High School Students Who Can't Multiply and Divide

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Galois, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. Galois

    Galois Companion

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    What do you do with this kind of students? Is there a faster way for them to learn these basic skills? I saw Brainetics on TV. Although expensive, does it work? Thanks for all your suggestions.
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I've never come across it; kids have to take a test to get into our school. While we do have several academic tracks, none of our kids are quite that low.

    I think I would spend one period teaching each skill, then drill them to death. My Do-Now every single day would be multiplication and division. Every single quiz, every single test would include one of each example, as would every single night's homework.
     
  4. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Middle school students here are allowed to use calculators, so they lose those basic skills even if they did learn them in the first place. I tutor a 9th grader and he admits that he is lost without the calculator. I let him use it, but help him to see where it can't really help him, or when he has to use other skills to augment its use. He didn't even know how to use the calculator to turn a decimal into a mixed number. It's a shame.
     
  5. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    We have 6th graders that can't subtract, let alone multipy or divide. I'm not only speaking of the special education students. The latest thing is singapore math, Do the Math, Study Island, and success maker.

    I'm not seeing any success, and this started last year. I'm not sure what's wrong with the old fashioned way...I've always struggled in math, but what basic skills I learned by rote seems to have stuck with me.

    I can add, subtract, multipy, divide, fractions, change to decimals, percents, etc without the aid of a calculator. But I learned by rote method, homework, and practice.

    If I had to learn the way students do now by tricks (lack of better word) I'm not sure I could!
     
  6. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Yes, I have come across quite often. But, I am also a special education teacher, and the kids who cannot do this at the high school level have disabilities which have impacted their ability to master this skill.
     
  7. Mathemagician

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    I would let them use a calculator, especially it it isn't the entire class struggling with this (you really don't want to turn off the kids who already know how to do it). If they haven't learned it yet, you are just wasting their time and killing any hope of motivating them if you just drill them to death on stuff they probably think they know. I know many people here disagree with me, and I don't actually have kids that low in any of my classes, but I have worked with kids like that before.

    With special ed, I might have a different opinion, but I think you just need to give them the tools they need to succeed at other math skills if mental math isn't there. They will always have phones and other tools to use at their disposal. Maybe offer ways for them to practice it at home, but unless 100% of the class can't do it in terms of basic skills, I wouldn't spend class time on it.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sad.
     
  9. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Agreed. If only 60-70% of my kids get something, I will reteach it to the whole class. I figure the rest of the class could use a refresher. If 80-90% get it, I will reteach the skill to a small group.


    To the OP: We try. We really, really do. I have a few kids this year who can't even skip count! That means I can't even teach them to make their own multiplication chart :( As for your students, do they not know the facts? The process?
     
  10. Mathemagician

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    You also teach elementary. I'm not talking about new skills. I'm talking about basics that aren't in your curriculum. It'd be like you spending hours teaching 5th graders how to count to 10.

    It's very sad how much people here want to lower standards so that high school math becomes review of elementary school.
     
  11. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    I spent two whole days on subtraction of whole numbers. Same difference. If they can't subtract whole numbers, they will not be able to subtract mixed numbers. Sometimes you have to go back before you can go forward.

    And, I am pulling two kids out every day to teach them how to skip count. For the first time since I left first grade, I have had to pull out hundred charts.
     
  12. Mathemagician

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    Not at all the same difference. That would be comparable to reviewing solving basic equations in HS not comparable to teaching them 5*9. There comes a point when the calculator is the way to go.
     
  13. Galois

    Galois Companion

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  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm talking about 2 38 minute class periods-- 76 minutes total, then an additional few minutes during the Do Now.

    My kids work bell to bell. They have homework every night. They don't watch movies or play games in my class. I didn't spend time on getting to know you games and I don't have to spend class time on classroom management issues. We laugh a lot, but we also work a LOT.

