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Hi Cindy. There are many studies and methods that try to address this problem. For what it is worth, I think one of the main problems is parents and other adults telling kids "it's okay: I was never good at math either." I feel that that statement tells the student not to expect to do well and so gives them permission not to try. There are a couple of really good approaches I am looking into myself: Spirit of Math: http://www.spiritofmath.com which some middle school teachers who are my friends report works really well. It basically uses "drills" to get kids comfortable with numbers but does it in a really nonintimidating way. As well, the JUMP math program has many advocates for encouraging kids during middle school. See http://jumpmath.org/ for more information. Kids often ask "what possible use is this to me?" There are several resources on the web that help to encourage kids to see math as relevant. One is our own "Math Beyond School" section. It lets students You are right that most math is cumulative, so falling behind can have significant impact as time goes on. However, there are areas of mathematics that aren't quite so dependent. Take a look at things like fractals, mobius strips, polyhedra, tesselations, etc. Conceptual mathematics (rather than computational) are sometimes easier for students to grasp, particularly if they have a visual rather than abstract component to them. Math camps, which in Canada are generally very affordable and sponsored by universities and the Canadian Mathematical Society, try to emphasize the fun and tactile side of mathematics whenever possible. The I hope these ideas, whether you take them up directly or use them as inspiration for your own efforts, are fertile ones for you. Cheers,  


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