How to Support Students Who are Struggling with Math: Adena's Interview with Bay Tree Blog8/22/2016
This summer I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Anne Marie Morey, an Educational Therapist and founder of the Bay Tree Blog, about how to support students who are struggling with math. We had a wonderful conversation about the role of prior knowledge in classroom learning, addressing math anxiety, supporting students with executive functioning difficulties, understanding how visual processing delays can impact learning, and how to cultivate math problem solving skills. To listen to the interview or read Anne Marie's article about our talk, please visit the Bay Tree Blog. I wanted to share a slide I made earlier this year for a lecture at Cal, which I am retitling: "All the things that are going on inside your brain when you do math." This framework helps me to understand my students as math learners, to identify factors that may be making it difficult for them to learn math, and to develop ways to support their learning and development in math. Last November, I gave a presentation to the parents at the Creative Play Center in Pleasant Hill, CA on how to support their children's early math development. In the talk, I drew from professional recommendations from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and my own experience and expertise as a math educator and former preschool teacher. Here are some of the key ideas we discussed. When thinking about children's early mathematical development, parents and teachers should consider three areas of development: Conceptual Understanding, Mathematical Thinking, and Psychosocial Development. Here are are some descriptions about what each area looks like in early childhood:
This month I had the privilege of leading a presentation and discussion with the El Cerrito High School Mathematics Department on Creating Mathematics Learning Environments for Developing Mathematical Thinkers. I began the presentation by posing a question to the math teachers: What does it mean to learn math?
I asked the teachers to consider their own professional and personal thoughts and beliefs, as well as how they might have answered the question when they themselves were students. I also asked them to think about how their math students and their students' parents might answer the question. Take a look at what the teachers had to say: As a school psychologist and former mathematics instructor and department chair, I know that math can be hard for some students. When I talk with parents, they share their concerns about their children's failing math grades, declining selfconfidence, and increasing anxiety. They share their struggles with helping their children at home, especially when the math material goes beyond what they remember from school, when a topic is being taught in a different way from what they learned, or when their attempts to help with homework turns into a fight. What I have consistently seen is that all parents want to know how to help their children become happy and successful in mathematics. When a student is struggling in math, the first step to figuring out how to help him/her become a successful math student is to identify the reason or reasons why he/she is struggling. In other words, what is preventing your student from learning? Learning and doing math is an intricate process, and there are number of areas which could contribute to difficulties in math. Some of these areas are outlined below: COGNITIVE
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL
There are many ways to gather information and identify the nature of a child's difficulties in math and the interventions that may help to address the difficulties. Your child's teacher is often a good place to start. Teachers are often able to provide insights about a child's math skills and learning behaviors, and can often make recommendations about the areas in which a child needs extra practice or instruction. Also within the school setting, a Student Success Team or Student Study Team (SST) can further help to identify causes of learning difficulties and develop an action plan. If there is suspicion of a learning disability, parents have a right to request an assessment from their school district at no cost, or they may also choose to seek an assessment from an outside provider. Finally, some children may benefit from additional academic and/or psychological support from a private practitioner to identify and address their difficulties and help them to develop their mathematical thinking skills and selfconfidence. 
SOLVING MATH PROBLEMS BLOGBlending her backgrounds in mathematics education and educational/school psychology, Adena offers an integrated perspective to understanding and supporting students who struggle with math.
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