Bannen
Center Director, Mathnasium of Wildwood
[email protected]

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