Episode 57: What to do about High School Math Struggles

Overview: There is help for math struggles in high school. Listen to a veteran homeschool mom and former math teacher share advice and ease your mind!
Math struggles are no fun at any age, but in high school they can seem quite dire. It can be scary to think about how not getting the right high school math credits might affect your kid. 
There is good news, and that is that there is almost always a path to take that will improve the situation, and you might be surprised by the possible solutions.
Listen as I give tips and advice about how to handle this situation. I also encourage you that all is not lost!
Grab your favorite warm beverage and be prepared to feel your burden lightened!
There is help for math struggles in high school. Listen to a veteran homeschool mom and former math teacher share advice and ease your mind!


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This episode is sponsored by CTCMath.

CTCMath provides online video tutorials that make learning math easy and effective by using a multi-sensory approach that is sure to grab and keep your child’s attention. Here is a great testimonial from Amber a mother of 8:

“As a homeschooling mother, I am both parent and teacher, and am absolutely thrilled with CTCMath! CTCMath just happens to be one of those rare finds that I have continued to use with all my school-aged children for 7+ years now! I have truly loved seeing them enjoy this math program firsthand! To see them grow in leaps and bounds in their mathematical journey has been such a gift to watch over the years, and am forever grateful for the daily role CTCMath plays in our household. Thank you SO much for all that you have done and are doing in providing such quality math lessons for my children… it means SO much!”

Visit CTCMath.com today to start your free trial.

Episode 57: What to do about High School Math Struggles

Related Resources:

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The Number One Reason Your Kid Hates Math
Learn Math Fast Review
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When You Fear Your Homeschooled Teen is BEHIND
Should Your Teen Go to College – Part 1
Is College the Best Option for Your Teen – Part 2
How to Choose the BEST Homeschool Math Curriculum for High School


0 (0s):
You are listening to episode 57 of the, It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast. As you go through the high school years, kids change a lot, a lot, a lot, and their goals may now be different, and that means it's wise to meet them halfway. If you can, and perhaps give up some of those math credits that you wanted them to finish before high school and say, Nope, you're not going to have to do these after all.

1 (39s):
Welcome to another episode of It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently competently and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family, and live to tell about it. I'm your host Ann Karako from annieandeverything.com. Hi everyone. Today's topic is when your teen is struggling with math and I've been there. There's a couple of different ways to struggle with math. Oh, ours has been

0 (1m 20s):
that they got started and didn't finish or took a couple of months off and I didn't know about it until those months had gone by. You'd think I would've learned the first time not to let it happen again, but that has happened actually with two of my kids, including the current senior. On that one, I'm just going to blame it on the last kid, and mom is losing her umphh. But there are solutions for this problem, and for the problem of when your kid just really is not a math person and just doesn't seem to be able to grasp it. We'll talk about both of those situations today.

0 (2m 0s):
So no worries. Let's get going with it. What I'd like to do today is start with the nitty-gritty. Some of the details of day-to-day math for the kid who is struggling or behind, and then move out to the larger picture. Let's talk about ways to make day-to-day math a little bit easier for everybody. Regardless of whether it's a kid who's not mathy and struggles to understand, or it's the kid who just gets bogged down with all the math they have to do. We talked a little bit about this in the last episode, but I've got some more ideas here today.

0 (2m 46s):
First of all, you can reduce the number of problems that they do every day, rather than having them do every single problem of every lesson. Perhaps it's time to do either evens or odds or maybe the first several; or something along those lines where they're not having to do every single problem all the time. Also, don't grade their daily work. This is something I talked about in detail in the last episode, if you're giving them a grade on their daily work, it's probably going to be not a great grade because they're still learning. They're still practicing. Don't give a grade to that, just their tests. And then tests could be lightened up just a little.

0 (3m 26s):
Maybe they don't have to do every single problem on every test either. That's something else that might bog them down and that you might say, okay, I'm the teacher here. I'm the supervisor. Let's just omit some of these problems from the test and make it a little easier for them to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. And these are all things that you, as the supervising teacher has full authority to do. Now, you don't want to short-change them on comprehension. And you're like, wait a minute, my kid has trouble with math already, why would I want to reduce what they have to do? Because then they're not going to, they're not going to have enough practice. That is something you're going to have to gauge.

