How to Handle Grade 5 Math Homework with Grade 3 Math Skills

One of the hardest things about teaching and tutoring is the unidentified remedial student. A kid can be in Grade 5 but at the third-grade skill level. That’s a problem. It’s one thing for them to be in special education. It’s quite another when that need is unknown.


The Scenario

Let’s say the student gets tutoring for third-grade math. Since he’s a fifth grader, he’ll still be getting fifth-grade math homework. Even with tutoring, he’s still responsible for getting it done daily. This is presuming that he’s applying himself with the tutor. It won’t help him much to try studying both simultaneously. Chances are pretty good that the tutor isn’t trying to help him do that. In fact, the tutor probably wonders how the student managed Grade 4 math if he wasn’t ready.



It’s not the current teacher’s fault he’s been assigned beyond his comprehension. The tutor knows that. How did the Grade 4 teacher deal with the chasm in the student’s learning? The same could be asked about the Grade 3 teacher. These questions aren’t about finding fault with faculty. They’re about discovering the root cause.


A Shared Issue

The biggest fear is that the student won’t pass to the next grade level. With that comes social shame, peer ridicule, and humiliation. Probably no adult wants to put a kid through such academic trials. Without prevention, it will create cyclical stress every April or May. “Am I going to pass?”


Solutions and Sacrifice

The best thing is tutoring that begins at the level of comprehension. Cost and time should be distant considerations. Tutoring remedial students isn’t like tutoring a good student for a weekly test. It takes far longer. The Grade 3 skills should be reviewed. Then the Grade 4 skills should be taught when the student is ready. Following competency in that, Grade 5 skills can also be achieved. However, there is no telling how long this could take during a school year. Starting early is an advantage.


Parental Monitoring

Some schools perform a similar function with specialized attention (IEPs, etc.) and reassure parents that it works. During the next school year, the truth will be known. If the result is negative, the previous faculty are off the hook. The documented results on the reports will not be investigated or identified as lies. It happens, but it can’t be the end. That’s the time for parents to be proactive.


No Time for Quitters

Obstacles to executing this advice are typical. Many families find tutoring unaffordable. Others that qualify for free tutoring are not as cooperative as they could be. Numerous students are unwilling to make that extra effort despite its long-reaching benefits. The major sacrifice is that the assigned grade-level homework will be either undone or poorly done. Forward thinking proves that the skill deficit will eventually stop. The earlier in the student’s education this occurs, the easier it is to tolerate and overcome. Summer school is a recourse if needed. Quitting is an easy move. Fight!


Why Writing Is a Healthy Outlet

Writing is cathartic. That’s nothing new for a reason. It’s the point of having a diary or journal. For teenagers, emotions are a major focus. Trying to balance their new emotions with their maturity can be hard. That can be due to the growing pains caused by inexperience. Misunderstandings can lead to trouble, even unintentionally.

The adults in their lives may still see them as children. There’s driving, dating, and college to consider. Becoming an adult represents many things. But the day is right in front of them. They have to get through the moment or a recent disappointment. That’s the beauty of a journal. It can be used to capture sensitivities and honesty in a private space without judgement or standards.





How to Solve Your Kid’s Math Issues

If a student has an aversion to math, there’s a reason. Parents think it’s that the kid doesn’t “get it.” Picture an iceberg. It’s nothing compared to what’s below the surface. No one’s looking there when it comes to math hate.

The student knows what is under that water. He or she probably has flashbacks about it so often that it goes unnamed and unspecified. Therein is the mystery, aka the root cause(s). It can be more than one thing. Anybody with a problem started out with just one. It increased in number every time they were introduced to a new topic or the next math course. The parent probably doesn’t know this regardless of the type of school. Guess what? The kid is keeping it all but the vague “I hate math” to himself or herself. It’s beneath the cloud of current math assignments. The thing left unlearned is now the rock inside of a snowball becoming an avalanche.


Thinking Back

Maybe everything was fine in 1st and 2nd grade math. If so, that proves there was no math issue then.

Say the student now has an issue with math in 3rd grade, which is common. What if the kid never masters multiplication tables? Unaddressed, he or she goes to 4th grade with a hole in math knowledge. When he or she starts studying long division, that will be a big problem. Dividing 1,542 by 30 requires multiplication skills. The neglected situation will rear its ugly head during fractions. Why? They are division problems that get added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. They will also convert to decimals and percents, which also get the same treatment. The next thing you know, they are unable to function at the assigned grade level for math. All of this happens by the age of nine or 10.

That’s how an issue returns with a vengeance.


Shortcomings of Social Promotion

Sometimes parents are unclear about the progression of school subjects. Parents may think that the next course could prove the solution for years of struggling. They really believe that the right teacher or situation will break the cycle.

