We hear that having good math abilities leads to more opportunities and higher salaries. But did you know there was an actual study done that confirmed that households with solid math skills had an enormous net worth advantage over those who didn’t? Not surprising.

“A study by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, showed a direct correlation between numeracy (a fancy word for math skills), delayed recall (the ability to remember something you’ve seen after some delay) and your future wealth (net worth). Researchers gave a basic numeracy test to participants, and matched scores to household wealth. The results were stunning. For households where both spouses scored zero correct answers on the test, the average wealth (net worth) was $200,000. For households where both spouses got all of the answers correct, the average wealth was $1.7 million. That’s an 850 percent increase for the highly numerate families compared to the innumerate families.”

Many people believe they just ‘aren’t math people’. We would disagree. Learning math is just like learning a sport or an instrument. While some students will have more natural ability, it doesn’t mean others can’t learn the skill as well.

What is required to master anything? Usually you’ll need general knowledge to be memorized, direct instruction on how to improve, and practice, practice, practice. Oh, and more practice. We see struggling students every day who are only struggling because they haven’t repeated the operation enough to know it well. Gideon works because we place students into the area they need to master and then let them practice until they do. Some parents wait too long to get help for their children. High school can be tough for remediation with all the material needed to cover, and many schools are removing those classes. The best time is in elementary school. However, it is never too late to get started on a solid math foundation. Here are some ways to improve at any age:

1) Memorize the 4 basic operations.

If basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts are not memorized, all the other higher operations will suffer. The time it takes to do 20 homework problems escalates quickly if thinking through each step is required. How can you learn fractions well if you still are unsure what 8 x 9 is? How can you score basketball goals regularly if you struggle to dribble? Memorization frees up brain space for the more complex items needing to be learned.

2) Do repetition – oral & written and not just on a computer.

Practice until it is mastered. Until the hesitation is gone. Until it seems easy. Until the facts come as quickly as your name. Also handwriting aids in memorization. Forget the grocery list at home? If you hand wrote it, you are much more likely to remember the contents. Pushing a button on a computer, while more fun, does not. Many phone and computer games can engage the students with interactive graphics but will fall short of the goal – mastery – due to lack of writing. We also have students warm-up their brains by using oral facts, which are similar to flash cards, but have all the problems listed together. We have seen great success in using these two methods.  Download all our oral facts cards here!

3) Ensure accuracy. The right answer does matter!

Corrections. No one enjoys them. However, everyone benefits from doing them. Simply being told what the correct answer is does not help either. Students do best when required to figure out the right answers. While revisiting the problem, they have to think through where they have gone awry. This aids in remembering for the next time the problem is encountered.

How can we encourage a growth mindset in students?

“The main way is to help students value MISTAKES. They — and we — need to see MISTAKES as something very valuable for math learning.”

4) Encourage.

Have a student who has no confidence in math? Start to encourage regularly. Praise the effort in the wrong answer and the correctness in the right answer. Start just before the student struggles in order to build up confidence and to advance at a pace comfortable for him. Show your belief in his ability to master the subject even if frustration has overcome him for a moment. Then recognize his growing skills to promote more interest. A study showed that students who pursued math later did so due to acknowledgement they were excelling.

“Participants included over 9,000 college students enrolled in calculus courses across the country.  Researchers discovered that students who were enrolled in higher-level courses were doing so mainly due to an interest in the subject that evolved from some form of recognition of their abilities previously given to them, as well as finding the topic interesting.”

5) Practice daily.

Most people don’t become pianists by playing the piano once a week. With homework becoming less common, ensure your student is getting practice every day – especially if they are struggling. There are internet resources abound, or simply buy a workbook at the store. Anything is better than nothing. This avoids becoming rusty and having to relearn skills constantly. Brains perform better with short periods of rest.  However, a month break does more harm than good.

Use these suggestions on your own or contact a local Gideon Math and Reading center. At Gideon we apply all five of these methods (and more!) to creating confident math students through our step-by-step mastery learning program. We offer free diagnostic evaluations to determine where your student would start in our expansive, well-organized curriculum ranging from learning numbers through high school geometry. Our goal is always to take your student beyond grade level at his or her pace to learn new concepts in a stress-free environment.

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