Mom-to-Mom Support/7th grader is struggling in math

7th grader is struggling in math


My 7th grader is a bright, imaginative girl, excellent writer, but struggles in math. She has always had a very difficult time grasping concepts and calculating numbers, etc. She can not retain the math skills she has learned. Her self-confidence is greatly affected by this weakness of hers. We are still teaching her 6th grade math and she is 13! Her failure to learn math is a great source of stress for her and my husband who is teaching her. (I am much like she is…I don’t remember how to do 6th grade math!) We have tried Saxon and Singapore. We are thinking that maybe a math curricula that focuses on everyday math would be better for her. We truly believe she will never learn advanced math and we don’t want to waste her time. Is there something like a “shop math”? Thank you for your help. May God bless you for all you do.

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question!

Like with all subjects, it is important to start at the beginning. Obviously you don’t need to begin at the very beginning, but you need to find what level of math she is most comfortable with. You need to go back to where you know that she knows the material with 100% mastery and build from there. Every subject, but particularly math, is built on a foundation. And if the foundation of basic math skills is missing or shaky, I guarantee that your child will not succeed in this subject. If you and she just keep on struggling through the materials, it will only become even more difficult and frustrating for her.

So, first find the level at which she performs with ease. If you already know exactly which key areas she needs help in, then you know where you can start with her. At this point, I would not go any further in her math text, and instead start “filling in the holes” so to speak. Once you see what she is missing, you can start focusing your lessons on those areas. There are two books which you might find useful in filling in the gaps: Essential Math by Barron’s and Everyday Math for Dummies by Charles Seiter. You can also obtain math books that teach certain concepts and use those, as well.

There are many important aspects to apply when teaching math. One of the most important is providing plenty of practice and review. It is critical for the student to practice math on a daily basis, even basic math skills. Some teachers will often do a quick math review with even 6th and 7th grade students on basic addition and subtraction facts. There is a saying that “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” This is particularly true with math. The key is practice and review. You don’t even have to necessarily do this on paper. You can have her review them out loud in the car. You can take her grocery shopping, and let her figure out prices and change. You can have her write a chart of basic math facts, and hang them above her work station. She can use flashcards to practice. She can play educational computer games that require the use of math. These are just some different ideas that don’t necessarily need to be paper and pencil and can be taught outside math time. A student should realize that a subject isn’t just learned in that one hour, and then forgotten. It needs to be retained and used throughout his life.

Math is a very abstract subject. The concepts are hard to visualize and see. Therefore it’s important to make it as concrete as possible. For the younger grades, you can use manipulatives and hands-on activities; but you can also use pictures, graphs, and other resources that can help your daughter see what she is learning. Another activity to consider: have her “teach” a math lesson to you and your husband. When the student has to put it in his own words and explain what he is thinking, he gains an easier understanding of the concept himself. Tell her that she is the teacher and you are her students. She needs to explain the lesson and give examples. You can also use this time to ask her, the “teacher,” questions that are designed to help her think and visualize her response.

At this point, she knows that she has difficulty in this area and is probably frustrated. It’s important to highlight her talents and gifts. It’s difficult when your daughter is bright and quick in all the other subjects but has trouble in one area. It’s natural to feel a little impatient and feel that because she is above or at grade level in all her other subjects, she should be the same in math, as well. One of the pluses about homeschooling is that you can go at your child’s pace, whatever the level of mastery. Grade level is more important to a regular school setting.

Obviously it’s important for your children to perform at grade level, but if they need a little extra assistance, they can have that, without feeling the pressure of having to keep up with the class. It doesn’t mean that your child is below average overall, because she is not. It just takes her a little longer to process the math.

I think if you give her math lessons in which she has 85% – 100% success, this will help improve her self-confidence greatly. While she might not be destined for advanced math, learning those basic math skills will help her the most in real life, as she balances a checkbook and goes grocery shopping. Her improvement will happen gradually, and will take a great amount of patience, but I hope that she comes to realize how well she is doing and enjoys the subject as much as she enjoys her writing!

God bless you and your family!

Laura Corrigan

About Laura Corrigan

Laura Corrigan is a mother of five. She was homeschooled through high school and received her teaching certificate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has also homeschooled her own children.