Why are Kids Failing Math?

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Teacher Algebra for ElementaryThe main reason that Texas elementary children are failing math is that many do not read at grade level. This is not a new problem for lower grades.

Some kids are “late bloomers.”  Reading well has not in the past affected math. In fact, when I was in elementary, I disliked those awful “reading problems.” Those were the problems that mom had to help me with. I finally came up with my own methods of doing word problems, but not in the 3rd grade.

Have you noticed that the rigor of math keeps being raised and all students are expected to learn at the same rate. When did our state educators forget that all children are not the same. All children do not learn at the same rate. Now children with learning disabilities will be taking the same STAAR tests. Not that it really matters, the Modified STAAR had very little modification. Inclusion means that children who may need a different type of instruction are part of regular classes. This means that teachers are suppose to give the same instruction to all students and all students are suppose to be able to understand and keep up no matter how fast the pace. Teachers no longer have much to say about what, when or how to teach.

TEA now has 3rd grade kids preparing for algebra. At this age, many are not able to do this only because children do not develop at the same rate.

Texas children have the potential ability to solve word problems. But first they have to know how to read. Not every child will go to college and that is ok. All need to read well and know basic math. I personally think Algebra is important, but not in 3rd grade.

How about right brain-left brain skills? I can solve physics and chemistry problems but cannot write a poem.

I have an idea! Let’s stop equal education, which mean all children are educated to the same level. The top step is lowered so that everyone can reach it. Instead, how about giving all students the opportunity to excel at their own rate and reach just as high as possible. Yes, ask kids to stretch just a bit farther than they think they can.

There will always be reading gaps in elementary. But this should not affect math. I personally do not care if every child in China or any other country can read before they walk.

STOP making comparisons and start teaching our children how to read, write and do math.

The STAAR TESTING dates are another reason your child may be failing. The TEKS are designed for an entire school year. Students do not have the entire year to learn the TEKS for math, or any other subject. Instead, the STAAR tests are given in April. To be prepared for the STAAR tests, many schools start reviewing at the beginning of the 5th 6-weeks of school. This means that kids have only the first four 6-weeks of school to learn all the TEKS for each of the subjects.

Why are the STAAR tests given so early in the school year? The answer is simple. TEA wants to be able to give two chances for kids in the 5th and 8th grades to retake the math and/or reading STAAR tests. Thus, the education of students in  elementary and middle school is sacrificed so that TEA can give Math and Reading retests before the school term is over.

What do elementary and middle school students do while other students are being retested? 

This is a good questions and one that every parent needs to ask about. Think about it. Students who take STAAR tests have covered all the TEKS for the entire year. Thus, what do teachers do in these classes? Some of their students are being retested and will miss out on new material presented. Nothing seems to matter in Texas schools except taking the STAAR tests. Educating students is compressed into a short time period so that retests can be given.

In science, teachers finally have time to do the investigations that should have been done while studying each science concept. Yes, finally the fun part of science can be done. Sadly, kids who failed the math or reading miss out on this. I have no idea what teachers in other curriculum do. The STAAR testing and retesting has turned public school into child care once the STAAR tests have been given.

Our legislatures need to be notified of this problem. The STAAR tests need to be given the last weeks of school so that teachers have the entire school year to prepare children for the tests. The grades will improve. One retest is enough.

Following is a new 3rd grade math TEKS. Teachers cannot teach all of these TEKS before the April STAAR test, but they are required to do this. There is no need to have 180 days of school each year when only about 120 days or less are actually provided before the STAAR TESTING begins.

3.1 The student uses mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding.

  • 3.1.A apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace;

Example:   Jane made 747 pieces of peanut brittle to share with her friends. She put 9 pieces of peanut brittle in each tin. How many tins was Jane able to fill?

Divide the total number of pieces of peanut brittle by the number of pieces in each tin.

3rd grade math word problem divisionStudents may know how to divide to find the answer, but if they are behind in reading, they will not be able to work this problem. Thus, the STAAR math tests do not assess math abilities, instead they assess reading and math, with reading being most important.

