Usually when we think of our kids needing help with math, we think in terms of a struggle with the concepts. But equally concerning is when your child’s progress stalls because their skill level is above the rest of the class and they’re in need of more advanced math lessons. This makes it difficult to stay competitive with their high-performing peers as well. A student with an aptitude for math should never be held back from excelling at their own pace, yet it isn’t always easy to know when this is the case. Here are some indicators to look for:
1. They appear to be daydreaming in class
If an advanced child isn’t stimulated by what’s being taught in the classroom, they will find other ways to spark their imagination. Though it is broadly termed as “daydreaming,” the child will often be intrigued by a particular object or thought that leads them to more interesting places in their mind. This isn’t indicative of a difficult or combative personality, but rather a natural response to their need to be intellectually challenged.
2. They jump ahead to the answers
A child who quickly grasps the concepts will often blurt out the answer to a problem before the teacher has finished explaining the steps, much to the annoyance of the teacher. This indicates that the student is able to solve the problem quickly in their head, while the rest of the class is taking multiple steps to get to the solution. While it may come as a disruption to the teacher’s process, the child may have a hard time holding back when they are eager to participate.
3. They don’t do their homework or don’t turn it in
Doing a bunch of math problems that are too easy is extremely tedious and uninteresting for students. So when they fail to complete their work, it could be because they simply aren’t motivated to do so. Knowing their reason for not completing the work — whether it’s an act of rebellion or an oversight — is less important than finding out if they need more advanced math. When their brain is stimulated by what they’re learning, they’re more likely to complete their assignments.
4. They say they’re bored with math
It’s common for classroom instruction to be geared toward students in the middle, which can be frustrating for advanced math students. After a period of time, a child who isn’t challenged in a given subject will typically blame the subject itself and give up on advancing their knowledge. This could also lead to their being disruptive in class and labeled as a difficult student. So if you hear your child saying, “math is boring,” it’s important to get to the root of the cause.
5. They’re assigned extra tasks
A teacher will sometimes try to come up with ways to redirect the accelerated student so they aren’t bored. They may be asked to help their classmates with their math — either by explaining the concepts or guiding them in solving problems. While this is well-meaning on the teacher’s part and can be viewed as a compliment to the child, what it does is keep them from exploring new concepts and advancing their skills.
So what can you do to help your child become more excited and motivated about math? First, talk to the teacher. They undoubtedly want what’s best for their students, but they aren’t always able to decipher the cause of certain behaviours. Information from the parent is usually welcomed. Just be careful not to criticize the teacher or come across as confrontational. Instead, let the teacher know that your aim is to be helpful and that you welcome a partnership in finding a way to keep your child engaged in class.
Also, consider enrolling your child in a supplemental math-instruction program that will challenge them at their ability level and show them how invigorating learning math can be. Mathnasium Learning Centres start students off with an individual assessment which details the skill level of each student and pinpoints what they need to improve their math-learning experience. A customized learning plan is then created, detailing the specific math concepts the child is ready for. Attentive, highly trained instructors teach students face-to-face at the pace that’s right for them. And both in-centre and online learning is available.
Once a child feels challenged and motivated by the advanced math lessons, they have the potential to thrive and enjoy tremendous success. By responding to your child’s need for help, you’re opening doors to higher achievement and helping them reach their full potential.
Carol Bainbridge, Why Gifted Children Often Have Issues with Attention, VeryWell Family, November 25, 2020.
Julie A. Ross M.A., When Children Aren’t Appropriately Challenged, Parenting Horizons.