As a homeschooling parent you take on a wide variety of educational responsibilities. You are much more than a “curriculum” manager you are a teacher, mentor, classmate, tutor and child psychologist. When your child is not doing well in math there could be many factors at play. For example, you may not be using the best curriculum for your child’s learning style or your child is not at the right course level. However, if your child has experienced a long term struggle with math they likely have developed a new factor to deal with- “math anxiety.” I would describe a math anxiety as a serious student dislike of learning math and a complete lack of confidence in their math abilities. If your child has math anxiety it will be very difficult to move forward to develop their skills unless you take a different approach.

When I have worked with children with math anxiety I first focus on their self-confidence. Unless you can get a child feeling good about their intelligence and ability to learn math it will be very difficult to continue to advance their skills. As is so often the case if a student is weak in their current math course they have a weak math foundation- meaning they never really mastered previous material. Their troubles have slowly escalated over time until they reached a climax of total break down and fear of math. If your child is this point your focus needs to be on repairing confidence and breaking down negative psychological barriers rather than learning math.

My approach to get a child on the right track is to find a level of difficulty where the child feels comfortable with math. For example, if I was working with a child struggling in algebra I would go back to basic math concepts until I found their “foundation” of proficiency. After I found a level of math a child was comfortable with I would focus on creating new positive math learning experiences with the goal of building up their self-confidence. As an example, let’s say the child was could handle fraction problems. I would say that their ability to work fraction problems was very good and not every student has the ability to master fractions. The key is to find areas where you can give the student a lot of praise and highlighting what they have already achieved. Moreover, I would talk to them about goal setting and try to inspire and motivate them that anyone can be highly successful. Next I would develop a list of their specific strengths and weaknesses and come up with a custom learning plan to review their math skills. Often at this point a child starts to see a way of “catching up” and their attitude towards learning math improves. Make the investment in time to correct your child’s weak areas. Don’t rush the math review process as you don’t want to let your child’s confidence to take another hit. Just as negative experiences snowball into big problems positive learning experiences generate powerful momentum to succeed.

Your child’s math proficiency is linked to their self-confidence. If you have been struggling homeschooling math you need to take a different approach to get a better result. In my experience almost all kids can develop good core math skills. Of course some children will need a lot more focus and attention to get them to succeed. As a parent myself I know it’s difficult to see your child struggle in a certain area. However, if you can show them how to “re-set” their self-confidence and work though difficulties you will be teaching them one of the most important lessons of their entire life.