I've been teaching middle school math for a couple of years. This year I'm picking up a new prep, Math Matters, which is for kids who need extra help. They still are in regular prealgebra as well. I am trying to figure out how to structure the class, and how to grade it. Do I give homework over and above what they are getting in their regular class? How do I assess - do I give separate tests? I really would want to grade partly for effort in this class, but that is so hard to quantify!

I am actually excited about this because I find it so satisfying when the kids who had been struggling start getting it. I'm just having trouble with the details!

Has anyone else ever taught a class like this, and have any advice for me? Thanks!

I have taught this same type of class. It's actually something I really struggle with. As a math department we've had many conversations about how to approach the class. My problem is that the students in this class never get to see student their own age successfully problem solving. They never get to listen into *great* (for what it's worth at a 6th grade level) mathematical conversations. For all they know, there is not a student their age who can reason through the material. There is my one of my frustrations with Recovery Math. (That's what it's called at our school.) Another problem is I find I get a lot of behavior problems dumped in my class. Because they can't behave in the regular class they fall behind. Then get put in Recovery. One year when I taught it, I literally had 13 of the 15 students who had received 20 or more office referrals. None of those were from me! I felt so bad for the 2 students who were well behaved and just wanted to learn. One of my administrators walked in to observe one day. His eyes about popped out of his head. After class he asked me how I managed to keep all those students in class every day!

Now, I didn't mean to start my post all negative! I teach Recovery math because I enjoy it. I like those "ah-ha" moments that students have when all of the sudden two dots connect. I do not assign much homework as the chances of it actually getting done are slim to none. But, we spend a lot of time in class working problems on white boards. I try to find a hands-on manipulative for everything we do. And we have to review, review, review. These kids can get something one day . . . and two days later they will have forgotten they ever learned it!

A big difference I had in my first year teaching Recovery and last year was that I really adapted my expectations. I tried to have the same high standards and expectations as I had in my Recovery class. If I gave an assignment (which was rare) I expected them to do it. When we practiced problems, the standard was that they would attempt the problem, not bother students around them and ask questions if they needed help. By not lowering my standards for these students, I think I raised their confidence and their own expectations.

I know I didn't do a great job answering many of your questions. If I think of more I want to post, I'll add it later. I guess my best advice is to not allow the students to say they "can't" do math or to let them slack. Expect the best from them and you'll be surprised at how many of them step up to the challenge!

Thanks for the helpful tips, Dynamite Boys! One difference between us is that from what you wrote, it looks like your Recovery math kids are not in a regular math class as well. My kids will have their regular math homework from their regular teacher (which could also be me, or one of the other math teachers). So if I assign homework, they would have that IN ADDITION to their regular homework. Same with any tests or assessments.

I'd be interested in hearing more about the great manipulative activities you've come up with! You can email me at bridgerrrrr at yahoo com if you're willing to share!

No, I never have, but I applaud the decision makers in your district. Getting these kids caught up now will reap HUGE benefits when they hit high school math.

I'm not sure about the structure, but here's my biggest piece of advice: make SURE that every kid in that class leaves knowing his or her times tables!!! That has been the single biggest factor I've seen in success in high school, once we get beyond the matter of natural aptitude. Kids who don't know their times tables can't factor, can't find common mulitples, and can't do so many of the day to day problems we come across.

Once you're satisfied that they know those, make sure they know the perfect squares and perfect cubes. They'll have a much easier time simplifying radicals (not to mention factoring the difference of squares, and sum/differenece of cubes) if those numbers are second nature to them.

As far as assessing them, maybe you could start with a Catholic High School Entrance Exam? (They're called the Coop in some parts of the country; I imagine you could find one online.) They're typically given in the fall of 8th grade, so they're a pretty good indicator of what a kid should know before entering high school.

You're correct . . . our Recovery is not in addition to their regular math, it is in place of their regular math! Wow - I would love what you're doing! Because of homework already getting done in the regular class - I would have a hard time giving it in the additional class. These are students who already struggle so you don't want them hating math.

There are some great games and online manipulatives available through NCTM's Illuminations website. It is amazing. Thinkfinity.org (done by Verizon) is also an amazing website with a wealth of activities. I think what Alice said about making sure they know the basics by the time they leave is important. You can play a lot of card games where they are multiplying/adding and getting fact practice. I, personally, think much of your grade should be placed around effort. Let the kids know that their time matters and the more effort they give you during class, the less they have to give you outside of class.

This class sounds great - I'll pick my brain and e-mail you some activities I would love to do if I was given the time!

Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, I want to spend time working on times tables, plus I really want to get them experts at fractions. I'm also expected to give them a lot of help with the regular prealgebra curriculum - in the past, a lot of what happened in this class was getting the homework done for their regular math class. There is certainly lots of great material to cover!

The grading issue is still what's bugging me - how do I quantify effort? In my regular class, I've tried to take any subjectivity out of my grading - it's all based on tests, quizzes, homework, being prepared with correct materials, projects. But for this new class, if I don't have homework or tests or quizzes, it's hard to figure out how to make my grading objective.

Not sure if this applies but in my class I have started skills packets for homework. Content stays within class time (on occasion there is homework) but they practice skills for the entire year. INtegers, multiplication, fractions. etc. The packet is 4 pages and they have the week to finish. I give the same type of packet each week so I can track through the year any improvement. If none then some more interventions would take place.

I also practice multiplication fact with a blank table that they fill in but they only have 5 minutes. The catch is that the table is random on the top and sides. I found too many kids would add to the number before and that wasn't learning multiplication. I do this activity at the beginning of class every so often.