Help for 6th Grader Failing Math

Dear Teacher

QUESTION: My grandson failed math in sixth grade and has a failing grade thus far in seventh grade. He hasn’t mastered multiplication, and his addition and subtraction skills are poor. He’s simply been passed along. I’m trying to work on helping him learn basic math facts. What else can I do?

ANSWER: The best thing that you can do right now is to see that your grandson gets the help he obviously needs. The individual responsible for this child, whether you or a parent, must immediately contact the school to see that help in math begins at once. It would be a good idea to meet immediately with this teacher. Find out why an intervention or testing for a learning disability hasn’t been done.

If you do not receive a helpful response from the teacher, contact a counselor or the principal. This child’s skills sound so weak that an individual tutor or math learning center may be needed. Nothing but serious problems in math are going to occur in the future without considerable help. How will this child ever be able to handle math in high school to fulfill graduation requirements?

You can supply some help. To work on addition and subtraction, use manipulatives such as counters or coins, so he can actually see problems. If he’s strong enough to work on multiplication, try this technique: For a problem like 3 x 4, have him draw three parallel vertical lines and cross them with four parallel horizontal lines and then count the intersections (12) to get the answer. You will also find it helpful to search our website for math under the elementary level, as you will find a variety of suggestions about ways to teach basic math facts, starting with addition.

Do not consider your grandchild’s math skills strong in any area until he can solve basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts in three seconds or less.




Coping with Overcrowding

My daughter’s first-grade classroom is overcrowded. The children aren’t getting quality instruction, and the teacher does not have time to accomplish all she wants to do. Volunteer parents are the teacher’s only help. Who can we (a group of concerned parents) improve this situation? A few of us have written letters to the principal, but nothing has been done to address the issue.

First grade is an extremely important year in school. During this year, time will be spent teaching children to read and do basic addition and subtraction. Realistically, the children will have wildly diverging skill levels, from those who can read to those who are just starting to learn the sounds of letters. The same is true with math abilities. It is difficult for a teacher to make sure every student gets all the individual help needed when classes are very large.

School districts recognize the importance of having smaller classes in the primary grades. Unfortunately, they find it difficult to do with tighter budgets. Parents should voice their concerns even though it may be difficult for the school to change things.

There are some things you can do. Set up a well-organized and trained volunteer program that can assist the first-grade teacher. Members can also raise funds through the parent-teacher organization to pay for an aide for this teacher as well as others in the school.

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