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To Learn Math You Must Do Math

7th grade math student
High school student solving a math equation

Learning math is similar to learning a sport…. to LEARN math, you must DO math. Think about learning how to shoot a free throw in basketball. If you just watch from the sidelines and don’t actually touch a basketball, you will probably never excel at free throws!  Math is very much like that.

There are five basic steps in learning math:

  •  Get a good explanation of the topic
  •  Work practice problems
  •   Know WHY the math works
  •   Play with the math for fun and to cement the concept in your brain
  •  Apply it to real world situations 

    Virtual Learning vs In Person Tutoring

    Let’s think about the steps to learning math in terms of online (virtual) math instruction. Education Week Research ( found that “In comparisons of online and in-person classes, online classes aren’t as effective as in-person classes for most students.” When students were asked to compare the two experiences, “the students assigned to the online option also rated their class as more difficult than did their peers assigned to the face-to-face option.”

    “Students who struggle with in-person classes are likely to struggle even more online. While the research on virtual schools in K-12 education doesn’t address these differences directly, a study of college students at Stanford found very little difference in learning for high-performing students in the online and in-person settings. On the other hand, lower performing students performed meaningfully worse in online courses than in in-person courses.”

    The crux of the issue is that the student-teacher relationship is vitally important for success and this relationship is extremely difficult to reproduce virtually. With in-person tutoring, teachers are able to see all stumbling blocks for the individual student and address them immediately. Teachers need to understand what students know and what they don’t know, as well as how to help them learn math material.

    Remember…. Math is not a spectator sport!