4 Key Ingredients to Cure “Common Core Math Frustration Syndrome”

4 Key Ingredients to Cure “Common Core Math Frustration Syndrome”

For many parents, it’s an all too familiar scenario.

Your child is doing his homework in the dining room. Loud, angry exhales and the sound of a furious eraser tells you he is obviously frustrated by his math homework. You offer to help. He accepts, reluctantly.

You begin to show him how you learned to do the problem. Fighting back tears, and clearly anxious, he cuts you off mid-problem, “But that’s not how my teacher taught us to do it in school! She wants us to do it the way she taught us!”

You may even consult your child’s math book or school worksheets to see how the concept was taught during class. That lesson probably looks nothing like the math techniques you remember from your own school days.

The truth is… even parents who were terrific math students find it difficult, if not impossible, to help their kids with math homework in this age of Common Core standards.

Common Core was launched in 2009 with the intention of standardizing learning objectives for each grade level across all states. The specific methods for achieving the objectives aren’t specified, and teachers may use “a range of algorithms” as methods to help students learn the required list of concepts. Some of the newer methods have caused parent confusion and frustration because they’re very different from the methods we remember being taught as students.

When our kids feel like they’re not “getting it,” they become frustrated and feel helpless. They feel like giving up, because it seems like their efforts are not resulting in a proportional amount of success. These feelings lead to a downward spiral in confidence, engagement and effort. Your child may begin to see himself as “bad at math.”

Without exception, kids aren’t “bad” at math. They just decide their efforts won’t result in success, and they throw in the towel. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Great news, parents: It doesn’t have to be this way. You can turn it all around with four ingredients:

  1. An expert who understands Common Core and teaching algorithms

Pair your child with a confident and personable expert who specializes in math and understands the teaching algorithms your child’s teacher is using to teach the Common Core concepts. They’re not that hard to find. Learning centers, such as Mathnasium, are full of them. Hiring a private tutor is another option, but you’ll want to be sure you find one quite familiar with newer math approaches, and able to customize the approach for your child’s specific needs.

  1. Skills gap assessment (the “diagnosis”)

An expert must assess your child’s fundamental grade-level skills to identify whether their learning obstacles are resulting from gaps in prerequisite skills required for the level of math they’re learning (for example, multiplication fact fluency, addition/subtraction fact fluency, working with fractions, etc.), or from their lack of comprehension about a specific problem-solving approach, or, as is usually the case, both.

  1. A strategy for skill acquisition (the “prescription”)

Think of it almost as if your child’s specific areas of skill weakness are an “ailment.” You need a prescription for it, in the form of a strategy. An expert who understands your child’s individual skills gaps can formulate a customized plan for eliminating that gap and strengthening skills that will unlock your child’s potential for math success. This is not at all the same as having your child simply learn and memorize a math technique. That would be merely a temporary Band-Aid approach, leaving the math skills gaps waiting in the wings to continue haunting your child into middle school, high school, college, or trade school.

  1. Positive reinforcement – the connection between effort and success

When a child recognizes their effort really does result in success, it feels amazing. Especially if math has been a daunting obstacle contributing to a negative self-image. Initially, to inspire a child to commit to putting in effort, external rewards can be offered, such as sticker charts, incentive prizes, or some other age-appropriate item or experience. Once he realizes he can have success in math, parents are often amazed at the natural confidence, enthusiasm and pride that comes along with the accomplishment.

There are few things more rewarding for a parent than seeing their child realize they can overcome a significant academic obstacle and, more importantly, that their effort, persistence and practice pays off. Those are lessons that will help them meet many other challenges in life head-on, with confidence, knowing they can achieve competence and even excellence despite initial difficulty.

Seek help for your math-challenged child. Don’t let your lack of understanding about Common Core and newer math techniques play a part in your child’s frustration and disengagement from math. Even if it costs you a bit of money for a math expert’s “prescription,” it will be one of the best investments you make in your child’s academic journey.

“Children don’t hate math.  What they hate is being confused, intimidated, and embarrassed by math.  With understanding comes passion, and with passion comes growth—a treasure is unlocked.”

–Larry Martinek, math teacher and creator of the Mathnasium Method

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Mathnasium of Sayville

(631) 699-5995


When math makes sense, kids leap way ahead – whether they started out far behind or already ahead in math. Our formula for teaching kids math, the Mathnasium Method™has transformed the way kids learn math for over a decade across 800+ centers in the US

Hello. We are Rich Alfano and Chris Carrion-Alfano, Co-Owners of Mathnasium of Sayville, your neighborhood math-only learning center. We help kids in grades Pre-K – 12 understand math by teaching the way that makes sense to them.

  • We know how to teach your child math.
    Our specially trained math instructors will teach your child how to understand math in an individual setting – our unique approach enables us to effectively explain math concepts and lend a helping hand to every student. Our tutors foster a caring, encouraging environment that helps kids thrive and learn!
  • We pinpoint your child’s learning needs, meet them where they are, and take them where they need to go.
    Mathnasium instructors use our unique assessment process to determine (with great accuracy) exactly what each child knows and what they need to learn. Next, we design a customized learning plan for teaching the concepts the student needs to master. It doesn’t stop there – our encouraging instructors continually check progress along the way to make sure kids truly understand and retain the concepts we’ve taught. The results are transformative – kids will see measurable changes in attitude, confidence, and school progress.
  • We will help your child overcome homework frustration.
    Our instructors will also set aside time to provide homework help. We help kids understand the homework assignment so they feel better prepared to complete the work at home – underscoring their understanding of concepts and transforming homework frustration into a welcome challenge.

Mathnasium of Sayville is conveniently located in Oakdale in the Best Market / McDonald’s shopping center on the south side of Sunrise Highway (between Ocean and Sycamore)!