As an educator for math and science for more than ten years, I strongly believe education is more than simply teaching students terminologies, formulas or theorems. To a large extent, it is important to develop their self-confidence and their abilities in an academic environment and even in life-long learning. A large number of students I work with lack academic confidence. They express they are not clever enough, not having a strong math background, not having potential and so on. I understand students’ phobia about math from my experience of learning English, which is my second language; on the other hand, I believe that it is possible to conquer phobia and improve confidence. There are a variety of strategies to help students enhance their confidence in math.
No matter how old students are, encouragement can help them develop confidence. Providing positive feedback to students when they did a good job can be a significant improvement, and recognize a small achievement. Students will put more efforts in if they believe they have ability to achieve the goal and someone will be proud of them. Appropriate positive feedback can change students’ negative thoughts about their math capability, and in turn, develop confidence. Give them credit for trying even when they give a wrong answer. It is not always about the answer. It is about how they got there and the efforts they put in. With confidence, students can learn faster and gain the fluency they need.
Show kindness, understanding and patience to students when they are struggling academically. Generally, students can feel embarrassed to ask for explanation again. If they notice any impatience from an educator, they might doubt their intelligence so that they will be afraid to ask for help in the future. Students are more likely to ask questions in a friendly academic atmosphere which can stimulate students’ curiosity and desire to learn. Even though students might think the majority of educators are geniuses, we know this is not true. We want them to know that we are not different from them, and we all can enhance our skills in our weak areas as long as we put into our efforts efficiently. Students frequently ask a question “How do you know how to solve the question, but not me?” I remember I asked my professor the same question after he tried various methods to help me interpret a concept. He told me it was not because he was smarter than me, and it was just because he had lots of practice and had been working in the area for many years. What he told me inspired me and made me believe that I would be able to comprehend it as well. “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buehner
Assist them to set realistic study goals. Everybody is different with distinct knowledge background, study skills, available time for schoolwork and so on. Based on student’s study ability, help them set objectives which should not be too easy or too challenging. Plan ahead and then stick to it. Also, a study plan should be flexible to ensure that it is practical. For example, if a student misses a day, he or she can have time to make up for it. The benefits of setting goals are numerous. Obviously, study time becomes productive because students will know what to study, when to study, and how much time should be spent. This is just like that we need to know our directions, routes and time, and cost before we start driving to a new destination. We can arrive in our destination faster than if we just simply start a trip.