A recent survey by Kelton Research, conducted for Sylvan Learning, finds that most eighth and ninth graders consider Algebra to be their toughest – scariest – subject. Their parents share the same algebra anxiety. A staggering 97 percent of parents feel more prepared to talk with their children about drug and alcohol use than to help them tackle their algebra homework. Those facts are scary.

The new survey underscores how ill-equipped most adults feel to help their children with algebra, which is often introduced in middle school. The survey finds that one third of middle-school students say they are willing to give up video gaming and Facebook for a month if it means they’d never have to solve another polynomial equation. Parents feel just as lost. More than seven in 10 parents polled feel that helping their kids with algebra homework is harder than teaching them to drive a car.

The nationwide survey of eighth and ninth grade students and their parents was conducted between August 1 and August 8, 2011 by Kelton Research, commissioned by Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring and supplemental education services to students of all ages and skill levels.

“Algebra is crucial to every student’s success, especially in technology dependant 21st century professions. Mastering algebraic concepts inherently leads to success in high school mathematics and eventual success in college and career. Our children’s future depends on the mastery of these essential skills,” says Judy Ann Brown, director of Mathematics for Sylvan Learning.

The question most parents ask: How can I help make algebra less scary for my child?

Every child learns algebra differently and these skills build over time. One of the most important considerations for student success in algebra is their readiness. In this process, the first step is to identify the student’s algebra proficiency and understand if any skills require improvement. Identifying student misconceptions, challenges, and struggles earlier can help parents and teachers better understand the kind of support the student needs to succeed.

Parents who are concerned—or curious—about how prepared their child may be for algebra can take matters into their own hands by screening their child’s readiness through Sylvan’s Fit 4 Algebra website. “Fit 4 Algebra: Take the Algebra Fitness Challenge,” is a free, interactive online “screener” that parents can use to check their children’s algebra readiness. The 21-question check-up is built on the key skills identified by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel as providing the basic foundation for algebra.

After their child completes the screener, parents will be able to review their child’s results which highlight areas of strength as well as areas that are in need of further skill development. Additionally, parents will have immediate access to valuable, free resources, including interactive tutorials to help with homework, online math challenges and entertaining educational games. The parent resources section also includes tips on helping children succeed in math, links to algebra smart phone apps and information on finding personalized help.

As parents embark on this journey to help their child with algebra, here are five tips to help middle-school students overcome algebra fears:

Strengthen Core Skills – Algebra matters because algebra skills build in time. Miss one component and you will continue to have difficulties with algebra, as well as other higher-level math courses. As a parent, challenge your child to become a better problem solver. If the student is struggling in algebra, talk to the child’s math teacher to learn about extra help and search online for other available resources.

Leverage Technology – Technology should support algebra instruction. Today’s “Net Gen” students find technology-infused instruction especially engaging and can help them to gain an understanding of the underlying reasoning and computations used in problem-solving.

Instill Algebra Confidence in Your Child – Praise not only your child’s academic progress, but also the effort that he or she extends to learn new concepts. Tell them that you are proud of their algebra progress even when they struggle. When students are confident in their abilities, they enjoy learning. That love of learning leads to a willingness to try new academic experiences without fear of failing.

Make Real-world Connections – We use math and algebra in everyday lives. There are many opportunities for parents to make algebra connections in day-to-day life – and help students. Analytical thinking for daily tasks or decisions essentially means using the fundamentals of algebra. Think of tasks that you do every day that can be “teachable algebra moments.”

Encourage Your Child to Take Higher Level Mathematics– Early and Often – Many students don’t take mathematics classes beyond their school’s minimum requirements, but algebra and other higher level mathematics courses offers critical learning skills that are needed throughout life. Children should take algebra early in their educational careers if and only if they are academically ready. Students who do not take courses covering algebraic concepts early risk missing important opportunities for growth. By the end of junior and senior years, students who have not planned ahead have fewer class options and may not be able to complete all college prerequisite courses. This can restrict a student’s post-secondary educational options and career choices.

For more algebra resources and information, visit www.Fit4Algebra.org.

About Sylvan Learning:

Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels with over 30 years of experience and more than 850 centers located throughout North America . Sylvan’s trained and Sylvan-certified personal instructors provide individualized instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and test-prep for college entrance and state exams. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS or visit www.SylvanLearning.com.

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