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Nothing builds confidence like success

(ROCKWALL, HEATH, TX – August 22, 2015) In the 1970’s sitcom Good Times, James Carter “Jimmy” Walker’s character frequently let out a big “Dyn-o-mite” during the show. This popular catch phrase was born out of his character’s outgoing personality. Because we are drawn to people who are confident and have a positive attitude, it was infectious and made him the most popular character of the series.

As parents, we want our children to be confident and positive, especially when it comes to learning. However, some children begin to lose confidence at the very time in their life we hope or expect them to grow in confidence.

Unfortunately, math is one of the most confidence crushing things children face during their developmental years. It usually begins in small ways, with an uncertainty about how to do a problem which grows as the school years pass. Subsequent years build on previous knowledge which a child is assumed to have mastered. If a child feels weak in a particular skill, they quickly learn avoidance techniques that add to their weaknesses and decrease their confidence level. The avoidance technique we observe most often are trips to the water cooler or restroom. It is amazing how much water a child can consume in an effort to avoid a math problem.

Without intervention these children will inevitably run headlong into Algebra without the necessary prerequisite skills and without the confidence to believe they can “do the math.” They begin to feel like a failure, when in fact they just have gaps in their understanding. Just yesterday, I watched a bright young girl’s face morph from puzzlement to a smile as she discovered that squares and square roots were “cool” instead of confusing. You could almost see her confidence growing as she began to refocus on her math problems with a new sense of understanding.

Summer is one of the biggest culprits in a child’s decline in confidence. Skills that are forgotten over a 3 month “down time” from school creates gaps in understanding. When the child begins the new school year, with its more difficult concepts, these gaps cause frustration and can adversely affect grades and self-confidence.

Getting our children back on the road to success often means backing up a little to make certain their foundation is solid before tackling concepts that are more complex. Once a child learns that they can do the math at foundational levels, they will be able to see that success is possible as they continue to progress.

As you plan for the new school year, give your student sufficient time to complete their assignments. Work with them when you can. Find resources to supplement their education when needed. And remember, as important and fun as extra-curricular activities are, the skills that will carry them successfully through their lives should be our priority. We hope this is a great school year for your children.

By Blue Ribbon News guest columnists Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center in Rockwall. Contact them at rockwall-heath@mathnasium.com.

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