Math Strategies for Struggling Students

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  • 0:04 Identifying Struggling…
  • 1:23 Break It Down
  • 2:01 Use Manipulatives
  • 2:40 Differentiate by…
  • 3:25 Encourage Students
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derek Hughes

Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.

Math is a difficult subject to learn for many students. Often, you will need to intervene with students struggling in math. This lesson details several strategies you can use to help these students.

Identifying Struggling Students

I'm sure there were times when you were in school that a particular subject or concept was tough for you. This may have been long division, writing an essay, or spelling. Whichever the area, you were only struggling with these concepts, or having a hard time understanding them without extra help. You did not have a learning disability or a diagnosed condition. You just need extra help or a new way of thinking about the material.

As a teacher, you will come across many students who struggle with certain subject areas. It's important to have strategies that you can use to help these students understand and master these skills. This lesson will detail some strategies you can use with students who are struggling in math.

Think of how many steps there are to solving many math problems. For example, solving a simple word problem involves isolating the numbers, deciding which operation to use, completing the operation, and writing the answer in terms of the word problem. Therefore, simply saying a student 'struggles with word problems' is not sufficient.

The first step should always be to identify the issue the student is having. You can do this in a variety of ways, including using assessments, working one-on-one with the student, or asking the student if they can identify the struggle they're facing. Once you've found what exactly they are struggling with, you can begin employing strategies to help them master the skill.

Break It Down

Oftentimes, math skills and concepts build on one another until they need to be combined to solve a problem. For struggling students, it's often important to break down the concept to its simplest components and scaffold instruction to help students build up to the point of mastery.

For example, learning fractions can be a complicated process for many students, especially those who already struggle in math. When working with a student struggling with fractions, break it down as much as possible. Start with whole shapes and ensure that students understand the concept of a shape being one whole. Then you can begin introducing the idea of breaking the shape apart into pieces.

Use Manipulatives

In math, a manipulative is a physical object students can use to represent mathematical concepts or problems. You probably have all students use these at points in your instruction, but they're especially useful for struggling students. By using manipulatives, struggling students are able to approach problems from a different perspective.

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