My Child Suddenly Started Failing Math – What Do I Do?

At Brooklyn Math Tutors, we get frequent calls from parents (and sometimes students) who have seen a sudden drop in performance in math. The pattern we’ve noticed is that this often happens at one of 3 times. We think of these as the major “hurdles” of a math education:

4th / 5th Grade: Fractions

7th / 8th Grade: Algebraic Concepts & Algebra 1 + Increased Autonomy and Volume of Work

10th / 11th Grade: Trigonometry

This is extremely common and can happen as a result of a multitude of factors. One of the important first steps is to try to identify what exactly your child is struggling with. Next identify the cause. Finally, identify what to do about it. For some, this may be a difficult (and large) onion to peel.

The first, and usually easiest to handle problem is if your child is simply struggling with new and more difficult math concepts.

If……Your Child is Truly Struggling With Math Concepts

How can I tell?

  • Poor scores on state tests, day-to-day quizzes, despite putting in consistent effort
  • Sad or frustrated by the difficulty of assignments, reports “hating math”
  • Difficulty with real-life math (calculating a tip, estimating a discount)

What is the cause?

  • A poor foundation of math concepts
  • A learning disability
  • A really bad teacher

If your child is doing their best but something is just not clicking, here’s what you can do to help them:

Speak to the teacher

Set up an appointment with your child’s teacher immediately, but realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Multiple meetings may be needed and the meetings may not yield any changes.

Get Additional Support

Find additional math support for your child immediately – either inside the school or outside. This should be several hours per week and the first priority should be determining when the gaps began and what they are.

We have found that students receiving “additional math support” in school are often not receiving enough, and they fall further and further behind. It may be necessary to engage additional help from resources outside of school. You should work to fill in the gaps while simultaneously supporting the student’s day-to-day schoolwork so they can keep up.

If you are looking outside the school, this support could be in the form of:

  • Tutor
  • Math learning center like Mathnasium or Kumon
  • Math Camp

Do not rule out underlying issues

In our experience, more than 50% of students who are having difficulties  with math are also struggling with two underlying issues – organization and motivation.

If your child is disorganized, distracted, doesn’t seem to care about schoolwork or seems to have given up, these issues will have to be addressed concurrently with math-specific support in order to remain successful, especially as school gets harder and more advanced. Please check out the following 2 articles:

  1. What to do If…..Your Child is Completely Disorganized or Distracted and Is Not Turning in Assignments
  2. What to do If…..Your Child Seems to Not Care About Schoolwork

How We Can Help

We hope these insights are helpful to you as you seek to support your child in math. If you feel that outside support could be beneficial, consider calling us for a free phone consultation. We have funny and experienced tutors who can help inspire your child to try harder and do better in school. We tutor all subjects, not just math. Give us a call today: 718.552.0300

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Rachel Cohen

Rachel Cohen

Rachel is an experienced tutor living in Brooklyn, NY who has worked with dozens of students studying for the ACT, SAT, ISEE, and SSAT. She has a BA from Penn and works full-time as a management consultant. She is also a tutor, blogger, and prolific traveler.
Rachel Cohen