For some students, the subject of math is either overwhelming, confusing, boring, or they are convinced that they are simply no good at it. Traditional ways of teaching math have left certain students questioning the need for all the equations and formulas. Have you ever heard a student say, “When will I ever use this in real life?”
Another common obstacle facing struggling math students is the lack of self-confidence in themselves. “It’s just too hard” or “I’m not good at it” are oftentimes uttered by these students. They have convinced themselves that math is simply something they will never understand.
So, as parents and educators, how can we help students like this? How do we convince them they need math and are able to overcome and learn it, just with a little extra help?
The answer lies largely in self-confidence. Once they understand how math will help them in their daily lives, in their jobs, in their sports, in tasks around the house, then they will hopefully grasp the reality that there’s no avoiding it. Upon the realization that math is here to stay in their lives, they must then approach the work as a challenge.
This challenge must be presented to them as a realistic goal and an attainable accomplishment. Depending on the reasons for a student’s lack of confidence, whether it be failures in the past or difficulties in the present, each student must be approached based on individual needs. Regardless of the necessary approach, though, it is critical that those working with the student be cognizant to consistently praise their efforts.
The growth mindset is a highly effective approach that teaches students to believe in their abilities. Quite simply, based on patterns of encouragement, a student is constantly focused on getting better. They are not worried about being “great” at math. They are much more centered on accomplishing goals and milestones, one at a time, and celebrating each one along the way.
If these students can be in a constant motion of moving forward in their progress, then eventually they will get to a point where they can see what they have accomplished, be proud of themselves, and will have established self-confidence to continue in their math education.
Numerous studies support that self-confidence is a critical motivator in success, whether academically, personally, or professionally. Once a student believes, not necessarily that they are a math genius but rather that they have the ability to accept a challenge and overcome it, it is then that true progress can be made and academic success can be achieved.
Celebrating the small wins, getting them the additional supplement assistance they may need, and reminding them of how far they have come are all excellent ways to instill self-confidence in a struggling math student. Math may never be their “thing,” but they will be able to go forward in life knowing that they are capable and equipped to overcome difficulties in order to still obtain successes. That is a life skill that applies invariably in all areas of life.
What ways have you used to instill self-confidence in math for your student?