    I can well afford an hour or two or three over the course of a school year to ensure that my kids graduate from high school mathematically literate. Have no fear; I'll cover the syllabus and supplement it when I can. A pretty decent number of my kids over the years have gone on to become teachers. I can't imagine that any of them could have taught elementary education, much less math, had they needed to rely on a calculator for basic math.

    In other words, "The buck stops here." If someone else didn't teach you what you need to know, then I'll find a way. So I'll correct your grammar and spelling and throw in the odd bit of history or science when I can, so that you receive every bit of education I can cram in to that 38 minute period. And if only a few kids have gaps in their education, that doesn't make those gaps any less important. I'll pull them in for extra help and work one on one before or after school. But they'll leave my class knowing their stuff if it's humanly possible for me to make it happen.

    The problem is that a lot of us who have been teaching a while have spent years cleaning up after those who told kids "You don't have to know that; you'll always have a calculator." In fact, we joked about that in class yesterday. How funny that it comes up here today.

    I'm not lowering standards. What I'm doing is ensuring that my kids receive the education they need and deserve.
     
  15. Mathemagician

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    You're missing my point. If they haven't learned it by high school, 2-38 minute classes will not do the trick. You've mentioned that your kids are also not that low so I don't imagine you've ever miraculously taught a high schooler who couldn't multiply multiplication in 76 minutes.

    Also, surely this won't be their only deficiency either. Next comes division and fractions and ...... You know the rest. You can't teach them 10 years of math in one year.

    Besides this, imagine the rest of the class if you are teaching basic multiplication in HS. They'll be insulted.

    Oh, and I joked with my class yesterday about making them do trivial things like find determinants or solve 3x3 systems without a calculator.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    To each his own. You've also mentioned that you've never had kids that low, so I certainly don't see your opinon as any more valid than mine.

    And sometimes it's funny how filling one small gap makes the other so much less important. For example, a kid who now knows his times tables and has number sense will be able to do those fractions when he sees them in Algebra II and Trig. As a result, the numeric fractions become a non-issue. He's able to do the more difficult algebraic problems because he now has the tools to do so; the easy numeric problems are now possible. Math builds and builds and builds, and you know the line about a house built on sand.

    As to "insulting" the rest of the kids, that hasn't happened. The kids in my class tend to understand me stopping for kids who don't follow. They know that when they have an issue, I'm not going to overlook it or make them feel stupid. They know that it's OK to be in the minority in not getting a concept; I won't wait for those things that have that magic "100%" not getting it. And, inevitably, I help clear up some misunderstandings of kids who were on the cusp of understanding, but had a hole or two of their own.

    OP, I wish you continued luck.
     
  17. Mathemagician

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    Again, quickly filling in holes and stopping for curricular aims is different from turning the class into remedial math 101/BSI.
     
  18. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I don't think anyone suggested that. Students come to us at varied levels. Pulling a small group, offering extra help, finding other resources in the school for them are all ways to make a difference for struggling students. The OP seems to be looking for such help for the students s/he teachers.
     
  19. LouiseB

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    I do have sped kids and in 7th grade they still add using their fingers. There is NO WAY I will ever have them up to 7th grade in just one year. I totally understand that they are sped kids and would never be in a school that required taking a math test to enroll. I do understand that schools can have that requirement because they are not public schools and can have that requirement. I do know of other 7th graders who do not know their math facts. It is not an unusual thing.
     
  20. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    It's pretty much a repeating theme of skills-based classes like Math and English that teachers are frustrated every year by what their students don't know or can't do, and so then proceed to use the same basic designs that didn't manage to successfully teach the kids before to try and get it sorted out now.

    Obviously the way we're teaching isn't working, or the problem wouldn't exist in the first place. It's important to remember that the massive technological changes of the last 20 years (as late as 1994, there were still news segments being produced regarding what exactly this internet thing was) haven't just changed the way adolescents perceive, evaluate, and interact with the world...it literally changes the development of the brain.