Following are all the new revised TEKS for 3rd grade. You can find examples for each of these TEKS on this website. This is a free interactive site and has examples for all grade levels. You can also compare the Texas math TEKS to common core TEKS which are also found on this site. While the working of the TEKS and common core standards may be different, you will find the same math examples for both standards.


3.1.B use a problem-solving model that incorporates analyzing given information, formulating a plan or strategy, determining a solution, justifying the solution, and evaluating the problem-solving process and the reasonableness of the solution;

    3.1.C select tools, including real objects, manipulatives, paper and pencil, and technology as appropriate, and techniques, including mental math, estimation, and number sense as appropriate, to solve problems;

 3.1.D communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate;

3.1.E create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;

3.1.F analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas; and

3.1.G display, explain, and justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.

3.2 The student applies mathematical process standards to represent and compare whole numbers and understand relationships related to place value.

  • 3.2.B describe the mathematical relationships found in the base-10 place value system through the hundred thousands place;

3.3 The student applies mathematical process standards to represent and explain fractional units.

  • 3.3.B determine the corresponding fraction greater than zero and less than or equal to one with denominators of 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 given a specified point on a number line;

  • 3.3.E solve problems involving partitioning an object or a set of objects among two or more recipients using pictorial representations of fractions with denominators of 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8;

3.4 The student applies mathematical process standards to develop and use strategies and methods for whole number computations in order to solve problems with efficiency and accuracy.

  • 3.4.D determine the total number of objects when equally-sized groups of objects are combined or arranged in arrays up to 10 by 10;

  • 3.4.E represent multiplication facts by using a variety of approaches such as repeated addition, equal-sized groups, arrays, area models, equal jumps on a number line, and skip counting;
  • 3.4.H determine the number of objects in each group when a set of objects is partitioned into equal shares or a set of objects is shared equally;

  • 3.4.I determine if a number is even or odd using divisibility rules;

3.5 The student applies mathematical process standards to analyze and create patterns and relationships.

  • 3.5.C describe a multiplication expression as a comparison such as 3 x 24 represents 3 times as much as 24;

  • 3.5.E represent real-world relationships using number pairs in a table and verbal descriptions.

3.6 The student applies mathematical process standards to analyze attributes of two-dimensional geometric figures to develop generalizations about their properties.

  • 3.6.A classify and sort two- and three-dimensional solids, including cones, cylinders, spheres, triangular and rectangular prisms, and cubes, based on attributes using formal geometric language;

  • 3.6.B use attributes to recognize rhombuses, parallelograms, trapezoids, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals and draw examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories;

  • 3.6.D decompose composite figures formed by rectangles into non-overlapping rectangles to determine the area of the original figure using the additive property of area; and

3.7 The student applies mathematical process standards to select appropriate units, strategies, and tools to solve problems involving customary and metric measurement.

3.7.D determine when it is appropriate to use measurements of liquid volume (capacity) or weight; and

3.7.E determine liquid volume (capacity) or weight using appropriate units and tools.

3.8 The student applies mathematical process standards to solve problems by collecting, organizing, displaying, and interpreting data.


The following standard is unrealistic. What do 3rd grade children know about saving for college? Why should 3rd grade children be asked about these topics? How are teachers to explain these topics to children whose family receives government assistance?

3.9 The student applies mathematical process standards to manage one’s financial resources effectively for lifetime financial security.

  • 3.9.A explain the connection between human capital/labor and income;

  • 3.9.B describe the relationship between the availability or scarcity of resources and how that impacts cost;

  • 3.9.C identify the costs and benefits of planned and unplanned spending decisions;

  • 3.9.D explain that credit is used when wants or needs exceed the ability to pay and that it is the borrower’s responsibility to pay it back to the lender, usually with interest;

  • 3.9.E list reasons to save and explain the benefit of a savings plan, including for college; and

  • 3.9.F identify decisions involving income, spending, saving, credit, and charitable giving.

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