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7 Effective Strategies to Support Your Struggling Math Students

Read to see 7 effective strategies for struggling math students so that they can find success. It all starts with small group instruction!

When math is difficult for students, it effects their confidence and attitude towards math. I know this, because I was that student. One of the biggest ways to help your struggling students is to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with your them and let them know that you are there for them. Small group instruction is my favorite way to support struggling math students because it allows you to work with them closely and provide the support and activities that they need. Today, I’m going to share with you 7 effective strategies for struggling math students so that they can find success. 

1. Get to Know Your Students

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to know your students. How do they feel about math and what they are learning? Does math stress them out? Be specific and ask them what specifically about math gives them anxiety? Provide students with plenty of support and positive feedback! One way to do this is to guide them through what they might be struggling with in small groups.

Teaching in small group allows you to have those type of meaningful conversations that might not be available in whole group teaching. Start by implementing mathematical conversations often within small groups. The more times students are able to participate in and hear those mathematical conversations, the more comfortable they will get in their learning. This provides a great opportunity for those reluctant learners to open up about what they are struggling with!

2. Know Your Data

This is something I truly believe makes a huge difference! If you’re a part of my Managing Math Stations, you know that I talk about this all of the time. It’s so important to use pre and post assessments to see what do your students already know and where are they struggling at. Inside all of my Guided Math Units, I’ve recently added a pre AND post data checklist to every single one of my units.

Why should we be using pre and post assessments? Well, the answer is super simple! With guided reading, you have reading levels. Within those levels, there are standards and skills that each student should be hitting for their benchmarks. Well, there’s no levels when it comes to math and because we don’t have that type of data it’s our responsibility to know where our students are at and what they need! These short 5 question pre assessments help determine what you need to teach in your small groups.

Assessments with ESGI

If you’re new to these types of pre and post assessments, I would highly suggest checking out ESGI! It is an online formative assessment company that I’ve partnered with for the past few years where I’ve created 2nd grade assessments for math and ELA for every standard. Each test is very short with 10 questions max and you can assess your students on any type of device. The best part is that it will automatically generate student data for any type of RTI meeting or parent conference that you may have! Read more about how it works and how you can get a free trial with Online Student Assessments Made Easy!

3. Pre-Teach Your Math Stations

Each time you swap out your math stations, take the time during your first rotation (15 minutes or so) and explain each activity. Even though you may have an instruction page for each station, it’s important to discuss and model how students should be completing each activity. One thing you can do to help save time is to begin implementing Maximize Your Math Block math stations! This is one of my favorite strategies for struggling math students!

Maximize Your Math Block math stations for 2nd grade comes with a student instructional video for each activity! Simply scan a QR code and I will show the students how to complete each activity or play a game. This way you don’t have to waste 15 minutes trying to teach it, but rather I do the work for you!

4. See Your Supported Students First Each Day

This is another thing I teach inside of Managing Math Stations on how to create a schedule that will meet the needs of all of your students so that they get the support they need. Your rotations may look differently each day, but the students who need more support always come to you first. This ensures that you are seeing them every day to get that small group support!

Guided math is a process for both you and your students. It takes time and practice to develop but when implemented the right way, it is highly beneficial for your students. Not only are they receiving whole group lessons, but also small group activities within your guided math time. If you are new to guided math or simply want fresh ideas on how to use guided math, fill out the form below to have this Guided Math Ebook sent directly to your inbox!

5. Require Less Problems (Quality over Quantity)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever found this awesome set of task cards, you print them out, and then assign all 24 cards for your students to complete in 20 minutes? I’m guilty. I would do it all the time. More times than not, I never considered that completing all those problems in 20 minutes would be overwhelming. Focusing on the quality of work over the quantity is one of the best strategies for struggling math students!

I would consider and recommend assigning a less amount of problems. For example, have students complete questions 1-10 the first time they visit that station. Next time, they’ll do numbers 11-20. If they don’t finish all 24 problems that week, is it really a big deal? For your struggling math students, consider assigning them an even lesser amount, so maybe 1-5. This allows them to complete the same work as the other students. This way they don’t feel pressured, getting overwhelmed, or feel left out. 

6. Provide Students with Visual Aids

Visual representations, especially for our ESL and struggling learners, can make things so much easier for students to wrap their head around certain concepts. By providing plenty of visual cues such as anchor charts, graphic organizers, illustrations or examples, and number lines can help kids understand something better in what they would consider a stressful environment.

7. Do Not Grade Station Work

I never grade station work. Why? For the exact reason I shared above. You have kids working on all different levels. Just because I don’t grade it, doesn’t mean that I don’t check it. I might add a sticker or a checkmark to the recording sheet. I might leave a little note on the page but there is never a grade on anything. I tell parents at the beginning of the year that each week when station work is sent home, it will be upgraded. This way they are not confused and know my expectations. 

It’s so important to get to know your students and understand how they feel about math. Strategies to use with your struggling math students do not have to be difficult! Come up with ways that you can have ongoing support with them and provide positive feedback. Knowing your data helps you know what you need to be teaching at the small group table.

If you want to know more about data and how you can use it to better your students join the waitlist for Managing Math Stations! Enrollment will be opening very soon this summer! Remember, we are looking for quality not quantity when it comes to math small groups!

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Read to see 7 effective strategies for struggling math students so that they can find success. It all starts with small group instruction!
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