Math can be challenging for anyone who feels like they’re not good with numbers, and young children often have an even harder time grasping the subject. Some students seem to struggle to understand it, and teachers are in the best position to help them navigate this challenging yet enjoyable subject. However, how can you practically help students who feel apprehensive about math problems?

**To help students who struggle with math, foster a growth mindset, encourage them to view it as a challenge and a learning opportunity, and conduct practices to hone their problem-solving skills. Providing timely feedback is also crucial to help them improve.**

This article will provide teachers with proven techniques to help students who struggle with math. Keep reading to learn more.

## 1. Foster a Growth Mindset

Research has found that students labeled weak at a young age tend to reinforce that thinking in their minds and underperform throughout their stay in school. So both teachers and the student’s parents need to encourage them to perform better instead of labeling them as weak or unable to solve a math problem independently.

Calling on more capable students often to answer math questions during class activities does not help those struggling to understand, as it only reinforces their thinking that they will never be able to solve math problems.

Encouraging students, especially those who find math challenging, to view math as a series of solvable problems can foster a growth mindset and motivate them to exert their best effort to answer the questions. Moreover, let them know it is okay to make mistakes along the way.

## 2. Identify the Most Challenging Topics

Teachers should be able to identify which math topics most students seem to struggle with first. It might be understanding place value or variables.

Ask whether there was a misconception among the students or a misunderstood step. Asking them where they struggle can help you focus on the topic and identify possible ways you can provide support to help them understand that concept better.

Once you have identified the topic, you can develop your lesson plan to ensure that the skill required to understand the math concept is practiced.

### Pace the Discussion When Your Students Seem To Struggle

Suppose you notice your students having difficulty understanding the lesson. In that case, you need to stop proceeding to the next topic or step and ask them whether they can still follow the topic you’re discussing.

If they cannot, go back to that step and make clarifications easier for students to understand.

Another way to help struggling students in math is to adjust teaching strategies if necessary to ensure no one gets left behind and everyone understands the topic well. Not every child benefits from the same learning style, so teachers must be able to develop strategies that cater to every young learner.

## 3. Address Students’ Math Anxiety

Not everyone is good at math; some may even be anxious whenever they see a math problem. Some studies suggest that a student’s environment can affect how they view math. Here’s a YouTube video from TED-Ed for a deeper discussion about math anxiety:

However, it’s vital to let the students know that it is normal to find math challenging and that there are ways for them to improve.

**Here are some ways teachers can help address their students’ math anxiety**:

- Veer away from the thought of identifying students as either a “math person” or a “non-math person.”
- Tell your students stories of people who became role models in their field with the help of mathematics. Katherine Johnson, for example, applied her advanced mathematical skills to help NASA send astronauts to the moon while overcoming gender and racial hurdles. Connecting math to real-world outcomes or situations encourages your students to perform better in the subject.
- Show numerous strategies to solve a math question and allow students to decide on their preferred problem-solving process. You can also ask students to brainstorm their techniques for solving a problem and present them in front of the class. This way, students will deeply understand the steps behind the math question.
- You can let students resubmit some of their work if they seem to have genuinely tried but couldn’t reach the correct answer. Giving them this opportunity motivates them to self-reflect on their calculations and pinpoint their own errors.
- Create low-floor, high-ceiling math problems to let students of different learning levels master their problem-solving skills without feeling defeated at failing to solve it or bored because it is too easy for them. Check out some example problems here.
- Encourage your students to discuss their strategies before solving a complex math problem. This will make students feel challenged by the math problem and better at dealing with it.

## 4. Boost Students’ Confidence

Sometimes, your student may need that extra boost of confidence in tackling math.

You can increase your students’ confidence with inspiring messages telling them that they are capable of achieving the learning objectives.

You can also offer rewards or give compliments should they be able to ace their math quiz or show great effort and participation during the lesson. In connection with the growth mindset I discussed above, teachers must praise their students based on their ability and effort to solve math problems during class activities rather than their intellectual capacity.

## 5. Ask Relevant Questions

Apart from building your student’s confidence through inspiring words, it also helps if you can give your students relevant questions to help them gain a deeper understanding when solving math problems and answering questions.

Giving questions with real-life examples, such as buying items in a grocery store, dividing pizza among several people, or ratio and proportion questions based on real-life situations allows students to apply the mathematical process and the correct formulas to familiar situations.

Making math problems more relatable highlights how essential and useful math skills are.

## 6. Practice As Often as Possible

An old saying goes, “**practice makes perfect**.”

As you provide your students with several daily questions to boost their confidence in answering math questions, it’s also important to practice solving them as often as possible, if not daily.

If your students practice consistently solving several math problems, it helps them build the confidence to answer questions during a quiz. It also helps them memorize the formulas used to solve problems and how a math question is constructed and answered.

Practicing solving math problems doesn’t have to end in school. You should consider contacting the parents of those who find math challenging and encourage them to help their children engage in math problem-solving at home. Send parents helpful information and resources so the learning is consistent across the school and at home.

Nonetheless, you don’t want your student to despise math, so the work you expect them to do at home shouldn’t be as rigorous as what they do in school.

## 7. Allow Students To Work in Small Groups

Let some students work in small groups when solving math problems. This allows you to focus on a small number of students at one time, ensuring you can provide the appropriate support to those who might be struggling with math.

Group work is also an engaging and meaningful method where students can learn from their peers instead of always relying on the teacher.

You may want to group your students according to their abilities and change these groups from time to time, as their needs vary depending on the math skill they’re focusing on.

Each group can also have different math problems to solve at one point. As mentioned, not everyone will struggle with the same topic, and as the teacher, you should recognize and address the individual areas of development your students may have.

