Why Minority Students have difficulty learning Math and Science!

By: David Hawkins

When I attended public schools in the 70’s, I was one among many economically and educationally disadvantaged youth, growing up in government housing (projects).  My mother and father stressed the importance of education to all ten brothers and sisters. Yet, back then, public schools were not nurturing the average minority student to aspire to take advanced college preparatory classes in math and science.  Most of our parents were not well versed in math and science themselves.  So these subjects were left up to the teachers who taught in the schools and many of them were not equipped to mass produce the type of minority students, well versed in science and math subjects.  Only the Gifted and Talented few were given the opportunity to take advanced math and science courses offered by high schools.  Students who were gifted but had behavior problems (like me) were not pushed and denied access to these courses.  Many of us because of our behavior were cast into special classes not because we couldn’t learn, but just to be monitored and subjected to teachers who really didn’t give a damn.

Many of us were street wise and some of us had knowledge of self and true history, but when challenging the teacher on whether Columbus discovered America or Black peoples contribution to the American society other than being slaves.  We were cast out of classrooms for having the audacity to question the truth of what the teacher was teaching.

When I graduated from High School and had the opportunity to go to college,  I wanted to be a doctor, but I was not prepared for the rigors of college math and science courses to do well academically during my Freshman year.  My advisor told me that I should change my major to an easier one, but i rejected that due to my ego and lack of interest in any other majors offered at the University.  I decided to commit myself and seek the proper tutorial help to get me through and to show the doubters that I can do it.

I developed study habits and time management strategies to master the math and science courses and was able to obtain my Bachelor of Science Degrees in Biology and Chemistry.  As I look back on those long days and nights of studying, I developed some tools and strategies that helped me conquer the math and science mysteries.  I began to successfully teach other young students and adults how to break down the mental barriers of math and science.  Here’s how I did it…


  1. Better math and science through behavior modification:  First I found that most people, when you say math and science become defensive, negative and rationalize why they can’t learn the subjects.  I always start with getting my students to believe in themselves and show them how easy the subjects become when the proper positive attitude and approach when teaching math and science.  They don’t have a high enough energy level and consistency for all students when it comes to teaching.  They don’t emphasize the relativity of math and science in everyday life.  They also don’t always empathize with all their student, some of whom are “Diamonds in the Rough”.  Not all students are “Straight A Students” but they still can become great scientist and mathematicians as they mature.  A good teacher can bring forth the best of each student if they look at each student individually and prescribe to them the best approach to helping them to find the leader within themselves.  Most teachers will say that the bureaucracy of the public school system limits them to practically getting their students to pass the TAKS test.  But i can be done despite these things.
  2. Be inclusive and allow the students to ask questions, conduct experiments, test themselves.  Discuss topics currently going on in the world, be imaginative, funny and always in control of the flow of the classroom.  If it takes extra time after class-time, give it. You have to show your students that you are committed to their education and always listening to what they have to say.  Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with math or science.
  3. Know what the cultures of your students are.  A teacher can learn a great deal by studying the culture of the students and communicating with them on their level.  If your understand that some students pick up information by word of mouth, some are visual learners.  Some are both.  But all are capable of mastering math and science.


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