Math builds on principles previously learned over time. That’s because they are foundational. Every principle or topic is the basis for another math premise. It doesn’t improve long-standing issues. Who removes the toddler from the wading pool to throw it into the ocean? It actually happens often, mathematically speaking. That’s why kids struggle with math. The old problems are never addressed or mastered before trying to teach them more math. Drowning is likely. Think of it as an infection that goes untreated. The acute becomes chronic. Antibiotics might come to mind.


Reality Check Cashing

It’s difficult to catch up a student that far behind in math.

  1. Teachers only have so much time for it. After all, they may have other students.
  2. Teaching assistants are in the same boat. They have time limits based on their job descriptions.
  3. Willing tutors need far more time than they’ll get. There’s usually an hourly limit or agency policy that prevents them from doing more, depending on the school. That’s assuming all parties are on board.
  4. Many parents don’t want to pay for tutoring. It’s a temporary expense, but…
  5. Some parents can’t afford it. Enough said…
  6. The student has to juggle math at the current grade level with the remedial topics. That’s a great deal of work they’re probably unwilling to do. Focusing on both is hard. They probably don’t want to do extra homework. It is asking a lot by that stage.


The Solutions

Math Without Pressure (Ages 13-17) is remedial math for the holes in math knowledge. It is also aimed at those who are not ready for pre-algebra yet.

Pre-Algebra You Need to Know includes a remedial math refresher. It is for:

  1. Those ready for pre-algebra
  2. Preventing issues with higher math for the algebra-bound
  3. Students who have taken it before and still struggle with courses beyond that



Easy Ways to Handle Algebra

Algebra is one of those issues. Students have a stigma about it. They believe the hype presented by their peers. The buildup is that algebra is hard. To kids, that means either painful or impossible, both of which could be untrue. Kids don’t think for two seconds that another kid’s defeat can’t make him an authority when they’re in the same boat. They start discrediting themselves based on someone else’s situation instead of believing in their history of successes. In other words, they made it this far, so how bad could it really be?

Changes Happen to Everyone

They let themselves be stumped by change. Between shifting hormones and peer pressure, they can be misled. Some are easily persuaded. That’s why they all have parents.

Parents are proof that difficulties eventually pass. They’re kids that made it all the way to adulthood. Despite hard lessons, disliked teachers, hateful homework, and useless courses like algebra, they thrived. Clearly, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Look for Clues

They don’t realize the similarities between new subjects and old ones. There is a pattern that they don’t see. Gifted or perceptive kids may identify it. Otherwise, it takes experience or age to reveal it. That means parents are more likely to notice the blueprint. They passed middle school and at least part of high school. They survived. As such, they fit into the scenario with knowledge they didn’t realize they possessed.

The first time a kid sees a percent symbol, what does he or she think of it? It’s a new concept. What about the first time they discover that lower case “x” is also the sign for multiplication? A third example would be how the slash in a fraction also translates to division.

Actually, algebra just looks different from the math they’ve learned up to that point. It’s not even that. In reality, it’s just introduced in an unfamiliar form. Isn’t everything that they haven’t already learned? Fear of the unknown is common in children. School is a large part of their lives.

On the Bright Side…

There is good news. The algebra they fear and magnify on a paranoid pedestal has been in their lives since the first grade. Here are some examples:

1 + __ = 5 __ – 8 = 3 2 + = 6

1. It was algebra then. It’s algebra now. It just wasn’t called algebra. Every math problem with a missing number is algebraic. That’s the truth even when it isn’t mentioned.

2. This pattern continues into third grade when multiplication and division are introduced.

2 x __ = 12

12 ÷ 2 = __

3. In fourth or fifth grade, it’s part of fractions, percents, and decimals when converting from one to another.

50% = ½ = ___

Express as a decimal.

4. “Word problem” means “real life application of algebra principles without using the term ‘algebra’.”

A yard is 37 feet wide and 21 feet long.

How much sod is needed to landscape it?

5. Area, volume, and perimeter use algebra. They are included in geometry, the course after algebra. How many times have students been given such math before middle school?

By the time students take pre-algebra, they have been exposed enough to succeed before taking Algebra I. That’s because they’ve been taking it all along. Now both you and they can relax a bit.


7 Reasons to Take Assessment Tests

In high school, the pressure to be decided about life looms like a cloud.

  1. “What should I do for a living?”
  2. “What should my major be?”
  3. “What kind of job should I get?”
  4. “Should I have a job, a career, or both?”
  5. “What is the difference between those?”
  6. “What if I don’t want to go to college?”
  7. “What are all of my options?”

Students are tasked with a great deal of testing, usually to determine their readiness and the school’s performance. There is one test that doesn’t get taken. It’s an assessment test.

Assessment testing is widely varied in type and purpose. The short story is that these tests help students decide what they could do for a living. Based on what they like, what they know, or what traits successful employees in a certain industry display, these tests can take the stress out of choosing majors, jobs, and careers. In other words, they test personality and skills.


