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Navigating Hard Concepts, For All Learning Styles

When you are working through hard concepts, it can seem endless and somewhat futile. To help prevent the burn out for both you and your student, here are some steps you can do at home to ease those hard concept blues:

1)   Say it Out Loud. When students are trying to remember key steps, have them say the step out loud. This exercise may seem silly, but is proven that if you say something out loud, even just to yourself, you are more likely to remember it.

2)   Make a list of common mistakes. Parents, this is a great exercise for you as their observer. When students are consistently making the same mistakes on problems a passive way to draw attention to these errors (Without seeming like discipline) Is to make what I call a “Help Sheet”. Use positive phrases and use colors! (yes, even for high school students!). Make a list of common errors you see happening, and use positive words to outline a list of things they need to watch for when working the problems. Then allow the student to use that sheet during homework. Example: Instead of writing “Don’t forget the negative numbers!” Write out “Remember those negatives!” The word “remember” in place of “Don’t” takes a corrective statement and makes it supportive.

3)   Practice, Practice, Practice. When you are struggling with a concept, the given homework may not be enough. Don’t be shy about creating your own worksheets at home to practice key problems within a lesson that are harder. Use the format of the given problems, then change the numbers, and voila! New problems. BIG BIG NOTE HERE: Don’t over-work your students. Keep track of the time, and even if you don’t finish a whole lesson, only spend an hour a day on math. When I can tell my student is reaching their "burn out" Line, I will make a deal with them and say "Ok, get this last problem right and we'll call it a day" that usually gives them enough mental motivation to go the last mile in studying.


…and parents, don’t panic! If taking the time to work through difficult concepts throws you off your intended schedule, it is ok. The important goal is that students learn, and that they be encouraged! Take the time to help them with the tough stuff and show students that they ARE capable, even with the scary problems. As with any “training”, end on a positive note. Try to end study sessions at a point where they have just completed something very well. If they are still missing things at the hour, mark, that’s ok—find something they are doing well, identify that, and conclude that day’s session.