There is such a profound difference between the high and low math classes here at my current school. I suspect this happens everywhere so I know I'm not alone. Yesterday, my Algebra IA 9th grade class was struggling. Lots who have just given up trying. I told them we're gonna take it slow. That why it's Algebra IA. It's half as fast. I told them this and a male student piped up, "It's cause I'm stupid and we're all stupid." This is now the 2nd class that holds these feelings. Add in my Seniors who have checked out, it makes for an interesting set of classes that I teach. My 7th and 8th grades are combined and I have higher 10th. These are my 1st 3 periods. My later 3 periods are slower and the gaps are so apparent. Very sad knowing my later kids just hate math.

What are they working on in math now and what is your teaching style? Do you think talking about growth mindset would help them?

Rather than perhaps "taking it slow", could you approach it more from a lower-entry basis -- still working through the same concepts, but giving some more open-ended "reachable" entry points for students? For example (excuse the likely lack of alignment...it's been a while since I've looked at the alignment beyond 6th/7th grade ), if working on solving algebraic equations, give students a visual situation that models 2x + 3 = 7 (two boxes holding some number of cubes on the inside, and three cubes outside the box - all on one side.... 7 cubes on the other side), and then ask them how they might go about figuring out the number of cubes that are inside the box? It certainly sounds like they have a bit of a defeatist attitude that might be holding them back, so more successful experiences that then are connected to the curriculum afterwards might get them on the right track.

My algebra I student told me she thinks she has Alzheimer's because she could not remember how to write equations in function notation!

Pretty depressing, I'm sure. The biggest issue isn't that they don't know math, it's that they don't believe they can learn it. Unfortunately, telling them you're going to take it slow can feed into that. If you go out into the business world and survey mid-level professionals, you'd probably find that a substantial number of them had taken calculus in high school. You'd also find they had forgotten almost all of it. You may also find they'd lost most trig, algebra, and geometry, because unless they it's it in their jobs they had rushed through it 20 years earlier. The ones who "took it slow" -- regardless of reason -- may retain more.

For many, many years I taught a foreign language with a reputation for being difficult. That reputation is well-deserved, because the language, which is not really a spoken language anymore, has no required word order and most words can have a variety of different spellings/endings. By "variety", I mean that most nouns and adjectives have between 14 and 42 possible spellings/endings, and most verbs have over 100. It's a lot of work. I've always had students who have told me that it's just too hard and they're too dumb to learn it. What has worked best for me has been a "we're in this together" approach. I tell them that I was once in their shoes, overwhelmed by it all, and I figured it out because I had a good and patient teacher, and now I promise to be a good and patient teacher with them. I spiraled everything, constantly rehashing even (especially!) the most basic, foundational material, until my students nailed that stuff. Once they knew that stuff inside and out, their confidence grew, and they started to believe that they actually could learn this stuff. The more challenging material became a little less so, a little more within their reach. As with most subjects, as they started to learn more and see a bigger picture, they started seeing patterns and making connections across topics, which obviously makes things more understandable and easier to grasp. I always think of a subject (foreign language, math, whatever) as like this giant spider web of interconnected topics and ideas, where you can often take many different paths to reach a certain point. If you're not anywhere on the web, it can be hard to find a point of entry, but once you're there it's a lot easier to navigate around. There are some sticky spots along the way, of course, but you'll eventually get to any possible point if you just follow the path.

I used to hate maths and suck at maths and never ever passed maths till high school so I totally understand where your students are coming from. But a teacher who explained things to me in a way I understood, who was patient with me changed all that and I graduated college with a Maths degree. What this teacher did for me for to break things down into small chunks and allowed me to have small successes. With every question I solved correctly or concept I understood, my hatred for maths turned to like, and by the time I was proficient, I loved maths. The sense of satisfaction in solving a problem is unlike any other. This process took a year. So be patient with your students, take baby steps and when they start having small successes, they will start to change their mindset.