Five Steps To Lift Your Child's Math Grades to A's

Do you know a child who struggles in math, gets discouraged, and does not try hard enough to stay up with their classmates? Discouragement and not trying hard go together and lead to painful results. Thousands of parents have use motivation research to guide their child out of failure. Dr. Ran Jarrell recommends these 5 steps to lift your child’s spirits and achievement.

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STEP ONE: Apply the discovery that a child’s EFFORT, not ability, decides a child’s math achievement and grades.

Researchers tell us that in nearly all cases the children who try the hardest and longest in math are the ones that perform the best. Those who thrive in math are the ones that work diligently each day; those who struggle and do poorly actually study less than half as much as higher achievers. Further, when strong math students is compared to the strugglers in terms of IQ, there is no statistical difference in the groups at all!

So if you have a math struggler at home, you serve them best if you believe they can solve their problems with effort and encourage them by saying, “Keep working on them a while longer and you will do fine. Want me to sit with you and help a little?”

STEP TWO: Use discoveries about how to strengthen your child’s study effort in math.

Researchers have found that all of us (adults and children alike) will only continue to work on something difficult, such as math, if we believe there is a good chance that we can succeed in it. When a child concludes that they cannot succeed with math problems (on homework or a test), they stop trying to solve them. Belief that they can succeed is absolutely critical, say researchers.

Your job as a parent is to (a) hold fast to the belief that your child can succeed in math and (b) express that belief in ways your child can understand, such as saying, “Remember all of those problems you solved yesterday after you worked on them a while? You are really good at working a little longer on the hard ones and beating them. Let’s look at these; I’ll bet you can beat them too.” What should you praise? Your child’s perseverance with statements like, “You deserve to be proud of yourself for putting enough work into these problems to solve them. It’s fun to watch you try hard and beat these problems.”

STEP THREE: Listen to how your child explains earlier failures in math so that you can offer useful encouragement.

A child’s belief that they will succeed (or fail) in math now and in the future is greatly influenced by the way they explain their math performance in the past. Suppose your child struggles in math now. If that child explains a low math test score by saying, “I’ve got no ability in math” or “I’m dumb in math,” then that child sees only failure in his math future. With that belief, the child will stop trying as soon as problems become difficult, and that belief in failure will become self-fulfilling.

Likewise, a child who says, “I do bad in math because math is really too hard for me” will stop believing she can succeed as soon as a challenging problems arrive, will stop trying too early, and prove that her belief was right.

Your job as parent/coach is to help your child explain recent failures in more hopeful terms, such as “I failed my last math test because I did not study hard enough for it. I’m going to study more for the next one so I’ll be ready.” Such an explanation of recent failure does not lead to belief in failure and helplessness; the child sees tomorrow’s math as an opportunity to try harder and to succeed.

Step 4 shows you ways to change your child’s explanations of failure and build their commitment to trying harder with your help.

STEP FOUR: Use these strategies to help your child believe in their future success in math.

First, remember that your child needs a way to explain the past and the present that allows them to believe they can succeed in the future. You need to model beliefs that your child can understand and adopt from hearing you express them.

Second, watch and listen closely to your child, express admiration for your child’s EFFORTS (even when there are mistakes), and laugh and enjoy this time with your child. You are creating here a new way for your child to define their relationship with math. This takes love and patience on your part: you have these in abundance.

Third, use affirmative statements showing how your child is trying hard right now, such as, “You are trying really hard, and you deserve to be proud of yourself. It’s fun to see you doing so well.” “You are learning to focus on the problem and not let a little mistake upset you. That is a good sign!” “I am learning something really great about you – you grab hold of a problem and shake it until you get the answer.” “You found your mistake in that one and then solve it. Well done!" “It takes courage to try a second time. You’ve got it!” "Your power to concentrate is terrific.”

Your statements should notice and praise the child’s EFFORT, not simply whether the child found the right answer or not. Your goal is to renew your child’s faith that trying harder will lead to your praise and to math success.

If you believe in our child’s progress in math and express your admiration for the effort and courage you witness, your child will adopt your views and push far ahead into successful territory.

STEP FIVE: Call in reinforcements: Get experienced help if you need it.

If your own math skills are strong, you can do all this work yourself. If your math skills are rusty, get some help for your child. In every community and school there are able tutors glad to work with you and your child in math (whether fractions, algebra or geometry). Some tutors will travel to your home to tutor your child; others hold tutoring sessions in their home or other settings. You can find an excellent tutor through your child’s school or the newspaper. You can also search for a tutor online. The exciting field of interactive online tutoring is emerging where the parent schedules their child’s tutoring sessions on the family’s home computer. Given children’s love of computers and its convenience, online tutoring is the wave of the future.

Whether you seek a tutor’s help or not, remember that through your praise for your child's persistence YOU will remain the greatest influence on your child’s view of their future in math. A humbling thought and a glorious opportunity.

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