High School Math Classes | Why Students Struggle

by | May 9, 2024

For many students in high school, math classes pose the biggest academic obstacle. There’s a number of reasons why a student struggles with math and I want to discuss what these reasons are and why.

The Why

Complex Concepts

One of the biggest hurdles for students is the level of complex concepts present in most lessons. Math is extremely technical and relies on a student’s complete understanding of concepts. This only gets harder in high school as students take upper level courses. Subjects like calculus, statistics, and even some science based subjects like physics and chemistry require students to apply learned concepts. Many students can feel overwhelmed at first which can lead to discouragement for the student.

Everything Builds On Itself

Math has an order to it. It’s one of the reasons why in high school they require you to take algebra before geometry and algebra 2 before pre-calculus. Each subject focuses on a core set of principles that are later iterated upon. It’s integral for students to ask questions and gain a complete understanding before moving onto the next class. If a student learns the wrong way, the cumulative knowledge brought into the next subject will only result in more confusion. It is also very dependent on the teacher’s style of instruction. Many students have a type of “way” in which they learn that not all teachers can accommodate. In this case it’s important to consider outside help such as tutoring.

Problem Solving and Executive Functioning

Math requires an individual to have effective problem solving skills. While in high school, students are required to be organized and independent with how they accomplish work. This is where the necessary executive functioning skills are required. These skills are primarily developed and learned in middle school and provide students with the necessary tools to be independent learners. While this plays a role in all classes, math especially requires these organizational skills. It’s why we recommend students keep a binder where they can store information relating to due dates and homework assignments.

Information Overload

Since high school math classes cover such a variety of concepts, the amount of information learned can be overwhelming. Students are often taught multiple complex concepts at once and are required to learn them before proceeding. This is where it’s easy for students to fall behind early on. The minute a student starts falling behind, they begin experiencing confusion and anxiety about the class. For many, this can be discouraging.

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The Solution

The best solution for students struggling in high school math classes is tutoring. Furthermore, tutoring offers students the tools and time necessary to get caught up with their class. Certain tutors mesh better with the learning style of students as well. This is where researching your tutor can come in handy. We recommend researching the tutor and booking a few sessions to allow your student to get comfortable with them. If the student is still having concerns after these sessions, it’s recommended to try another tutor. Once landing on a tutor, they’re able to build an effective roadmap for the student to get them ready for school.

I recommend checking out our services: TenneyTutors. TenneyTutors is a one-to-one tutoring service that is entirely remote. All of our tutors are experienced, private school teachers at our in-person private school: The Tenney School. Our tutors are perfect for families looking to get a leg up in math classes and want a professional teacher doing the tutoring. Check out our scheduling page for availability.


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