0 (4m 7s):
But sometimes just the lightened workload is something that gives the teen more motivation to learn it better, to have more time to learn it better. And each problem then becomes a chance to really learn. Here's the other thing about when you only do a certain number of problems from the daily work, then if they do get something wrong and figure out why they got it wrong, then they got a ready, set, go stock of questions that they can use to try again, because let's say they did the evens today, and let's say they get to number 10 wrong. Then looking here. Now they can try that problem again by using number 11, which they hadn't done yet.

0 (4m 49s):
So sometimes this actually does help the teen's desire to work better and actually do better when they don't have as much work to do. Something that is worth trying in your own situation. Now, if their grades start to go really bad, you can tell that they are just not comprehending anything, then maybe the solution is not going to work for you, but it's worth trying it's worth considering for sure. Another thing that's helpful for kids in math is to use graph paper rather than just regular college rule paper. And this is because it helps them to line up the digits in problems better.

0 (5m 33s):
This applies all the way down to elementary school. As soon as they're starting to learn how to add two digits, two-digit problems; 21 plus 32 using graph paper and lining up the ones in boxes underneath each other and the tens in boxes is very helpful. So that we're not misaligning numbers and thereby adding the wrong two ones together. So try graph paper. See if that helps at all. Another thing, please keep in mind that calculators are definitely okay, after a certain point. I'm going to say they're okay after the point where your kid knows their math facts down cold already.

0 (6m 17s):
I actually spur the moment, talked about this in the last podcast, but here's where I want to get down and dirty about math facts. If your kid is struggling in math in any way, shape, or form, it could be because they don't have their math facts down. That's going to be addition and subtraction facts and multiplication and division facts, probably a little more emphasis on .multiplication and division. You can't get very far without either of these honest and true. If your kid is still relying on crutches for these, whether it be to look at a chart where to use their calculator for six times five, or if they're doing the 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 30 to get to six times five, these are all going to cause problems, pun intended for your kid as they are learning math, especially when it comes to high school level math.

0 (7m 14s):
But any math is going to be difficult for your kid .f they do not have these facts down. And I don't care if they are eight years old or 16 years old, they need to practice these until they get them right. And if they haven't done so they need to stop, take a break from whatever math they're in the middle of and concentrate on learning those math facts. There are so many tools out there now to help them. It doesn't have to be just flashcards. Although I'm going to tell you flashcards are very effective, especially because you can shuffle them. You know what? We should probably do a podcast about learning math facts, but I have a blog post about it.

0 (7m 57s):
And I'll put that in the show notes, flashcards are great. There's something called wrap-ups that my kids used, except that those always came in the same order. So they could kind of learn the order rather than the fact itself. There's Quizlets, as long as you can shuffle them. Let's just take a minute or two, just a brief session on how to deal with the math facts, especially if they are an older kid and haven't learned them sufficiently. I always suggest flashcards. I just do. So let's just talk about flashcards for a second. Obviously, the ones are easy, right? Five times, one, six times one. We're not going to worry about those, but starting with the twos, then have your kid learn all of the twos by themselves.

0 (8m 42s):
Just learn the twos and if it needs to be in order at first; two times one is two, two times two is four, two times three is six fine, but then shuffle the twos where we've only got the twos in our hand right now, but we're going to shuffle them so that they are arriving in random order. So two times three is six and then two times eight is 16, and then two times two is four. You see what I'm getting at. And what we're looking for here is that the kid is able to spit that fact back in two seconds or less. They need to have it hardwired in their brain to the point where it comes out quickly.

0 (9m 24s):
That's the only way to get it set in the part of the brain where it's just literally hardwired there and they don't really have to think about it too much anymore. Repetition, practice flashcards fast. Okay. So keep working on the twos until all of them come quickly, no matter how they're shuffled. Shuffle, do them. Shuffle, do them. Shuffle, do them until every one of them is coming quickly. Now you can add them into the ones, always have the ones in there just because it's nice to have one where they can just breathe. The ones are automatic. What we want is for all of the rest to become just as automatic as the ones are.

