Math. It’s a subject that many students either love or hate.
Many students struggle with math at some point. It’s not uncommon to hear students complain that they hate math because “it’s too hard.” But why do so many students seem to share this opinion? What makes math so difficult for students to learn?
We’re here to help answer those questions. Read on to find out why so many students struggle to succeed in math class.
COMMON CAUSES OF TROUBLE WITH MATH
Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that causes students to struggle with formulas, shapes, and number-related concepts. This makes it difficult for them to understand and process math problems. These students usually fall far behind their peers in math and have trouble with number-related problems that don’t improve with ongoing practice.
Students with math anxiety don’t simply dislike math—for them, math causes debilitating feelings of fear and failure that hurt their ability to perform. The pressure and lack of confidence these students feel when faced with math causes their brain to freeze and forget even the things they do know.
Math challenges aren’t always a result of a learning difficulty. For many students who struggle with math, it’s simply because they don’t have the proper foundation needed for success. These students may have fallen behind in a unit or moved on to advanced material before they were ready, leading to falling grades.
WHY SO MANY STUDENTS STRUGGLE WITH MATH
IT’S DIFFICULT TO RELATE TO
Math is a very abstract subject. For students, learning usually happens best when they can relate it to real life. As math becomes more advanced and challenging, that can be difficult to do. As a result, many students find themselves needing to work harder and practice longer to understand more abstract math concepts.
THERE’S ONLY RIGHT AND WRONG
Unlike a lot of other subjects, there is no room for error when it comes to math. Your child either understands what he or she is doing, or not. Because of this, math can quickly become a frustrating and stressful experience for students.
IT BUILDS ON ITSELF
Math is a cumulative subject—everything builds on what came before. Your child needs to know the basics before he or she can move on to new topics. If your child starts to fall behind in one area, it can be very difficult to make sense of advanced concepts he or she learns without that foundational knowledge.
STUDENTS EXPECT MATH TO BE DIFFICULT
This is a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy: students expect it to be difficult, so it is. When students go in expecting math to difficult, they are quicker to give up when they don’t understand something. A negative mindset like this can quickly turn into a cycle of low confidence, less motivation, and poor performance.
PUTTING MEMORIZATION AHEAD OF UNDERSTANDING
For many students, math is a subject where they simply memorize concepts and formulas without really understanding them. This may work for a while, but as students progress and encounter more difficult problems, many find that they don’t know how to solve them because they don’t have the problem-solving skills they need to tackle new problems.
IT HAS A REPUTATION OF BEING “BORING”
Math has a reputation of being an unpopular mix of difficult and boring. Many students just aren’t excited to learn about math. And when students aren’t excited, they tend to do the bare minimum before moving on to something they’d rather be doing, which isn’t going to help set them up for success in math class.
IT REQUIRES A LOT OF PRACTICE
Math isn’t something that students automatically “get”—it takes time and practice to understand math. Since many students don’t enjoy math, getting them to sit down and practice can be a struggle. Without that practice, students can have a hard time keeping up with what they’re learning because they still don’t have a handle on the basics.
STUDENTS MOVE ON BEFORE THEY’RE READY
In many classes, a “C” means your child has a satisfactory understanding of the material. And that’s usually enough for him or her to move on to the next unit or grade level. In math, a “C” means that your child is missing fundamental building blocks for success in the future (remember: math is cumulative!). Because math builds on itself, that “C” means that the next unit or class is going to be even harder until your child has a grasp on previous topics.