Solving Math Problems

Solving Math Problems

In an early example of the practical application of math, Roman military commanders practiced “decimation” as a motivational tool. Decimation is a Latin term meaning removal by tenths. This is how it worked: Poorly performing legions were divided into units of ten to draw lots among themselves; the soldier drawing the bad lot was, shall we say, “permanently dispatched” by his nine comrades.

Turning to the present, knowing how to use math effectively remains extremely important. However, many students, at all ages and ability levels, struggle with this subject. Some reasons for this include:

Specific Deficits

Needing to count on fingers later than expected, trouble telling time on non-digital clocks, poor recall of “math facts,” difficulty with graphs, and habitual errors like adding when they should subtract. These kinds of difficulties often reflect underlying weaknesses in attention, language skills, abstract thinking, or visuospatial-motor skills.

Lack of interest, motivation, and frustration tolerance

“Borrrring,” “It’s too hard,” “I have better things to do.” These are just a few complaints students may have about math. While some learners can attain adequate mathematical proficiency without a positive attitude, many cannot. Math skills build on one another, so once falling behind, it’s often very hard to “climb out of the hole.” This often leads to neglecting homework and studying, even in students not diagnosed as learning disabled in math or having ADHD. Poor frustration tolerance and trouble persevering through challenges both creates and magnifies math difficulties.

Not realizing the importance of math

Math I.Q. is a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. Social judgment requires “intuitive math,” which is used, for example, to weigh the pros and cons of relationships and manage internal conflicts and feelings effectively. So, when students say about math, “I’ll never use this stuff in real life,” they couldn’t be more inaccurate. Math skills are essential for working in business, architecture, medicine, science, computers, and most other fields. Unfortunately, students with math problems often have difficulty connecting “real life” to the material they are learning in school (e.g. future job possibilities and personal finance). While there is no magic solution, a specialized Math Skills Program designed by a team of well-trained educators and clinicians can make a big difference. Students are taught skills step-by-step until mastery and retention are achieved, with exercises that are as “real-life” as possible. This systematic approach is designed to ensure that there is a strong foundation for tackling new goals. An effective academic intervention program must go beyond the instructional level and incorporate each individual student’s cognitive and psychosocial profile into the plan. Helping students understand and develop their unique learning and goal setting process is also a priority. This is what differentiates a truly comprehensive Math Skills program from the more typical math tutoring that focuses on reviewing work from school and completing homework. Although students that lag behind in math won’t literally be decimated like Roman soldiers, they may be negatively affected in many other ways. For them, learning math is a basic survival skill, both for getting better grades in school, and even more importantly, for their ability to function at the highest level possible throughout the rest of their lives.


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