A lot of students from Palos Verdes and Peninsula High School come into our Redondo office despising math, and I don’t blame them. Mathematics is a tough subject that takes a lot of time to understand, and students often try to get by by memorizing the rules, proofs, and theorems without ever perceiving how they work. After all, it’s a nasty subject that I’ll never really need. Who cares about the directrix of a parabola? When do I need to know how to calculate the area of a n-sided polygon? What’s the point of being able to do basic arithmetic in my head? I can just use my iPhone calculator to get the answer, or Google search it. That’s good enough.

It’s tough to argue against these points, but I believe that putting your best foot forward when tackling math builds a solid foundation, not only in regards to academics but to life as well. If a child is willing to put in the time to genuinely understand how trigonometric identities work, they’ll be more likely to work for things in life, whether it be a job, sport, or relationship in the future. If a student understands that they need to address their poor grades in math head-on instead of ignoring it, they won’t run when life gets tough. On the other hand, if that student resorts to taking short cuts in math or gives up after trying only once, they’re likely to throw their hands up in the air whenever they face adversity. Just like there are no short cuts to becoming a great Sea King or Panther athlete, there are no short cuts in academics, especially math.

So please, help your child develop good life habits by spending some extra time one or two nights a week helping them with their math. Make sure they show their work and don’t just guess the answer. Ask them questions to see how well they really grasp the material. Tell them, “Good job!” or “Nice work!” when they’re trying their best. Teach them the joy of hard work. As a math tutor, there are no secrets to help these students. I help them first understand the basics and then build on those basics. I teach them how to systematically analyze a problem and try various approaches instead of looking in the back of the book for the answer. I encourage them to ask questions when they don’t understand something. These are all good habits that people need to succeed in life, and mathematics is a great place for children to start developing them.