Building Confidence

December 12, 2013


Just recently I was speaking with one of our teachers who was working with a student  struggling in math.  The child understands the concepts and processes of math.  To her credit, she has a solid foundation in math except for one little thing…she never memorized her subtraction facts so she relies on her fingers when subtracting.    She is so embarrassed to use her fingers as her calculator she hides her hands under the table so no one else can see her. This, in turn, makes the process of “quick math” really slow.  As one can imagine, when the “mad math minute” comes (how many math problems can you do in one minute), she completely panics and tries any method she can to come up with to answer quickly.

As our teacher was analyzing the situation and talking through the steps to solving math problems with her, the child simply said, “I just can’t do subtraction.”  She had become so overwhelmed  in this one area she had shut down and refused to believe she could do it.  Over their last few tutoring sessions, our teacher brought subtraction back down to a level where the child was successful, even enticing her by writing silly phrases on the top of her math fact pages.  I am not sure what you mean by the silly phrases.  Perhaps an example here? Sometimes things just need to be brought back down to a level where a child can regain their confidence in order to succeed.

“My child’s confidence is suffering,” is the most common thing I hear parents say when they are seeking outside help for their child.  Here are a few things we can do to facilitate and promote confidence in our children:

  1. Set the child up to succeed.  Take a step or two back.  They can’t subtract double digits, but they can subtract single digits.  Start with the single digits where they can be successful.  Build a more stable foundation and add to it a little bit at a time.
  2. Help them lose the label.  My student’s label was, “I can’t subtract.”  She lost that label when she realized she CAN subtract numbers!  Tell the child when they have made progress!
  3. Give them responsibility.  Every child feels success and confidence when they complete a task.  After a child has completed their assignment, give them an opportunity to check it.  Self-checking is a great tool for children!  They can correct their own mistakes without someone else doing it for them.
  4. Encourage them to express their feelings.  Let them know it is okay to get frustrated or celebrate a victory.  Allow them to take ownership of their feelings.
  5. Be positive! Cheer on their small steps.