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Unleashing the Strengths of My Students, "Yes, you can do math."

Yes, you can do math.  Math success, Geometry

It’s already there inside them. I always see it. My students have the ability to learn math and to master it. Many of them don’t believe they can do math, but the truth is a stubborn thing. I’ve never met a student who couldn’t do math. Not once. My job as their teacher and tutor is to show them where to find that strength inside themselves.

Just this week, the power of this strength showed up in a freshman boy who is taking Honors Geometry. He had been failing all year in this class. He said it was because it went too fast. The first time we met in January I could tell how smart he was. My job was to make him believe it too.

We had some work to do. He needed to pick up the skills he’d missed all year. But Sam was really smart. I only had to teach him something once and then he had it.

It was fun to watch him grow and learn the Geometry. Once he realized he could do the Geometry, he insisted on being pushed with tougher and tougher problems. I was happy to oblige.

Math Anxiety, geometry is hard

It came time for the first unit exam Sam had to take in Geometry since we had been working together. He was very nervous.

So I talked to him about ways he could help his test anxiety. Eat a peppermint, drink peppermint tea, breathe 3 deeps breaths, write down all his fears on a piece of paper then throw them away.

Then I told him he had already done the most important part of getting over his test anxiety. He really learned the material forwards and backwards. I told Sam that it would be hard to trick him with all that math power he had now.

Before the next tutoring session, I got an email from Sam’s mom shouting my praises. He had gotten a 100% on the unit exam. I was very moved by this news, knowing it really had little to do with me, but everything about Sam. Now that he knew he could do the Geometry, his confidence bloomed.

Moving forward during the tutoring sessions, Sam demanded that we work ahead of the class and do the new material.

Each time I would check in with Sam, he would tell of another victory. On one day, he said that he had raised his hand in class to answer a question. I asked if that was unusual. Sam said this was the first time all year he had done that. He said the other people in the class scoffed at him when the teacher picked him to answer. No one in the room had thought he could do it. So the new confident Sam went to the board and wrote out the full solution. He said everyone was shocked, except him.

Just yesterday I asked what was new in class and had the teacher noticed how well he was doing in Geometry now. He said that not much was new. Oh, they got a new seating chart. Sam said that the teacher always sat the smart kids next to the people that needed extra help. He said he got his new seat and looked around. There were no smart kids around him. I asked him what that told him. Sam said, “Because the teacher thinks I’m one of the smart kids now.” YES! I love it. There might have been a tear involved.

In teaching nothing is as rewarding than seeing a person go from being scared of the math and then turning it around and conquering it. In Sam’s case, he ran with his new found confidence in himself.

To be honest, I’m not even sure how much this has to do with math. As their teacher, I just want them to realize their potential and realize the great things they can accomplish if they work hard. You know, that spark I see in all my students. My work is done when they can see it too.

If you found this blog helpful and you know other people that could benefit from it, please feel free to share it. My name is Terri Grigsby. I do online math tutoring. I am accepting new students, check out my website at, look around, and book a tutoring session. Sign up for my weekly newsletter. If you have any questions, you can always contact me on my website or at

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