One well-known assessment test is the AFQT/ASVAB used for military candidates. It is a fairly thorough examination of a person’s knowledge in a number of areas. It tests for mechanical and mathematical knowledge, among other things. Each section of the test equates to a specific industry. The idea is to be assigned to the area with the best score. It almost ensures good job performance. Even better, this can be used to measure IQ. In an ideal situation, the selected military job will translate to successful civilian employment.

The different areas of the ASVAB test mechanical skill, math, science, and several other subjects. Each of those represents a group of numerous, fairly secure jobs that military members get paid to learn. This can be a boon for those with little or no work history. Career advancement can be easier as well.

Whether contracted for two years or 30, a military veteran has considerable professional knowledge compared to many civilians. The longer they served, the more they know. According to Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development, 45% of all veterans are more inclined toward business ownership.

The Human Metrics Jung Typology Test

For those uninterested in the military, there is the Jung Typology Test It pinpoints the personality type of the test taker. With that, decisions can be made about majors and jobs and careers based on the best fit for the type of person. There are four types, two of them introverted, two of them extroverted. Basically, the other factors are whether or not the person is a thinker, a judger, a sensor, a perceiver, or a feeler. Each possible combination of these aspects creates a different personality and outcome assigned to appropriate industries. Various personality tests are available at

No Faking Necessary

Anyone can don a façade and say he plans to go to USC or become a doctor or engineer. Why USC, one of the more expensive universities, which is private, by the way? Most people don’t have the longevity or persistence to become doctors. What kind of doctor? What type of engineer? The vague answers to those questions—along the lines of “I don’t know yet”– reveal the truth, which is that it was simply talk.

Assessment tests can identify the true interests of students. People settle for good pay on jobs they hate everyday. What’s more, they are stuck in them if they have families. Despite that, why refuse to explore other possibilities? That doesn’t require quitting or taking on the lifestyle of a starving artist.

The best thing about assessments is that they can help the test taker narrow down the many choices they have. They are necessary. How else is a student supposed to be motivated enough to do what it takes to succeed?

Some people just want to get a job. A career is a better choice because at some point, advancement or ambition is expected or required to stay valuable to an organization. Assessment tests help by addressing both situations at a foundational level.

The Official Site of the ASVAB Testing Program.

The Human Metrics Jung Typology Test,

Human Metrics,

Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans’ Business Development.

Albert R. Renteria, Founder and CEO at Albert R. Renteria Corporation and Southwest Veterans’ Business Resource Center.


What We Should Teach Our Kids About Failure

Some of the best-known people weren’t great students, including Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison. That’s common knowledge. They are known for their fantastic level of achievement despite their pasts labeling them traditional failures.

It takes a lot to persevere in situations like those.

What did their parents think of them before their successes?

Did they hold out for the best? Maybe they encouraged them no matter what. Perhaps they chimed in with the teachers that thought they were hopeless or wastes of time.

You don’t know that your kid won’t make you proud. Some people are too unique for the system or for status quo. They don’t “fit” because they’re different.

Not fitting in isn’t a crime. Trying to force a good fit should be. It certainly hurts everyone involved.

Every person mentioned here is

School isn’t adulthood. It’s a regimented framework of habit. Adults can pretty much do what they please. They have more freedom and power. Some debate that.

We don’t teach our kids to keep thinking about their futures in spite of scholastic stumbling blocks.

We lean toward teaching them tradition as opposed to success. We also model it in how we live. Telling them they won’t make it in life because they fail a school system’s measurement is wrong.

The key may lie in finding them a subject in which to excel.

  1. Encourage them to develop their hobbies for their self-esteem.
  2. Buy them magazines and books about their interests.
  3. Take them to local and major events for those activities.
  4. Introduce them to people who have succeeded with that hobby or skill.
  5. Join clubs so they can interact with others pursuing the same.
  6. Enroll them in classes where they can hone those talents or interests.

It makes their achievement real to them.

They’re just people who happen to be our kids.


10 Reasons for the Arts

Education budgets are usually low because they reflect the same ranking society gives it. Once again, this is about the rule, not the exception. That being said, the arts are being cut from school programs to save funds.

That’s a massive blunder. Vices abound. Kids are warned against alcoholism and addiction. Then they are deprived of some of the most constructive uses of their time and energy.

Supposedly, kids are sent to school in the best country in the world until they graduate. Then they are expected to attend colleges and universities to make them workplace ready. Someone somewhere thinks those 12 to 16 years or more of education can be achieved without healthy outlets for students’ emotions.

Those conduits would be the arts.

Great feelings are inspired by the artistic endeavors of others. In other words, someone creative must be involved. It’s how we get:

  1. Music
  2. Games
  3. Dance
  4. Paintings
  5. Photography
  6. Sculptures
  7. Plays
  8. Books
  9. Films
  10. Architecture

Uninformed people think that only gifted artists and performers do those things. That’s true. Places like performing arts high schools, music schools, and art institutes are where they learn and develop those talents.