How can I help my child succeed in middle school math?

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What do you do when your child was earning A’s and B’s in the primary grade math classes and now they are starting to struggle.  They do their homework, they tell you that they “get it” but are failing quizzes and tests?  So now what?


1.   First and foremost, BE POSITIVE.

If you have a negative attitude about mathematics, chances are your child will, too.  Acknowledge the fact that mathematics can be challenging and that now, persistence and hard work will be the keys to success.  Relate mathematics learning to other endeavors that require hard work and persistence, such as playing a sport; just because math was “easy” in the past doesn’t mean that it will always be.  The difficulty that students in middle school seem to have is that they haven’t had to “study” for math in the past and may need to learn how.


2.   Help teach your child how to study for math.

Completing homework is one way students “study” for math.  Homework is an area that can cause trouble in many households.  Relax, and remember whose homework it is.  If you take over doing the homework for your child, you are encouraging them to easily give up or not seek help when working on a challenging problem.  Often, students will tell their parents that they finished their homework in school.  If your child’s grades on quizzes or tests are unsatisfactory, then a new strategy might be in order.  Talk with your child in order to bring this discrepancy to light.  Discuss the need for a new game plan.  Executed seriously, this game plan can help teach your child how to better study for math.

Some suggested strategies to discuss and implement are:

  1. Homework:

    1. Math homework will be brought home nightly whether it is done or not. 

    2. Whether the homework was done in school or not, facilitate discussion of your child’s homework by asking questions about the topic of the day’s lesson.

  2. Notebook:

    1. Notebook contents for a particular day’s lesson must be reviewed nightly.  This includes the class notes and vocabulary sections.

    2. Open to the class notes section of the notebook.  Class notes should be dated making it easier to determine what was presented on any day.  Ask your child to explain what is written and refer to it while completing or reviewing an assignment. 

    3. Ask to see the vocabulary section to ascertain whether they know and understand the vocabulary terms or not.  Math is a language and vocabulary is very important to its success.

  3. Online Resources:

    1. Is your child logging on to the online supplementary resources that go with the textbook?  Ask them for their username and password.  If they say they do not have one or that they lost it, then this is a problem.  We encourage them to utilize these resources often.

    2. If your child’s notebook contents are unclear or your child cannot explain what they learned, the online textbook is an excellent resource with lesson tutorials, extra practice problems, and note taking resources.

  4. Studying:

    1. When working with your child, insist that they show all their calculations and/or give a verbal description of their thinking process to support the solution to a problem.  This recording gives the student something to look back on, either for review or to spot and fix a mistake.  It can also furnish the teacher with useful information related to the student’s reasoning and understanding.

    2.  Have your child provide the name of their “study buddy”.  This student should be someone who has a common enrichment time and/or lunch time, a person living nearby, or a person your child can contact via telephone to ask for advice or help.

  5. Extra Help:

    1. Determine if your child’s schedule and the teacher’s schedule have common time for extra help available during school hours.  If there is common time, hold your child accountable.  This may mean your child may have to sacrifice part of enrichment or lunchtime.  

    2. Part of the agreement must include telling your child that you will contact the teacher once a week to inquire whether an effort has been made to seek assistance.  This makes the responsibility to advocate for assistance theirs.

  6. Absenteeism:

    1. If your child is absent, make sure they check the class website (or PowerSchool) for assignments. 

    2. Once he/she has obtained assignments, your child must first watch all parts of the online lesson and define vocabulary terms in his/her notebook before attempting the assignment.

  7. Set the Bar High:

    1. Insist on seeing all graded quizzes or tests.  (These documents are not returned to student until all students have completed the assessment.  Due to possible student absences, this may take several days after the quiz or test has been administered.)  After all quizzes and tests, the students are responsible to learn from their mistakes.  Take this opportunity to review the assessment with them to make those errors a learning experience.  All quizzes and tests are to be kept in their binders for easy referral.  These assessments will become part of their personalized study guides for exams and state tests.

    2. Sign up for the PowerSchool notifications, this way you can keep track of your child’s progress weekly.  Discuss your child’s performance with them after you have reviewed this report.

    3. Have high expectations, not only for your child’s grade in middle school math but for the effort your child is putting forth.  Saying, “I’m trying my best.” is simply not enough.  That statement must be supported with observable actions set forth in your game plan.

  8. Websites to consider:

    1. Click here for a link to Math Internet Resources


With your guidance, your child can be resourceful, persistent, and confident not only in middle school math, but in any subject.  Think of yourself as a guide or coach.  Your role is not only to support your child but also to help your child take responsibility for themselves and realize that their success is in their hands. 


Thank you for your support. 



Mr. Ferrara

Math Department                                          

Glen Meadow Middle School