Hey everyone! I have an 8th grade student in my Algebra I class that is really struggling. I had him last year for Pre-Algebra and he struggled with that also, but he stayed after twice a week with me for tutoring and managed to end up with a B- in the class. This year, however, he's just not retaining anything. He pays attention in class and volunteers, but gets rules mixed up. It's like he's just memorizing stuff for the test. If I were to give him the same test he took last week tomorrow, he would probably do worse. In class, when we're doing, say, multi-step equations on the board, he can tell me exactly what to do to get the answer. However, when he's taking a test, he forgets everything and is constantly coming up to my desk asking if he's doing the problems right. His mom is at her wits end and wants to know what else we can do for him. I have no idea what to tell her. He's being tested tomorrow to see if he has a learning disability, but the lady in charge of that said she doesn't think he does based on his MEAP scores and his previous math grades. I've tried having him take the test in another room, thinking he was being distracted, but that didn't help. I just don't know what else to do for him. He's such a good kid, and he tries REALLY hard and it breaks my heart to hand him back a test that he failed when I know he busted his butt preparing. Any advice from veteran teachers out there?

He's an 8th grader taking 9th grade math; is it possible that he's simply in over his head? I'm not saying learning disability, simply that maybe this particular kid should be doing middle school math in 8th grade instead of algebra. No kid should have to work that hard to pass. Sorry, I really don't have anything useful for you.

Aliceacc - I think it is possible that where the OP is Algebra could be 8th grade math. Here in CA they made Algebra I, 8th grade math and as teachers it is hard to get a struggling student moved because then they won't be at grade level. I am facing this with 7th graders in pre-algebra right now. They are struggling like the student the OP talked about. I however cannot move them down because admin and parents do not want them to be below grade level.

Yarnwoman, you are absolutely correct. I teach at a very competitive private school. The 8th graders are working out of a 9th grade Algebra I book, but that's the way the principal (and the parents) want it. We have to be one step ahead of the public schools, apparently. I think it's a disservice to many of the students who struggle, but obviously, I'm not being heard. Anyway, there's no other book we use for the eighth graders. I've tried slowing down, but most of the students are doing okay. I just don't know what else to do to help this poor kid.

About the student having a LD, what tests have been performed? Has a sped evaluation been done by the LEA? Evaluations should include evaluations for dyscalculia, ADHD (Combo, Hyperactive, and Inattentive), Executive Functioning problems, psychological evaluation (Performance IQ might point out something. The WISC would be good for that), and an educational eval (Woodc-ock Johnson is a good test for that)

What algebra text are you using? He may be a student who needs to understand the why in order to retain the how. Depending on the text, it could be more focused on the how and not the why. Is he a visual learner? Visual learners sometimes struggle with sequential instructions of algebra, but again that depends on the text. Another idea is to try horizontal steps instead of vertical steps. Start on the left side of the paper write in words what to do, then do the math below it. Draw a line to the right of the words/word for step1. Write words and do math for step 2. Draw a line to the right and continue for however many steps. Have the student repeat each time as you rewrite the problem all of the steps before it. Make up cards with each step to solve the type of problem, mix them up, and have him put them into order. Or try pass the problem. Each person has a different problem for the same concept. The first person does the first step, pass to the next person to do the next step, pass to the next person, so on until done. Have first person check the answer. I hope some of these ideas help.

I see students make the most mistakes when not following all the steps to complete an answer. You indicate that he often knows the steps but abandons them during a test. Is there a confidence problem at this point or perhaps he feels pressure to rush? If given a test with say five problems that should take only 10 minutes but told repeatedly that he can take 45 minutes to complete the test and must show each step, would he respond favorably? I've had students tell me they skipped steps because they did not feel they would have time to complete the work.

Could he have some self-made notes to take into the test with him? Something where he wrote out all the steps to solving for X, and then he was able to follow it.

Thanks for all the ideas everyone! Still not sure what exactly I'm going to do with him. Once the test results come in, I'm going to sit down with my P, AP and his parents and figure out our best plan of attack to get him through this year without him absolutely hating math for the rest of his life.

What works really well for my kids is the notes I give. I teach a new topic, then we write the word "Process" on the board. Then we go line by line through the problem we've just completed. They tell me, in their own words, how we got from point A to point B, all the way through the problem. I only correct their words if what they're saying is wrong. (for example, if they say "sum" when they mean "product.") I think it works for 2 reasons. One, it forces them to stop and think about the steps we're taking and why we're taking them. And two, it's in their own words so they don't get swallowed up in the vocabulary. Then, when it's time to go back and study, they have an instruction manual in their own words.

It's funny; my kids have come to expect it from me. Last year I taught a LOT of freshmen who had been in my 7th grade math class 2 years prior. The first time I taught something new, one of them raised his hand and asked "Can we do 'Process' now???"

Alice, I like your Process idea. One question: do you have each student write out the process in his/her own words, or is it a whole class activity, so every kid ends up with the same words written down? If the former, how do you check that each one is correct? I did something along those lines; I had a project where every student had to write with words and an example how to do basic rational number arithmetic (eg, dividing fractions, subtracting decimals, etc). When I graded them, there were some huge gaps in understanding! So I think it's important to make sure every student gets it correct in their notebooks!

Good suggestion. Not everyone can easily understand algebra. I myself has to take notes and memorize all the formulas to pass that subject.

I do it as a class activity, but I warn them a LOT (especially at the start of the school year) to paraphrase when and if necessary. And I don't check. These kids are in high school, and I'm putting the notes on the board. Sometimes I'll suggest something additional.. as in "You may also want to add in that we can tell it's a quadratic because it has an 'x squared' ."

I don't know the Algebra I curriculum, however, we use a lot of math manipulatives with our beginning Algebra classes, because my kids really struggle with the way you have to think abstractly in order to understand Algebraic concepts. Using concrete manipulatives makes it much easier for a lot of kids.