Math is considered the gatekeeper of success in school and it is the number one struggle of most adult learners as they work toward their high school equivalency credentials. Why do students struggle with math and what can we do to help them succeed?

Students struggle for many reasons. There may be a gap with background knowledge, lack of understanding of math language, or difficulty with algebraic thinking.

Math begins with number sense. Defined as a student’s ability to use and understand numbers by knowing their values and developing strategies to use when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing, number sense is critical to understanding math. Think about a student who has demonstrated skills with algebraic thinking and is able to write an equation. However, when they attempt to solve it, they make a computation error. Students need to be proficient with numbers in order to be successful in advanced math.

Beyond difficulties with number sense, students can struggle with information gaps and transferring of knowledge. For example, a student might understand how to compute a problem with a fraction like ½ but not be able to transfer that knowledge to a fraction like 3/7.

Beyond number sense, students often struggle with the language of math. If a student doesn’t understand denominator, divisor, factor, or other key math terms, they can’t set up a problem correctly to even begin the computation.

So, where do we begin with building math skills? First, start with the beginning of number sense to ensure that students have the background knowledge needed to successfully move forward and fill in any information /knowledge gaps. Spend time on building math vocabulary. Without these skills, students – even students who have demonstrated skills in algebraic thinking and problem solving – may struggle.

The High Intermediate Basic Math curriculum in i-Pathways includes the following units.

- Unit 1: Number Sense
- Unit 2: Fractions and Mixed Numbers
- Unit 3: Decimal Numbers
- Unit 4: Ratios and Proportions
- Unit 5: Percents

The Low and High Adult Secondary curriculum includes the following units:

- Unit 1: Introduction to Real Numbers
- Unit 2: Introduction to Algebra
- Unit 3: Introduction to Geometry
- Unit 4: Linear Inequalities in One Variable
- Unit 5: Linear Functions
- Unit 6: Polynomials and Factoring
- Unit 7: Rational Expressions

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