    I remember my dad talking about how sometimes he and his brothers, at young ages, would watch news or educational programs when the weather was bad because there was nothing else on (if they weren't reading books, of course). Two channels will do that to you. By the time I was growing up there were more like 50 channels. Today, I literally watch the show I want to watch when I want to watch it. I send a note to my friend instantly, when I want to send it. I get the information I want the moment that I decide to seek it. Kids who play video games actively explore and impact entire worlds. Passivity just isn't much of a thing.

    This can bring with it a concern about attention span or refusal to learn, but these can be easily addressed by creating scenarios that involve horizontal relevance and active learning scenarios. In fact, I would argue those two things are NEEDED in order to make learning genuinely accessible. Traditional teaching approaches were built on a culturally prevalent background skill set...a set of assumptions that could be made about what children were capable of doing and what their home lives prepared them for. That set is rapidly being replaced. Continuing to hold on to traditional practices, and not seeking to create a new model based on the new skill sets available, is only going to lead to more surprise at how little next year's kids seem to know.
     
  21. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    On the other handprints like practice, repetition and drilling DO still work. We learn through repeated experience. The more you practice a skill, the more automatic that skill becomes. Technology hasn't changed that, it's just given us different skills to learn.

    My boys could log onto the Internet by the time they were 4, but that's only because they had seen me do it and memorized the steps. They then took that knowledge and applied it to new items (laptop, iPod, etc) as they encountered them.

    Schools now teach "keyboarding" instead of typing (and offer the classes at a much younger age), but the exercises in the new books are no different than the ones in the typing books I learned from. The kids are still using the same skills, they are just using it on new technology, and they are still learning those skills the same way I and my parents did - through repetition and practice.
     
  22. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    Unquestionably, practice can be a valuable approach. But that doesn't equate to saying "I showed you it, and we practiced it, so you should know it." Practice can be a valuable part of the natural way that the brain learns...as when your boys learned to access the internet or when a child is learning to play a sport....but only if horizontal relevance is present as well. There's very little evidence that practice minus motivation or interest accomplishes much.

    Computer usage in schools still leans so heavily in favor of teachers that students exhibit motivation responses toward any opportunity to be on the computer themselves. Basic keyboarding classes gain from this. However, one of my favorite lessons I had involved the kids responding to a book they'd read by creating a simple computer game based on it. They accessed and explored guides on how to use PowerPoint to make the game, they designed and constructed it themselves, and they made what were very impressive simple games based on the experiences and motivations of the characters in the book....at the same age that they were being given basic-level computing classes.

    Computing classes in schools tend to run well below what the students are capable of accomplishing.
     
  23. Cerek

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    I agree students are capable of much more than we often realize, but that isn't the case here. In this case, we are talking about kids who can't multiply or divide. Drilling them on multiplication tables WILL correct this. It may not be fun for them. It may not be exciting (although the teacher could find ways to remedy that), but it WILL be effective.

    Horizontal relevance is great in many situations, but math - by nature - has a great deal of vertical relevance as well. If students don't have the basics, they simply cannot move on to the more advanced skills, no matter how enticing or exciting the teacher makes the lesson.

    I often compare basic math skills to free throws in basketball. They may not be exciting, but most teams won't win the game if they don't make free throws..and the only way to become better at free throws is to practice. It isn't as exciting or dramatic as a slam dunk, but the average player will have many more opportunities to shoot free throws than to do slam dunks.

    Michael Jordan was SO good, he could literally hit a free throw shot with his eyes closed. How did he become that good? By shooting free throws over and over and over in practice. Not very glamorous, but very effective.
     
  24. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    So we should probably assume that these students have never been exposed to multiplication and division in a drill-and-practice type classroom before? Does it really strike you as likely that the innumerable masses of students who reach high school with insufficient math or writing skills have simply never had teachers who made them practice?

    Horizontal relevance is essential for learning, and can come in a good many forms. Genuine curiosity produces horizontal relevance. Having success in a skill or concept tied to a larger goal you value can produce it, as well. Some students come by these things naturally, but most do not. Simply brushing it aside as nonessential, rather than strategizing a way to incorporate it, is sabotaging your own efforts.

