Why so many students struggle with math after leaving elementary school

Why so many students struggle with math after leaving elementary school

Posted by Angela McIver on Nov 30th 2018

I completed my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. My dissertation Understanding the Numerical Reasoning of Middle School Students  focused on understanding why so many students struggle with math after leaving elementary school. What I learned from interviewing 40 middle school students (20 at the end of their sixth grade year and 20 at the end of their 8th grade year) fundamentally changed the way I think about teaching and learning. 

After graduate school, I continued interviewing hundreds of students across the country (from elementary school to college) about their understanding of basic math concepts. These interviews led me to the conclusion that few students are provided the appropriate curriculum or rigor necessary to develop strong math foundations in elementary school; and when they are, their experiences are neither engaging nor confidence-building. I set out to develop a math program for elementary students that challenged them beyond expectations, with lessons and activities that make students want to learn more.

Dinner Table Math grew out of my business Trapezium Math Club. I started Trapezium Math Club because I knew that elementary students were capable of doing far more challenging math than elementary math programs were asking of them. Our math games and activities are the result of years of testing with Trapezium Math Club students and students in schools where Trapezium has a partnership. They represent many hours of debriefing with teachers about successful and unsuccessful lessons; the redesign of lessons and materials to address unforeseen challenges experienced by students; and the need to maintain rigor while moving away from the worksheet driven classroom.

With Dinner Table Math my goal is to empower parents to build strong and confident math learners at home with activities that we know work with children.