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Why Are Some Students Better At Math Than Others?


The same question has been asked for decades, if not centuries – what makes some of the students better at math? Over the years many attempts were made to give a definitive answer to this question, but the more answers we have, the more clear it becomes that there is no one feature, which is the reason why some students perform better at math. It is a combination of many different factors, however learning more about them can help you establish the best strategy for developing math skills in children.

How important is genetics?

There is no doubt, that genes play an important part in shaping child’s intelligence, including math skills, but do they play the major role? Most researchers would probably agree, that genes are important, but they do not determine which children will be most successful at math. Environment can severely modify the influence of genes: positive reinforcement allows gifted children to develop their unique abilities, however unbeneficial environment can hamper natural predispositions of a child.

It means that children, whose parents are not math-savvy, can be good at math, as long as they are brought up in a stimulating environment. Other factors, which in the past were mentioned as probable causes of high IQ, such as race and class, were eliminated as not important. But what exactly scientists mean, when they talk about “environment”?

Independence and high standards

A few different research studies have proven that the positive attitude towards learning is one of the most important factors leading to success. Parents, who hold academic achievements in high regard (even if they do not have any academic degree themselves) and present their children with many educational opportunities, are able to inspire their children to do better at math.

Parents, who are more likely to start a discussion with their children about their future and career, are usually much better at encouraging their kids to aim for higher goals. Studies also show that it is important to allow children to make independent choices regarding their style of learning and favorite disciplines.

Kids, who are left with a lot of space to make the decisions for themselves, are usually better at critical and analytical thinking, while students, who were taught that teachers are always right, often struggle to achieve good results in math and science.

Method and practice

Math geniuses are not born with their skills, but they simply practice a lot more than their peers. If you want your child to be better at math, you should look for a math program or after school math classes to encourage your child to study more. The method used to teach math can also significantly improve students’ grades.

One of the most effective math teaching techniques is called Singapore Math and it is inspired by the official math curriculum in Singapore, a country known for its outstanding results in teaching math. Singapore Math can be used to help underperforming students improve in math, but it is also recommended for gifted children as a technique, which allows them to comprehend complex math problems.

Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.