    Nobody's arguing otherwise. However, simply providing students with a toolkit of functions doesn't produce thinkers. It produces believers in the toolkit. Teaching skill A in a way that incorporates exploration and active learning produces students who are going to be much more swift and capable of acquiring skills B and C, because they will be more aware of themselves as learners and have a greater sense of how to interpret and address the problems that may threaten to impede their own learning.

    Kids practice free throws because they want to make the team, and they want to be good basketball players...just like your kids WANTED to be able to access the internet. So it is exactly an example of horizontal relevance. They also make tiny adjustments to their efforts as they experience success and failure, as they actively pursue the correct form and "push." They'll take advice, they'll work with others, they'll practice and practice and practice...because they want it and are making decisions about how to achieve their goal.

    By loving it and wanting to.
     
  25. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    I am the only teacher in my K-5 school doing multiplication drills (and I teach 5th :eek:). The 4th grade teachers used to do it, but 2/3 of them left a few years back. Now no one does it. So I have to find time to do it, because I only have about 4 (of 27) that know their facts.
    So, yes, assume away. It could very likely be true.
     
  26. Galois

    Galois Companion

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    Thanks for all your excellent inputs. I'm learning a lot. Motivation is indeed the key. But, I'm glad that my 12-year-old son, who is now in 7th grade and who does not like math at all, was drilled by his teachers in his basic math starting in grade one coupled with doing accelerated math. He is now turning from a "C" to an "A" student as he approaches algebra.

    Still, the debate goes on as to whether to spend lots of hours teaching high school kids basic math skills. Just remember, we agree to disagree.
     
  27. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    If we're going by personal observation, which doesn't seem like a very mathematical thing to do :)whistle:), drill has been by far the most prevalent approach at both of the schools I've worked at (which also featured plenty of vocal frustration about students not having "the basics"). If we're going to look at it a little bit bigger...

    If that last source strikes you as silly, that particular information is available in a lot of places...it just happens to be a rather succinct summarization, is all.

    --

    Having said all that...drill and practice fans tend to perceive it as a case of 'one or the other,' which is a huge fallacy. Practice opportunities are, as I mentioned before, essential. It's the format, function, context, and results they produce that decide whether they are impactful or not.

    Learning is a natural event. It is an inborn survival skill. The great summation of being. And the brain is an evolutionary learning powerhouse...physicist Sir Roger Penrose once called it the most perfectly organized part of the universe. 84% of the genes in your DNA are in some way associated with the brain. It isn't just good at learning...it was BUILT for it.

    But like all natural events, learning rests on a bedrock of catalyzing prerequisites. And this is exactly why this awesome learning machine seems to inexplicably meander through our schools with an exhausting indifference. Just as you cannot control fire without accepting the laws that define it and the characteristics that nature has imbued it with, you cannot maximize the potential for learning without doing the same for the brain.

    Disequilibrium doesn't occur because you say "You need to learn this," or because you say "This will be on the test." It occurs because someone is trying to achieve something that they want to achieve, because they have a personally set goal, because they want to understand something that they don't currently understand. It occurs because someone tells you "A newborn baby has 94 more bones in its body than you do." It occurs because you tried to build the tallest tower out of five sheets of paper, and your design failed. It occurs because a skill becomes relevant to either a real life or simulation experience that you are actively engaged in. There are a thousand ways to promote it. Why on earth would anybody want to shrug their shoulders and say "I don't think I'll do that?"
     
  28. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Nobody is saying we shouldn't try to produce deeper thinking and understanding of the concepts. I include critical thinking problems in almost every class assignment.

    If kids don't have the basic tools in their toolkit to begin with, though, then they simply are not properly equipped to attempt these types of problems. You can't build a house if you don't even know how to hold a hammer or saw, much less use them correctly.

    When the toolkit is empty, acquiring those tools (and learning how they work) does need to be the first priority.

