Math is a perennial battle for many students. Some have been conditioned to believe that they are not good at math. I have yet to meet a willing student who can’t do math. What is often meant by this lament is that they are not good at mental arithmetic. Fortunately, it’s the 21st century and we have access to cheap calculators. So this argument doesn’t hold water.



What are successful students doing differently than struggling students? In my experience, there are three major differences between successful students and

  • attitude
  • attendance
  • perseverance


Success begins with attitude. Henry Ford is famous for saying,

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Successful students begin with a can-do attitude. They exercise a growth mindset expecting positive results. The Pygmalion effect is real. Rosenthal and Jacobson demonstrated this back in 1968. In a nutshell, students who think of themselves as good students become good students.


Getting to school is often half the battle with struggling students (not just math). About 90% of the failures I see in a given year are associated with chronic absenteeism. There are students who miss more school in a month than some students miss kindergarten through 12th grade!

And don’t just get to school. Be here now. Be here now means, don’t just show up physically and zone out. It means be in the moment. Plug in to what’s happening around you, especially the learning. Remember that learning is a verb. It’s something you do, not something you catch.


Truly, the only way to fail is to give up. Experiencing tolerable frustration is an important stage of the learning process. Students who give up easily never get to the point where they would have started to make some distinctions. Show me someone who has never failed, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t try anything hard. Strive to be good at things that are tough — like math. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!