Why “Helping With Homework” Doesn’t Always Help

Having tutored and taught many students in Maths one of my biggest frustrations has been trying to help struggling students come to grips with the Maths they were studying. This is what would happen…

They would understand some of the concepts in the topic they were studying and show a little improvement in their results however they would come unstuck in the next topic. They weren’t able to apply the understanding and skills they had just learnt to the new topic. So once again they would experience frustration and failure in Maths.

My Students Didn’t Understand The Underlying Concepts

Then I realized that these students couldn’t make consistent progress in Maths and build upon the few skills that they had learnt in each topic they had studied because they didn’t understand some of the underlying concepts in each Maths topic they were studying!

So I decided to dig a little deeper and help these students by explaining the underlying concepts of what they were studying so they could make some progress. There was just not enough time in class to do this so students would have to give up some of their precious lunchtime to get the extra help they needed.

In these extra lunchtime lessons I found that most of the lesson was spent on explaining the underlying concepts and not a lot of time was spent on their class work. This did however help the student with the class work that they initially couldn’t do. Although the student had a good start on the beginnings of the class work they still did not have the confidence or the skills to complete the remaining more difficult parts of the class work and then the homework. There was still something missing in their makeup that prevented them from progressing to more difficult Maths.

Next lesson in class a similar process would unfold. The student would have trouble with the next section of work that was based upon the previous section. Having not fully understood the previous section they would get stuck on the new work and need extra help again with the underlying concepts. These students needed this extra one on one help with these underlying concepts in nearly every area of Maths that they were studying!

A Structured Basic Maths Program Was Needed

I soon came to realize that what the students really needed was to have some kind of structured learning program that would start at the most fundamental concepts of Maths that they didn’t understand and build up to the Maths they needed to be able to do in their year level…..rather than just “patching” up the areas they were struggling with.

So started my Back to Basics Maths program, a structured learning program covering the fundamentals of Maths for Primary and Secondary school students.

The program started out with an idea on how to teach equivalent fractions using a simple method and has since developed into a comprehensive worksheet based program that covers key concepts and exercises in Number, Arithmetic, Fractions, Decimals and Algebra with an emphasis on understanding the concepts and not just on showing how to do the Maths.

Looking at the various methods that I have used to help struggling students with their Maths throughout my teaching career I have found that this program has consistently produced the most significant improvement in student’s understanding and results.

Understanding And Not Just Showing How To Do It

I have found that when students at any level have been stuck in Maths they don’t know how to do it because they don’t understand it. Showing them repeatedly how to do it does not solve the underlying problem which is that they don’t understand it! So understanding is really the key to learning Maths.

Most students find it easier to learn Maths when they actually understand the principle of what is being explained to them. This is clearly shown by when students learning Maths say “Now I get it” and then they can correctly answer a similar question showing that they have understood. Students can not put the pieces together if they are just shown how to do the Maths. They need to have the understanding.

Having Basic Skills Leads To More Confidence

When learning Maths each concept or skill learnt is used to move onto the next concept. For example to understand how to add fractions students need to know what fractions are and what the top and bottom numbers of a fraction represent. In fact it is not possible in most areas of Maths to learn a new concept unless the underlying concepts and skills have been learnt.

Having the basics in place, students feel more confident because they know they can do some Maths. They use these same basics in many areas of Maths they study and this can (and usually does!) reduce stress with Maths when doing homework because they now have the confidence to have a go at it and they also know that even if they do get stuck they will be able to understand the explanation later.

Being able to do basic Maths leads to students having more success in understanding and completing class work and homework. This leads to an increase in test taking ability and a better understanding of how to study for tests because they have completed and understood the work that the test is based on.

Maths also becomes easier for students to do because they have developed a more logical thought process by learning the stepwise approach that is an essential skill needed to do Maths

A growing understanding and appreciation of why Maths is important in everyday life as students find that they use some of the Maths skills they have learnt in their everyday life.

Back To Basics Maths Tutoring

The Mathematics Workshop is my tutoring service located in Frankston Victoria. I tutor students from Year 5 up to VCE Maths Methods. My Back To Basics program is used to help students who struggle with Maths or have a history of struggling with it.

