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How Can I Help My Teen With Algebra?

By Barbara Bellesi, Consulting Educator

Question:

My daughter is in the 11th grade. She is having problems with algebra 2. Her teacher said that she cannot give her one-on-one tutoring. I took her to a place for evaluation for math. She tested at a fifth-grade level. I am a single parent who cannot afford a tutor or places like Sylvan Learning Center. She was going to a tutor on the outside of school that was free however she still is failing algebra 2 with an F. How can I get her the right help? I am a concerned parent who sees that her daughter is depressed because she cannot grasp it. Desperately seeking your help.

Answer:

I am glad to hear that you are so supportive of your daughter and her schoolwork. Math can be a frustrating subject for many students, so your encouragement will be beneficial as she works through her current difficulties. Here are some steps you can take right now to help her.

First things first: Schedule an appointment - in person or on the phone - with your daughter's guidance counselor and teacher to inform them of the test results. As a former teacher and SAT tutor, I always appreciated it when parents informed me of outside test results. Keeping teachers and counselors in the loop gives your daughter a better chance of getting the personalized learning assistance she needs.

Many schools do not allow teachers to offer private tutoring outside of the classroom, but your daughter's teacher might be available in other ways.

  • Encourage your daughter to ask questions in class or request a few minutes of the teacher's time to go over a problem.
  • Ask her math teacher for a weekly or bi-weekly progress report so that you are kept up-to-date on her improvements and setbacks in the coming weeks.

Here are some suggestions for finding affordable tutoring options:

  • Check with your daughter's school to see if tutoring is offered through the academic honor society. This option was available at the school where I taught. They offered one-on-one peer tutoring that was supervised by a faculty member.
  • Find an education or math major at your local college to help out a couple of hours per week. You can offer a small fee per visit, or provide a reference for a job or graduate school program.
  • Go online! There are lots of great online resources for your daughter to use, including Web sites like math.com and algebra.com, both of which offer many problem sets and answer explanations. Sometimes a fresh set of problems and a new set of instructions can help instead of using the same math textbook day in and day out.

I assume that you are also concerned that your daughter's current math struggles may affect her chances of getting into college. Right now, your daughter could be thinking that her entire future hinges on her math grade. This is simply not true, particularly if she is thinking of majoring in a subject that does not require algebra!

Again, this is a trying time for your daughter. Focus on the small improvements that she will eventually make and encourage her to make more. Like all good things, education takes time, but the end result can be very sweet.

Campuscompare is an interactive Web site offering fun tools that engage high school students in the college selection process. The site combines data on nearly 3,000 colleges from the Department of Education, the colleges themselves and reviews by current students to provide a 360 degree view of college life.


Barbara Bellesi is a former teacher and SAT tutor. She has contributed to numerous publications, offering advice to college hopefuls and their parents. She also publishes a college advice column, "Dear Babs." She is currently a staff writer at CampusCompare.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/24/2011:
"I am a wiz in Math from Nigeria. I am an expert in handling slower learners in Math and my wish has always been to teach in an American school. I am presently an Ad - Math teacher in Nigeria but I really wish to teach in the US. Someone should advice me rightly."
07/19/2010:
"The author does NOT address the crux of the problem which appears to be a classic case of SOCIAL PROMOTION. Here's a student in the 11th grade failing Algebra 2. Her mother is concerned NOW because her daughter is failing so she has her evaluated. The daughter tests at a 5th grade level. So HOW did she get to 11th grade? How did she pass Algebra 1 and Geometry if she is on a 5th grade level in math??? Her teachers 7-10th grades must have simply given her a D, a passing grade. Thus she moved up each year but learned NOTHING. Now she finally got a teacher who will NOT magic a passing grade for her. The issue is not with Algebra 2 BUT with her lack of learning any math since the 5th grade and being passed on by the Industrial Era model educational system."
04/5/2010:
"i'm 12 yrs old and i am homeschooled, so my parenst are trying to help me with pre-algebra, but no matter what they do i just dont understand it, i mean it isnt that they are doing it wrong it's just like it won't 'click' in my head, so do you have any tips that would help me? thanks"
01/11/2010:
"A line segment containing the points (0, 0) and (12, 8) will also contain the point "
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