0 (10m 4s):
So shuffle them in with the ones, do a round or two of those. Now we're going to start on the threes, but we're not going to start with all of the threes. And when I'm saying all of, like when you're doing the two, since they're so pretty easy, I'm going to say two times one through two times 12 is generally what people do when we're coming to the threes though, they get a little bit more challenging. So just pick like three times one through three times six, pull those out. Do not include them with the twos and the ones yet work on three times, one through three times, six all by their little lonesome until they are good. Then pick up three times seven through three times 12 and work on those until they are very solid fast.

0 (10m 49s):
Now shuffle all the threes together and get those going totally fast. Now put the threes all in with the ones in the twos and keep reviewing those until the whole thing is going fast. No matter how it's shuffled, then you can start on the first half of the fours. Then the second half of the fours, then put the fours all together. Then put the fours in the bigger pile. Do you see how we're learning? Just a few things at a time and getting them solid before adding them into a larger group and then getting the larger groups solid before adding them into the whole big group, right? This is how to learn facts in a way that is, yes, it might seem kind of slow and painstaking, but it is thorough and it will do the job.

0 (11m 34s):
And those facts will start to get hardwired, hardwired into your kid's brain. And why what's the point? Because if they are constantly using a crutch, then their brain is occupied with trying to figure out the silly little facts. And can't occupy itself with understanding how the bigger operations, the algebra and the geometry, how that is all coming together, because they're still trying to work on the facts. They still don't know the facts and so it takes them so long to get the facts out. And then that just makes them that much longer to do the whole problem. It's a recipe for frustration. Get those facts down. I cannot, cannot stress that enough for the kid who struggles in math.

0 (12m 17s):
Okay? Now that I've got that off my chest. So they have those facts down and they've been using them regularly in their math work then. Yeah, a calculator is a great idea to shorten the timeframe necessary. Now, you know what, until your kid has proven though that they can multiply three-digit numbers by three-digit numbers on a piece of paper reliably. Well, relying only on their brains, knowledge of math facts and that these things are going to go quickly to don't use the calculator. But once they've been doing that for a while, then it's okay to start using a calculator for those types of problems. They're still going to use those math facts in their heads a lot because there's so much that can be done in their head without resorting to a calculator.

0 (13m 7s):
And so they do need them, even after the calculator becomes a thing. But make them prove to you that they have the facts down and that they can use the facts without a calculator before you allow them to use the calculator. And the calculator should only be for those types of problems that have multiple digits, not for the facts themselves, but the calculator can be a tool and a helpful tool. So don't banish the calculator, don't say, oh, you're not allowed to use a calculator, especially at the high school level. But again, the supposition is at the high school level. They've got their facts down. So if your kid is at the high school level and doesn't have their facts down, then yeah, no calculator until they get their facts down.

0 (13m 51s):
And maybe that will encourage them to get the facts down. You never know. So, Hey, let's take a quick minute and talk about a curriculum that actually might be super helpful for a struggling math student. It's called CTC Math, and they are the sponsor of this week's episode. Looking for a great math program, CTC Math provides online video tutorials that make learning math easy and effective by using a multisensory approach that is sure to grab and keep your child's attention. Here's a great testimonial from Amber, a mother of eight. As a homeschooling mother, I am both parent and teacher, and I'm absolutely thrilled with CTC Math.

0 (14m 33s):
CTC Math just happens to be one of those rare finds that I have continued to use with all my school-aged children for over seven years now. I have truly loved seeing them enjoy this math program firsthand, to see them grow in leaps and bounds in their mathematical journey has been such a gift to watch over the years. And I am forever grateful for the daily role CTC Math plays in our household. Thank you so much for all that you have done and are doing and for providing such quality math lessons for my children. It means so much. And personally speaking, I'm going to say that one of my kids who got bogged down with Algebra I was able to finish by switching to CTC Math.

0 (15m 14s):
So in the case where your kid is struggling, because they got bogged down with a certain curriculum, and they're just not feeling successful. CTC Math would be a great option to switch to, to enable better success for them. At least that's what happened for us. Visit ctcmath.com today to start your free trial. Those are just a few ways to lighten the load a little bit on the day-to-day of math, but let's talk about the kid who has gotten behind. Hmm. I want to take a second here and talk about the word behind it before we go any farther.

