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Math challenged!

Question: My son hates math with a passion. Right now, he is taking algebra for the second time and getting terrible grades. I thought math would be easier for him now that students have returned to school in-person and are no longer virtual students. However, my son still struggles with math. He has a tutor at school twice a week so it is difficult to understand why he is not doing better. Do you have any ideas about things that could be done to improve his math grades? – Weak in Math

Answer: Math is definitely a sequential subject and if your son does not have a solid foundation, it will definitely be difficult to construct the building. Obviously, the tutor has not been working on filling in earlier gaps in his algebra learning. If your son does not see how the pieces fit together, he will not be able to process the new information that he needs to learn. The tutor is probably only helping him with the current problems he is being assigned. More than likely, there are one or more key math concepts that he has not mastered that are causing a good part of his difficulty with algebra. This is the reason why tutoring may not help many students in any grade having trouble with math.

What needs to be done is for your son to be given an assessment test in math that will pinpoint any weak areas (concepts) that are likely to be causing him to have problems with algebra. By addressing them, your son should be able to handle algebra better.

In addition, you should look into the possibility of a learning disability as your son may be eligible for different support and some accommodations. Finally, you might want to look for a new tutor with a different approach to math. Also, watch your attitude toward math. If you also hated it with a passion, some of your attitude may be passing off to your son. Point out to your son that the more he works on math, the better he is likely to become. Some students really improve when they go beyond the assigned work to do additional similar problems. 

Comprehending fictional stories

Question: My child in third grade does not always understand the fictional stories that she reads. She frequently does not see what the plot is or the motivation of the characters. Earlier she seems to have had a better idea of what was happening because the books had a lot of illustrations. Is there any easy technique that might help her?  Seeking Help

Answer: There is something that you can do as a parent to help your daughter get a better picture of what is happening in a story. What your daughter needs to do is to learn to form a mental picture of what is happening when she is reading a story. Start by reading a story to her. Do not show her any of the illustrations. Stop after a few descriptive sentences or a paragraph and tell her what you see in your mind about what is happening in the story. You can share a mental picture of what a character or setting looks like to you or describe what action is occurring. Do explain that your mental pictures help you understand the story.

Continue sharing your mental pictures as you read through the story. Then tell what you see and ask her to share what she sees. You will need to do this for some time before seeing mental images becomes a solid and helpful skill for your child. 

Lacking sleep

Parents: You may be surprised to learn that your children could be sleep deprived. Elementary school children should have from nine to ten hours of sleep per night. Furthermore, the effects of not getting enough sleep night after night accumulate and can even cause children to have problems in school. Teachers see this as a problem when children doze off in class. Plus, the association of Elementary School Principals reports that sleep-deprived children can’t concentrate on their schoolwork, have trouble remembering things, may become irritable and fidgety, and may be vulnerable to colds and flu.

Today, a major reason for children staying up too late is increased demands on their time. Your children may be involved in too many activities. Also, you should determine if they are being assigned too much homework. Children in elementary school should usually have about ten minutes of homework for every year in school. There is also the possibility of spending too much time on electronic media.

Parents need to realize that part of the reason your children are staying up later may be physiological. As children move through elementary school, they will naturally fall asleep later even if they have the same bedtimes. This is especially true when they enter puberty. 

Parents should send questions and comments to and to learn more about helping their children succeed in school visit the dearteacher website.