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Confidence and Math Performance Equals Success in the Classroom and Beyond

March 29, 2016

By Emily Elliott, Executive Director of Heart Math Tutoring

Our tutors move the dial on students’ success in math. Half of their role is to deliver the math curriculum, and half is to be a positive influence. In our program, we measure students’ growth in math skills and academic confidence and/or enthusiasm. This article from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggests the two are connected.

According to PISA, students’ belief that they can solve math problems (mathematics “self-efficacy”) is associated with a difference in math skills – and the difference is equivalent to a full year of schooling.

Factors impacting self-efficacy (and math performance) are:

  • How often students encountered similar tasks
  • Parents holding ambitious expectations (For example, the belief that the student is going to college impacts student math self-efficacy and thus math performance.)

Furthermore, economically disadvantaged students are typically less confident in their ability to solve mathematics problems, even when comparing students who have similar math abilities.

According to PISA, “Schools and families can help students to develop a mastery of mathematics by exposing them to a variety of mathematics problems while providing encouragement and support as they work to solve them.”

Our tutors expose students to math tasks that push students’ understanding, while acting as cheerleaders, patiently waiting for the student to discover a solution. Each Heart student begins to believe that math makes sense, and that he/she is able to figure it out. Through our program, 91% of teachers saw an increase in students’ confidence towards math. In addition, 96% of our tutors believe they had a positive influence on students’ confidence about and understanding of math.

Math games and activities from Heart’s curriculum can be reinforced at home. By inviting parents to be volunteers, attending school-wide curriculum nights, and hosting parent education events, we create opportunities to for parents to be involved and to provide encouragement for their children.

It takes a strong team to work towards success for the children Heart serves. From our staff, volunteer tutors, school administrators and teachers to parents and funding partners, together we are helping kids develop a strong foundation for math and enthusiasm for academics to ensure long-term success.

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