0 (15m 56s):
There's really only one time when the word behind is a legit use of the word when it comes to homeschooling. And that is if your kid wants to go to college and they aren't going to meet the required credits that the college is asking them to have done. So most colleges are asking for two to three credits of math. Sometimes four if your kid is looking at a stem major. And if your kid is looking at a stem major, let's hope they're not struggling in math and not going to make those requirements. That would tell me that if they can't comprehend the math very easily, then that's a stem major is maybe not a good idea for them.

0 (16m 39s):
Something to definitely think through, if they're motivated to learn the math so that they can pursue the stem major, even though they might be struggling now, that's great. And that would be the time when I would say, yeah, go for it. But if they hate math, but they want to do a stem major, then there's a disconnect there. And that might be something you need to talk through, but they're only behind. If they're not going to get those high school math credit credits that they need for college done in high school. Now they could be behind schedule. Like my girls were, in other words, they gave up for a couple of months, and oh yeah, you're not going to finish by the end of the year, but they're still capable of getting caught up before graduation.

0 (17m 21s):
So in that sense, they're not behind, it's only the kids who are not going to make those high school credits that they need for college that want to go to college before they graduate from high school. Those are the only ones that we can legitimately call behind. Every kid is an individual and not every kid needs to do two to three credits of high school math in high school. And if they are not going to college, don't want to go to college, then perhaps you can change your requirements for graduation and take off a credit or two of math if you have been expecting them to meet college requirements during high school.

0 (18m 5s):
I always recommend working with your teen, meeting them halfway, as far as what your high school requirements are. And you might have started with a plan before ninth grade, and I encourage that you do, and you can use my Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School book to help you create that plan before ninth grade ever starts. But as you go through the high school years, kids change a lot, a lot, a lot. And their goals may now be different and that means it's wise to meet them halfway if you can. And perhaps give up some of those math credits that you wanted them to finish before high school and say, Nope, you're not going to have to do these after all.

0 (18m 45s):
I did end up doing that with one of my kids. She decided to go into language and she didn't need any more math. And she was fed up with math so we did not go any farther. If the kid wants to go to college though, or let me back up. If that kid who said they didn't want to go to college later decides to go to college. There are ways for them to make up those math courses, but then it will be on them and that's fine. Then they might be much more motivated to get through it. But while they're still in high school, remember that the relationship is always more important than the academics. And don't force the math if it's just not necessary to do so.

0 (19m 29s):
Moving on to the kid who is legitimately behind in the way that we've talked about, and yet does want to go to college after high school and they know that. But somehow they've gotten themselves behind, either through not lack of diligence or because they struggled to understand, and they're not going to finish those requirements that the colleges want those math requirements that the colleges want them to have done. First of all, remember that a community college is always an option that they don't have to go straight to a four-year college. They can go to a community college and start on some of their four-year college courses that are gen EDS or whatever.

0 (20m 11s):
And at the same time be getting those math courses that they didn't get in high school. They can get them at community college so that when they're ready to transfer to a four-year college, they've got what they need. That's always an option and don't discount it, many times it's a good solution for this problem. Another solution and one that we have used is to jump ship on your curriculum. And I don't recommend that lightly at all. Most of the time, I'm going to encourage people to stay with the curriculum that they have because that's the way to get a full education and changing curriculum has its own issues, the difficulties that it creates, especially when it comes to math.

0 (20m 60s):
And I believe there's a podcast episode about that. So I'll look for that and leave that link in the show notes as well. But there is a resource that I've become acquainted with within the last year or so, that can be super helpful in both cases. Both the case where your kid is fine with math, but they just, didn't do what they should have been doing, or the kid who is struggling with the way it's presented in a curriculum and slowing down, or removing some of the problems is not helping. And yet you've gotten far enough that you're like, they have a lot of it. I just need to fill in holes.

0 (21m 40s):
Okay. So what's the resource and just let us know what it is. So Learn Math Fast is an amazing resource. It's called Learn Math Fast for a reason. Cause it doesn't bog the kids down with a whole bunch of practice. Although there are supplemental practice problems available and it doesn't bog kids down with a bunch of the extra stuff that a normal curriculum would put in there. And the way the gal teaches the stuff in Learn Math Fast is a way that any kid can understand. She's got books all the way through Algebra II. Let me do a quick caveat and then I'm also going to tell you about our discount code, but the quick caveat is that Learn Math Fast is not a full curriculum and should not be used as a standalone curriculum for say Algebra I.

