Math teachers have a hard job. Our society and the media have made it seem like math is only for “some.” They make it seem as if only superhumanly smart individuals can truly learn and like math. That’s not true, and that among other challenges faced by math teachers makes their job harder than it should be. Let’s look at some of these challenges and how you as a parent can help.
Lack of Prerequisite Knowledge of Their Students
When a teacher gets to a classroom, they must try to teach the entire class (even if it is 30 students) based on the curriculum given to them by the state. If children lack the knowledge to perform, that teacher will have to backtrack to teach what they missed or let some kids fall behind while moving on.
Different Student Abilities and Levels
Any classroom, even if everyone is in the same grade, will have varying levels of ability and be at different levels in their mathematics education. Even if they took the same classes, a student’s home life plays a huge factor in what a child picks up and learns.
Making Math Relevant to Students’ Lives
It’s hard in a classroom to figure out how to make the math really stand out to them as relevant to their lives. Teachers dig deep to find examples that the kids will relate to, but sometimes that’s hard depending on the kids in the room. In poorer areas, the teacher might not relate to his (or her) kids at all and not understand what makes them tick if the classroom doesn’t reflect what he knows.
Students Believing That They Have a Block to Learning Math
One serious problem math teachers have is that sometime around the beginning of middle school or the end of 5th-grade, students who previously did well often start doing worse because they have been told that they have a block to math. Once they believe it, it’s hard to overcome.
Keeping Math Accessible to Students
Let’s face it; working rote problems out of a book or on a worksheet doesn’t seem very accessible to anyone. Teachers must find ways to bring math alive and point out all the math around them and how students can get help and learn more about math.
Students Unable to Finish Homework
There are many reasons a student doesn’t finish homework, and it’s up to the teacher to figure that out. Teachers don’t like to just grade students without finding out why, because the point is to learn. They may live in a lousy environment, be homeless, or just not know how to do it and not have anyone to help them.
Students Not Having Adequate Nutrition at Home
It’s hard to think clearly if you don’t have enough to eat. Teachers in all subjects, not just math, have to deal with this. But since math is perceived as harder, students go in with more stress than if it was a class they enjoyed.
Lack of Classroom Supplies and Books
Many math departments are severely overlooked for new books and material to help bring math alive to students. Instead, schools are often using very old books and very few additional materials, even in elementary schools.
When you have an understanding of the challenges teachers face when trying to teach math to their students, you can help. You can ensure that your child is fed, that you get a tutor when you need it, and that you go to the teacher with any issues about your child that they should know. The more involved you are, the better for your child and the teacher.