It teaches these students basic Maths skills in a few key areas of High School Maths. Once they get started on these basics they find that they can do Maths. Their school Maths starts to become easier and they start to feel better about Maths and sometimes end up liking it!

The Back To Basics program is also suitable for VCE students doing Further Maths who may require some help with the fundamentals they have forgotten.

After having an initial assessment to find areas of weakness an individual learning program is tailored for each student that focuses on filling in these gaps in their understanding.

This is done by starting at the most fundamental concepts that each student doesn’t understand and progressing through the program lesson by lesson to a level that will enable them to do their Maths at school. In any given lesson students work on their own individual learning program in addition to any school work they need help with.

7 Things To Look For When Getting A Maths Tutor

There are a many tutoring programs and private tutors out there. I want to give you 7 criteria or elements that I believe you must have in any tuition service you obtain:

  • A remedial Maths tutoring program must be structured in such a way that each lesson builds on the previous lesson.
  • Concepts must be explained in a way that students can easily understand.
  • Each lesson must use simple examples so students can understand the concept and not get confused by having difficult numbers to deal with at the same time.
  • It should have basic arithmetic exercises for students to practice as part of each lesson.
  • The numbers that students perform calculations with should not require a calculator. This ensures that they are constantly practicing and improving their number skills.
  • The teacher must be able to relate to the student!
  • And perhaps the most important factor is that the student must want to improve at Maths.

No matter how good the tutoring service is, it will not help produce any meaningful results if the student does not really want to learn.

What Your Child Will Get From This Program Is More Than Just Improved Results At School.

  • They will have a more relaxed approach to Maths without the total frustration of feeling they can’t do Maths when they do get stuck.
  • It will mean they will have a solid grasp of fundamental Maths skills that will stand them in good stead in everyday life.
  • They will have developed their thinking skills so they have a more logical approach to solving problems that will extend into other areas of their schooling and life.
  • They will have greater confidence in their ability to get through their homework thus making better use of their study time after school.
  • Their concentration skills and ability to focus will improve as a result of their commitment to completing the tuition sessions.
  • The confidence they develop from coming to grips with basic Maths and improved results at school will extend into other areas of their schooling.

You will have peace of mind knowing that your child will gain the Maths education they really need that will give them more options in the senior years of high school and also give them basic Maths skills that will help them in everyday life.

If your child attends The Mathematics Workshop for tuition

  • They will have access to the Back To Basics program.
  • They will have an individual learning program tailored to their specific needs based on the results of the assessment.
  • The Maths in their program will be explained to them by a fully qualified Maths teacher (me 🙂 ) using a whiteboard as the main teaching aid.
  • They’ll be given support and assistance with their learning program when needed during the lesson as well as with their school homework.
  • They will be provided with homework in each lesson
  • They will have an assessment each term if needed, to monitor their progress.
Contact me to make an appointment for your child to have an assessment or for more details. Ask for Michael on 0410 577 469

4pm to 9pm Monday to Friday
9am to 1 pm Saturday

In case you’re still hesitating let me help you evaluate your options.

Option 1: You could choose to do nothing. Some people like things the way they are. If you are completely satisfied with your child’s progress at school currently then this option probably makes sense. But you probably wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t motivated to help your child get better results than they are currently getting now.

Option 2: You could invest in a private tutor or in another tutoring service that will help with homework by “patching up” the areas that your child is having trouble with. This can work for more senior students, and is the option that most people would choose because it sometimes appears to fix the problem but does not have lasting results.

Option 3 You could keep plugging away helping your child yourself at home and with extra help that may be available at school as a remedial program and extra help at lunchtime. This is the option that some parents end up choosing and sometimes it can produce improvement in their child’s progress provided their child gets to the lunchtime class or the school does have some kind of remedial Maths program and the child is learning what they need to in order to progress. Some parents and in fact some teachers never find out the long-term solution to helping their child improve at Maths.

Option 4 You can buy a software program that tells people it will help their child improve at Maths. Actually this is not a bad option as long as you can determine if the programs has the fundamentals that your child needs help with.

Option 5 You could enroll your child in The Mathematics Workshop learning program where they will be shown step by step everything they need to know to get it right the first time.

Contact me now and take the first step toward helping your child achieve the results in Maths that you would like them to by making an appointment for an assessment or for more details.

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