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.

The Truth About Higher Math and Basic Math

Before a student leaves elementary school, he or she has been introduced to all of the math that will be needed to learn pre-algebra, a relatively new course. Yes, in grades one through six, students will have dabbled in the math that drives them insane from middle school through college.

Algebra is disguised as solving for unknown quantities displayed as blank lines or spaces in simple math problems, e.g., 1 + 2 = __ or 5 – ? = 2.

Geometry covers shapes, figures, their characteristics, and possibilities. Many ways to say square, rectangle, or four-sided are learned, and perimeter, area, and volume appear.

Trigonometry is everything you could want to know about triangles, including finding missing sides, values, and angles.

Statistics is simply stated as an average, mean, median, mode, or range. The infamous phrase “grading on a curve” is derived from it.

As a society, math is our weakest subject. Yet technology, engineering, and sciences are math-based. Isn’t it funny how the “money jobs” require math knowledge? In addition, technological advances are the pet of younger generations. Maybe they are better at math than previously thought.

Using the true names of the math taught in elementary school—while it’s being learned–will lead to less faltering and low self-esteem as students progress in math.

Why Math Is More Than Numbers

What math student doesn’t struggle with or outright hate word problems in pre-algebra, algebra, or geometry? The ones that don’t know how to apply math to real-life applications, that’s who. Landscaping or construction scenarios torture them, as do the shadow-pole-building examples that require drawing a picture. That’s if they don’t already despise math itself.

When working with students on word problems, a more accurate picture of their educational difficulties is revealed.

They begin by reading the problem aloud. Words are mispronounced. Maybe they are pressured regarding reading in the presence of an instructor. They continue. Their use of phonics to sound out the words is non-existent. They sound as if they are learning to read. Others stumble on the so-called “big” words. Even a pre-algebra student should be far beyond that point. Usually, these words are recognized in common speech. Plenty of people use words they cannot spell.

The student continues with the problem. We walk through how to approach it. While that happens, there is no ignoring that there is a reading issue as well. Math is about numbers until a word problem is presented.

Is the student interested in tackling the underlying problem? Can he or she accept an offer to help without taking it as a criticism?

Care enough to help them over the hurdle.

How to Simplify Math’s History

Each type of math builds on the concepts of its prerequisites. Prior to middle school, students have been introduced to the usual high school math, minus the formal names and titles.



Pre-algebra was developed to prepare students for algebra. It was formerly known as the math taught from kindergarten to sixth grade. Unfortunately, many unprepared students are enrolled in it. Fear of the unknown has caused some of them to doubt their math abilities, a hesitation previously reserved for algebra.



Algebra is a tradition with a bad reputation. It was only a math class until labels developed. Since then, it has been the experimental math course. Some schools have divided it into three semesters to help students learn it on the first attempt. It is the turning point, as all higher math courses are based on it. This topic is challenging enough for those who have mastered elementary school math, yet many mysteriously unqualified students still end up in the course. That is another subject.



Geometry applies algebra and is less ‘mathematical’, not to insult those who defend the opposite viewpoint. Its use ranges from simple measurement to landscaping, engineering, and beyond. Of the standard four faces of typical high school mathematics beyond pre-algebra—Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, and trigonometry–this is the friendliest one. The real-life applications of it are the easier for students to understand although some would disagree because of the same difference previously mentioned.


Algebra II

Algebra II is a more complex side of algebra. Most high school students are not required to take it unless they are college-bound. It is usually followed by trigonometry, precalculus, and calculus, in that order. Notice that calculus has a preparatory course as well. With that, it’s no wonder why math-based jobs pay so much.


In conclusion, there is reason to use another viewpoint when it comes to math. This is especially true for those that hate it.