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The Power of Confidence

by : Stacee Parker
posted on : 4/15/2014

Both as a teacher and as a MathRise® Learning Centers instructor, I have seen many children struggle with mathematics, reading, and writing.  However, there is one student who particularly stands out, Jake*.

Jake, a fifth grader, arrived at MathRise® for a math assessment in October, 2013.  As Jake waited in the lobby, I initiated some small talk with him.  Unlike most children, Jake didn’t even crack a smile.   Instead, he spoke quietly and looked down at the floor.  He seemed upset.

As I sat through the assessment, I began to understand why.  This assessment was rough, both for the instructor and for him.  His mother, Julie*, didn’t hesitate to sign him up and wanted to get him started as soon as possible.

After one of Jake’s initial classes, I spoke to his mother and found out there was much more going on.  Jake actually was running away from school, becoming defiant towards teachers and even acting out against them.  As Julie spoke, with tears running down her face, she said “I just want my son to learn enough to stay in school.  I don’t know what else to do.  He’s a great kid and this isn’t like him.”  Needless to say, I was in shock.

Although Jake was in fifth grade, he was operating with the skill base of an average third grader, two full years behind his peers.  He was very frustrated and was severely lacking confidence in his abilities.  This lack of confidence was leading to larger problems.  In fact, Jake was completely ready to give up - in fifth grade.  I knew the MathRise® team had its work cut out for them.  We would have to work extra hard to increase Jake’s confidence quickly.

Now, I’m not going to lie, many difficult days lie ahead.  Often, Jake would break down crying, saying things like “I just don’t know how to do anything.”  Once in a while though, there were also times he smiled.  That’s when I knew he was starting to get it.

Two months into the program, Jake regularly came in with a smile on his face, ready for class.  He began to speak more and held his head higher.  Julie was elated and said he gained so much confidence by attending MathRise®.  He was really starting to understand math.  The confidence he was gaining in math was even flowing into other subjects, and everyday life.  Jake was especially proud of his progress - he would show us math homework papers from school with stickers, positive notes, and A’s.

That’s the power of confidence!  Many students lack confidence in math and language arts for one reason or another.  With school classrooms between 25 to 35 students, it’s difficult for teachers to give any student individualized attention.  Also to blame is rising standards and curriculum that isn’t taught in a kid-friendly way.  Most teachers are forced to teach material at a very fast pace and prior mastery of previous lessons is assumed.  Teachers don’t usually have time to go backwards.

Lack of textbooks in most classes is yet another concern.  Students are expected to learn without the support materials they used to have.  Further, many students are just plain uncomfortable asking questions in class, fearing they will be judged by their teacher and classmates.

MathRise® has created an innovative way of overcoming these challenges through 1 on 1 instruction with well-trained instructors who are taught to teach in a manner children understand.  1 on 1 learning eliminates peer pressure.  Students are not only encouraged to ask questions, they are required to actively participate in every class to ensure complete mastery of all coursework.  The idea is that if every student learns one or two new things in every class, this builds into an encyclopedia of knowledge so vast that it exposes night and day differences in abilities, confidence, and self-esteem.

MathRise® teaches students in a user-friendly, pattern based format, which builds confidence quickly.  Students learn it is ok to ask questions and make mistakes.  Every class is built around the idea that the student must do 95% of the work, while the teacher models, ask questions, and assists as needed.   Students are praised often, and their confidence grows through achievement.

Jake continues to attend MathRise every week and has been making great strides.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

 


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