I am needing help with one of my Algebra students. It is a class of almost 30 slighty low to average level students with a couple of high level students sprinkled in (at the math level at least). Algebra I is the lowest math class our high school offers. However, I have one student that is very, very low level. He/she was been tested and does not fall under special education. However, he/she has probably not truthfully/really passed a math class in years. He/she can not even do basic math things. Also, he/she is lazy and doesn't pay attention much or put much effort into the class. I know this probably stems from not understanding the materials and being "lost" for years now. However, I think this is where the problem first came from also. He/she failed first semester. My question is what can I do for/with him/her now? I am not sure how to get him/her to pass second semester, since there is so much that he/she does not know how to do.

Just some ideas that are springing to mind... could you give this student modified homework that includes both current algebra skills and remedial basic practice? How about recommending some websites/games for the student to use to practice math that may be more engaging than the grade level work he/she does not understand? Is there a peer tutoring group or something similar he/she could take part in? Hmm. I will keep this in mind.

If the student can't master any algebra, then he should fail and retake the class. Can he solve simple equations with a calculator?

I would suggest not letting him use a calculator at all. This only hurts. I would gauge his level of understanding. It might help to show him how math builds up from a set of axioms such as those found in an introduction to a basic analysis text, but keep it on his level. If this is an algebra course, maybe build up some simple algebra from the axioms for him, explain to him the order axioms and print the set of real numbers from one to two dimensions, then maybe show him some basic trigonemtric ideas like sin, cos, tan, and maybe pythagoreans theorem. Explain to him linear and polynomials in terms of this Cartesian Geometry. Then show him how those axioms apply to functions.

The kid doesn't understand why x + x = 2x and you want to show him axioms and trigonometric functions...?

If you showed him simple axioms like distribution, commutative, associative, etc. Then you couls show that x+x = (1*x)+(1*x) = x*(1+1)=x*(2)=2x A better way would be to explain that mathematicians hold the following assumptions. P1 : a + b = b + a ___________ a*b = b*a P2: a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c _____ a(bc) = (ab)c P3: a + 0 = 0 + a = a _____ a*1=1*a=a (1 is not equal to 0) P4: a(b+c) = ab+ac Then you can show him that x+x = 2x by: P3: x+x = 1*x + 1*x P4: = x(1+1) = (by addition ) x(2) P1: = 2x

Explain to him what deduction is and what axioms and postulates are, and how we use them to prove theorems about math. For trig, just start with the basics, maybe show him how sin, cos, tan work for right triangle and how this applies to the slope of a line. And how the pythagorean theorem applies to the distance between two points. Then show him maybe how they botha pply to the unit circle. How that's related to trigonometry.

Remediation is an art form. When a student comes to you that far behind, they come to you with far more baggage than just not being able to do the math. Your very low student probably does want to learn, but has trained himself through years of failure to not care. Somewhere down the line, he convinced himself he was too stupid to learn, at least when it came to math. Your job is to start undoing that damage. You might not be able to undo all of it, but you should be able to make a start. Pull him aside, let him know that you like him as a person. Tell him a story about something you struggle to learn. I always tell my students about my chemistry classes. In the plural. I registered and withdrew from first year general chem 5 times before I was able to pass it. Then I went on to earn a minor in chem. Funny how things change. Anyway, the point is to put him at ease and show him that you're human and you understand what it's like to struggle to learn something. Hopefully that will help him take down some of the walls he surely has built. Next have a talk with him about a time when he did feel good at math. You might have to go all the way back to kindergarten, but it'll be worth it. You're doing this to remind him that he's not just "naturally bad at math". Something happened along the way. There was some topic he didn't get, or some teacher he didn't like, or some concept that he missed. The whole house of cards fell down from there. Your job now is to rebuild it. Figure out where he is now. What is he good at? What does he struggle with? Use the topics he's good with to build from and learn the topics he struggles with. It'll be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

I completely agree with this. In combination with showing him how math builds up. Don't just throw equations and formulas at him Show him how math is built up from the basic properties of numbers logically.

My as well not even teach him math at that point. By showing him the axioms you give him and understanding of how math works and a proof that x+x=2x. I'd never advise students just to take my word for things, but to prove and figure it out for themselves. Especially in math with is heavily proof based.

Out of curiosity, MrMath, how long have you been teaching math, and what grades do you teach? Also, how much experience do you have with seriously under-prepared students?

I completely agree with what mmswm said earlier. I'd also suggest asking him questions to lead you to how he learns best. When is a time he remembers learning really well (teacher led, working with other students, working one-on-one, etc.) and when does he remember completely losing focus (too much distraction, teacher lecturing, etc.). Chances are small groups aren't going to work *unless* you have students with him that can support without doing the work (as so often happens). If you can get him on board with bringing up his basic skills, tutoring, online practice, practice worksheets, etc. can be worked on while you are still teaching Algebra basics. I highly suggest attempting to get an honest assessment of his math skills (a STAR math or Accelerated Math test or similar). You can't bring him to speed without knowing where to start.