By Maria Miller, Math Mammoth www.mathmammoth.com

#### 1. Test and assess

If you are teaching a student who struggles in math, you probably already have an idea which math topics are difficult for him or her, but knowing for sure is much better than guesswork. By testing you can be sure to find *all *the weak areas. This is important because mathematics builds upon earlier concepts.

You can download ready-made assessment tests from a variety of sources:

- Math Mammoth placement tests (for grades 1-6) – these work as generic math assessment tests also.
- Tests from various states – search the net for example “texas math test grade 5”, and similarly for other states.

Please note you’re not using the tests to necessarily find out what grade level the student is in (though you can), but **to pinpoint the exact areas of math** that he or she needs help with. So look at the test results closely, question by question.

Administer tests from neighboring grade levels if necessary. Stress to the student that the test is for evaluation purposes, not for giving grades.

#### 2. Make a List of Topics

Once you know the topics where the student struggles, make a list of them. If there are only a few, then it is fairly easy to fill in the gaps: simply use Math Mammoth Blue Series books or other math materials to address those areas.

The Blue Series books are *worktexts*, which means that they contain both the explanations (the “text”) and the problems (the “work”). Each book deals with **one area of math**, such as place value, addition & subtraction, multiplication tables, multi-digit multiplication, long division, measuring, clock, money, geometry, fractions, decimals, proportions, percent, integers, statistics, and so on. In other words, the books are topical. They cover all the topics in grades 1-6 and some in grade 7. See a full list of the books and the topics here.

The Blue Series books are sold as downloads with **very affordable prices ($2 – $7)**, and are also available as printed copies. Download lots of free samples from these links, and see for yourself!

http://www.mathmammoth.com/preview/MathMammoth_Samples_Blue_Series_grades_1-3.zip

http://www.mathmammoth.com/preview/MathMammoth_Samples_Blue_Series_grades_4-7.zip

#### 3. Perhaps Go Back to the Very Beginning

The question is more complex if the student is seriously behind. What if your child is in 7th grade but still struggling with 3^{rd} grade topics, such as the multiplication tables?

Here’s one possibility. Some of my customers have actually gone **back to the very beginning **– 1^{st} or 2^{nd} grade math – with Math Mammoth complete curriculum, and had their child work through every grade level systematically, building a very solid foundation. Typically, an older child can cover many grade levels of elementary math in one year. Don’t ask the child to do every problem, but “skim through” the lessons, concentrating on the difficult areas. One idea is to have the child complete the chapter review *before* studying that particular chapter, in order to discover which lessons from the chapter the child should actually study. I feel this is a good option for many children who are seriously behind.

#### 4. Restudying Some Topics while Using a Math Curriculum

If you use a regular math curriculum, one way is to study a weak area just before the same topic in the child’s regular math curriculum. For example, the child could restudy basic division (a 3^{rd} grade topic) just before tackling long division in a 4^{th} grade book. This approach works best if the gaps are not many.

#### 5. Should you go on with new concepts or not?

This is not a “yay or nay” question. With some children, it’s advisable to **present some new concepts** while reviewing earlier ones. That can **keep them motivated** and not feel so behind. Obviously you cannot start a study of, say, long division if your student lags behind in the basic multiplication or division facts, but you may be able to “sprinkle in” some place value, geometry, time, money, or measuring. Geometry is an especially good area to use while reviewing old concepts, because it typically does not require many calculations.

In some cases, you may have to go back a lot and spend a significant amount of time relearning “old” topics. However, in that scenario, the “old” topics are actually “new” to the student so shouldn’t feel boring to him or her. Just use your judgment.

As you can see, your approach can vary. The important thing is that you first assess the student’s knowledge and make some kind of “game plan” so you can feel *in control*. If you have to change your plan, that’s alright – in fact, that is quite normal.