Q:

My son will be making the transition from elementary school to middle school this year. He is a B student with good scores in reading and language arts. However, his test scores in math are much lower, and he has had problems in this area even though he loves math. Also, he has had some problems in the past staying on task. How can I help him make this transition? I have heard that it can be a difficult one. -- Need Help With Transition

A:

We are glad that your son has good reading skills. This will make it much easier for him academically in middle school. However, we are concerned that your child's math skills are not up to par. Math is a sequential subject -- each year's work builds upon what has been learned previously. As soon as school starts, work with your child's math teacher to determine what must be done to improve your son's skills. This is extremely important.

Your son is going to be surprised by middle school. He is going to get more work to do and less direction from his teachers. He needs to develop tricks that will help him stay focused, like taking notes in class, participating fully in class discussions, having an assignment note pad, and sitting in the front in the classroom. At home, he needs to have a very structured study time with breaks after completing each assignment. Although he has had problems staying focused on a task, he might do better in middle school because of the breaks between classes. Every hour or so, he will be able to get up and walk to the next class.

You want to help your son avoid being overwhelmed by the need to keep his work together in an organized fashion. Instead of having him use separate notebooks for each class, get him an organizer -- a big binder with a section for each class. Then help him keep his papers in the right places until he does this automatically.

One of the big shocks of moving to middle school is not knowing many children in a classroom. Encourage your son to get involved in one or more activities so that he will quickly make new friends and feel more comfortable in this environment. And, of course, he will also feel more comfortable the first few days if he is familiar with the school layout and his transportation arrangements.