0 (22m 35s):
Don't just buy the Learn Math Fast book for Algebra I, and call that your Algebra I credit. It's not going to be sufficient for that. The author does say that if you work through all seven books, which means going back to the very, very beginning with addition and multiplication again, and maybe that's going to relate to getting those math facts down, right? So maybe that's a great idea for your kid. She says that if you go all the way back through book one and complete all seven books, then that's worth three credits of high school math. I have not sat down to do that myself to add up the hours that would take, I'm guessing we can take her word for it.

0 (23m 18s):
I do, however, think that for the most part, Learn Math Fast is going to be a supplemental resource, not a full curriculum. However, let's say you've gotten a good halfway through the year with one curriculum and you're bogged down to get it finished. Then maybe bring in the Learn Math Fast to finish out the year. That's what we did. Or maybe your kid is just not understanding how the curriculum you have is explaining things. Then pull out the Learn Math Fast to get another explanation and some more practice problems so that the kid can understand and move on with the curriculum that they have. This is just a supplement to help understanding happen. It's a wonderful resource. It's not written in any way that talks down to anybody, it's not organized by grade levels at all.

0 (24m 6s):
And teens can benefit. Yeah. From definitely going back to book one, if that's what you decide is necessary. So the discount code, yeah let's get that. Is Annie, A N N I E in all caps. If you give that discount code, you will get 10% off your entire purchase. So keep that in mind, if you head over to learnmathfastbooks.com, that is a personal plug. They did not sponsor this episode in any way. That's just a resource that I highly recommend in certain situations. Sometimes though those high school credits just aren't happening regardless. And the kid wants to go to a four-year college from the get-go.

0 (24m 49s):
So in that case, I would say if math is the only subject that they are not getting those requirements in, then apply anyway and see if the college will admit your teen with the condition that they take remedial math classes, when they get there. Colleges will do this. I'm not certain how common it is, but I do know that many colleges have remedial math classes. So that might be another option if you don't want to do the community college route. So to sum up, if your kid doesn't want to go to college, then maybe it's time to reduce your own requirements for graduation because you have the power to do that.

0 (25m 36s):
As long as your state homeschool law doesn't have its own requirements about what math courses are taken. If they do want to go to college, consider community college as an option for starters, where they can get those requirements that they've missed at the same time, as they are taking other courses that are going to transfer to the four-year college. Or if math is the only issue, then maybe you could still go ahead and apply to the four-year college, and maybe the college would accept the student as long as they take remedial math classes freshman year to get them up to speed, to what they have taken in high school in order to be at that college.

0 (26m 20s):
So you see that there are options available to you. It's not a done deal if your kid doesn't meet all the math requirements for college in high school, but it certainly helps move the process. But you know what? Some kids don't develop that math sense for a while. Or they don't develop a math motivation for a while, and maybe they just need to have a little bit more time. This is the beauty of homeschooling is that we're allowed to tailor things to our kids. And it doesn't mean that we have failed at homeschool if circumstances or our kids' own innate abilities have kept them from completing the required math courses in high school.

0 (27m 9s):
Please do not say to yourself that you have not been successful homeschooling because this one aspect didn't happen. The fact is that you are creating somebody who you want to be a responsible adult who can contribute to society in their own way and whom you enjoy hanging out with. And sometimes that means that math is just not a priority and that's gotta be okay. We don't need to make our kids continue to hit their heads against the wall of something over and over and over and over again, just because somebody else says it's a quote-unquote requirement. It might not even be a requirement.

0 (27m 50s):
Maybe people are saying you should, and you know me, I hate the should word. Your student, you know, best, you know what they need, you know what they can get along without, you know, what you've needed, and what you got along without. Use your common sense. It's all going to be okay. Don't be afraid of math. Don't be afraid of not meeting the requirements. There are always ways to adapt and your kid will be okay in the long run. Trust me on this one. So I hope I've reassured you a little bit. That is my aim as always, my aim is not to create fear, but to ease it and to help you feel less stressed about all the areas of homeschooling high school.

0 (28m 38s):
So I hope we've accomplished that today. If you have any questions, feel free to go to the show notes on my blog and leave a comment on that page. I'd love to answer them for you if I can. And just remember, it may not always be easy to homeschool high school, but it doesn't have to be that hard. I'll see you next time.

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

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