5 Ways to Boost Confidence in Math

As a middle school math teacher, one problem I have seen with many of my students is a lack of confidence. During the middle school years, very few students don't have confidence issues in one area or another, and it seems that most of them lack confidence in math. Of all the problems students have, this is one of my favorites to help them overcome. Lack of confidence is a fairly simple problem to tackle because generally the ability is there, we just have to convince them of that. So, here are 5 ways to boost confidence that I have found to be helpful with my students.

1. Ask them step by step how to work the problem. When they come to you and say, "I don't get it" or "I don't know how to do this one." Ask the student what they think they should do first. Typically, they will give the right answer. After they get the first step, ask what the second step is. Before they know it, they will have solved the problem entirely on their own. After doing this a few times, their confidence will be improving dramatically.

2. Ask them to try the problem before you help them. More often than not, if they try the problem, they will either get it right, or just have made some small mistake somewhere. I will often not help my students at all until they have made some attempt to do it on their own. This helps me see where they are truly having problems, and boosts their confidence level at the same time. Students are usually frustrated with this at first, but once they start having success, the frustration is quickly gone.

3. Make sure they are prepared for tests. Students always feel more confident when they are prepared and then do well on a test. The night before an exam make sure that they have done review problems or answered questions that are similar or even more difficult than the ones that are going to be on the test. If they are comfortable with them at home, chances are they will think the test was easy and they will do well. Nothing boosts confidence like seeing A's on tests and report cards!

4. Practice, practice, practice. If your student is struggling, or feels like they are struggling, with a concept, keep practicing. After doing enough problems successfully, the confidence will follow. If the book doesn't have enough problems, ask their teacher for more that are similar, or search the internet for the topic they are studying. There are plenty of problems out there to keep practicing.

5. Have them teach someone else. If you know something well enough to teach someone else, then you have to have a pretty good grasp on the subject. So, pick a family member or a neighbor or even the family dog and have the student try to teach whatever they are working on. Trying to explain it to someone else not only improves their understanding of it, but also is great for their verbal skills and writing ability. It takes their knowledge to a whole new level.

I hope these ideas are helpful and can get your student's confidence level heading up in the right direction. Have patience. It will still take some time for things to completely turn around, but it can definitely happen.


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