## 8. Use Technology in Delivering Math Lessons

Children these days love technology, and they may find lessons delivered through a computer, phone, or tablet more interesting than how you would generally deliver them to your students in person.

Several online and digital resources are available to help you and your students practice math topics. These include:

I would often use these math games and resources when revising or consolidating math concepts. They act as a great incentive for students to pay attention during teaching so that they have the understanding needed to get a high score on the game.

## 9. Focus on Basic Math Fluency Facts

It’s essential to have your students be fluent in basic mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Suppose they are not fluent in these operations or any foundational math concepts. In that case, your students will have difficulty understanding most other math topics or struggle to solve more complex problems.

You’ll want to provide exercises revolving around these operations to refresh their memories on solving problems using basic math operations.

Again, practice makes perfect, so encourage students to keep revising the basics until they are confident enough to move on to other, trickier problems.

## 10. Use Visual Aids to Solve Math Problems

Some students require help understanding math problems because they are presented in a text block. Teachers may use visual aids like pictures, charts, graphs, and diagrams to help students understand the question better and increase their engagement.

In addition, math manipulatives can further help students with a visual or kinetic learning style. This includes using cubes, counters, fraction blocks, etc., to make learning more hands-on. Here is a video outlining the benefits of using math manipulatives and how they can be incorporated into a math lesson:

## 11. Make Your Math Lesson a Game

Young children enjoy playing games; therefore, a great way to make math lessons more fun is to develop games incorporating the lesson’s topic.

Teaching math lessons through games can make students develop a positive view of mathematics, viewing the subject as far more enjoyable. It also allows them to confront their fear of making mistakes and taking risks. Employing games as a teaching strategy can provide more significant learning opportunities for young children.

Besides the online platforms mentioned above, I also like to create printouts. Games like snakes and ladders, bingo, tic tac toe, and jeopardy can easily be adapted to any particular math topic.

## 12. Enrich Students’ Vocabulary

Most math problems are presented in text paragraphs, so the student’s reading comprehension is crucial in successfully solving the problem. If students cannot understand the question, we can’t expect them to come to the correct answer, however secure their math fluency may be.

Since elementary school teachers generally teach all basic subjects to their students, they should be able to reinforce their students’ reading comprehension by enriching their vocabulary during the reading class.

Reading strategies like visualizing and inferring are valuable skills when tackling math problems. For instance, ask students to draw a visual representation of the problem. As they read each part of the question, they should be able to represent the information visually, thus making their comprehension of the problem more accurate.

Another practical activity is to familiarize students with the key terms related to math operations. For example, students should know that if they come across words like “total,” “altogether,” and “increase,” their calculations should involve addition. Whereas if the question contains “difference,” “fewer,” or “less than,” then they are being asked to subtract.

## 13. Provide Timely Feedback to Students

Teachers must provide feedback to students (and their parents if necessary) about their progress in their math classes. Knowing where they currently stand and how they can improve is essential.

Here are some tips you can consider when providing feedback to a student struggling with math (or any other subject):

- Give your feedback to the student on time. It’s best if you can give it as soon as possible. Research shows that those who are given feedback immediately significantly increase their performance compared to those who receive feedback later on.
- Be specific about the feedback you provide. Enumerate what went well and what the student can improve. Refrain from giving sweeping generalizations as feedback.
- Explain clearly to the student why you are providing the feedback. This is to avoid misinterpretation on the part of the student receiving feedback. Make it clear to students that the feedback they receive will help them progress to achieve their learning goals.
- If possible, ask your students to have a look at their work and allow them to provide feedback on their own answers. This will promote self-awareness and independence skills.

## 14. Never Give Up on the Student

The last thing teachers want to do is to give up on students who struggle in math or any other subject. If students feel in any way that their teacher has given up on them, they too will believe that achieving the necessary math goals is a lost cause and will have minimal motivation to learn.

Giving up because of their lack of ability is also a manifestation of a fixed mindset, which will demotivate the student further from learning how to solve math problems. The student will also feel less valued inside the classroom.

On the other hand, a patient teacher who continually supports struggling students demonstrates the importance of resilience and commitment, as well as shows students that they care.

Teachers must remember that students learn with the right tools and appropriate support. A teacher’s job is to identify students’ needs and develop ways to make their learning more accessible.

## Conclusion

Teachers are well-equipped to help struggling students achieve their academic goals. They’re in the best position to encourage students to face challenges and improve.

Some children view math as daunting, but educators can develop ways to make the subject engaging and accessible. Young students can enjoy learning lessons if teachers deliver them through fun activities.

It’s also important to give time to your students to practice their problem-solving skills so they feel confident about applying the steps taught to arrive at the correct answer, or by coming up with creative solutions all on their own.

## Sources

- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: Nine Ways to Catch Kids Up
- Braintrust Tutors: 8 Strategies for Struggling Math Students
- Classroom Management Expert: How to Handle Weak Students in the Classroom?
- Cuemath: Top reasons for weakness in math and how you can help
- Edutopia: 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback
- Math Learning Groups: How Can Weak Students Improve In Maths?
- National Library of Medicine: Timing Matters: The Impact of Immediate and Delayed Feedback on Artificial Language Learning
- NRICH: Low Threshold, High Ceiling
- Point-to-Point Education: How to Provide Effective Feedback to Students
- Prodigy: Child Struggling with Math? 12 Signs and 7 Ways to Help
- The Real School: How to Teach Weak Children Mathematics: Maths made Easier for Kids
- University of Cambridge: Learning Mathematics Through Games Series: 1. Why Games?
- YouTube: Help your Struggling Math Students!
- YouTube: How to Ease Math Anxiety in the Classroom
- YouTube: Math Manipulatives