    Not exactly. Many players do understand the importance of free throw and practice them on their own (like Jordan), but many more do not like free throws and never really try to improve them. Shaquille O'Neal is the perfect example. Yes, he loved the game and all the fame it brought, but he was a horrible free throw shooter. Every knew it, including Shaq, but he never put much effort into improving his free throws because that wasn't as glamorous as doing Monster Dunks. Shaq also refused to take sad vice from different people on his shot. Rick Barry (a former NBA player) told Shaq he could improve his free throw accuracy tremendously if he would start shooting them underhand (often called a "Granny Shot"). Rick shot his free throws like that when he was a pro player. He offered to work woth Shaq for free and guaranteed Shaq would improve his accuracy up to at least 85%. Shaq's response? Naw, man. I can't shoot like that because it doesn't look cool. So Shaq was more interested in "looking cool" than actually improving one of the most fundamental skills in the game.

    So the horizontal relevance still doesn't ensure kids will be totally motivated to learn the basic skills. You can explain the importance of the skill, you can show that doing the skill IS cool (like Jordan shooting with his eyes closed), but at the end of it all, the ONLY thing that will actually improve that skill is practice. Even if a player hates practicing free throws (like Shaq), they will still improve that skill if they are made to practice it over and over.

    I'm not shrugging off the importance of relevance to increase motivation and do my best to find real-world applications my students DO like, but when they don't have the most basic tools, I have to work on those first.
     
  29. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    And you learn the tools BECAUSE you are building the house, or the deck, or the go cart...which is exactly the point. I learn how to use the Black and Decker screwdriver, and a million other "basics" like how to space my efforts and how to cut boards, and I get a LOT of practice at each...all within the context of an achieved goal. The toolkit is not divorced from the larger problem solving dillema. It is developed through active, authentic, and project based practice.

    Relevance is a matter of goal and perception. That said, the metaphor is imperfect because we're talking about creating opportunities for natural learning of specific skills within schools. Shaq was an adult rejecting one skill out of a large set. Its more akin to a student mastering some math skills but rejecting Calculus, while the situation in schools is like entire basketball teams not only failing to have the most basic skills, but not even fully understanding the rules of the game.
     
  30. McParadigm

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    I'm really glad this thread popped up today, because I'm stuck at a child's birthday party and all the other parents are watching TV or texting. I was just gonna use the Nook app to finish reading a book, but this has been more fun. :)

    There's no better way to really clarify your thoughts, even within your own head, than in the context of debate, I think.
     
  31. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    This debate is raging in my school right now. 80 -90% of our kids coming to us not knowing their facts,. The 3rd grade teachers use rhymes to have them memorize their facts. They don't hold on to them. With the new common core there is more focus on teaching numeracy and true understanding of what the facts mean. I'm hoping this means kids come to us more prepared. We spend a lot of time teaching past skills.
     
  32. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    If the elementary math curriculum wasn't a mile wide and an inch deep, and if teachers had the leeway to teach what was really necessary for future learning (and not to pass that year's FCAT), then more 3rd graders would become proficient in multiplication and division by the end of that year.

    I taught 3rd in a private school. Teachers had total leeway. We did not prep for standardized tests. I set a date for memorization of multiplication facts to 12 and made parents aware of it. All the kids were at least moderately successfuly by the end of the year. Yes, some of them had disabilities.
     
  33. Ross

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    Oct 8, 2012


    We could concentrate on giving the students a full understanding of the basics in math. With that understanding comes confidence in their ability to do the math work. If they have that confidence, then as they move up to more complex math problems they will know that they can succeed. If they know they can succeed in math, then they know they can succeed in other endeavors using math.

    A pox on state mandated testing that drives the math curriculum in the classroom.
     
  34. GTB4GT

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    Lot's of interesting debate here centered around pedagogy.

    I am new to this field. I wonder why kids don't have to demonstrate the ability to do 3rd grade level work before moving on to 4th grade, 7th grade level work before going on to 8th grade, etc. Surely there is consensus about what a 3rd grade math student should be capable of, what an 8th grader should be able to do, etc. Preposterous right - to assume a child in the _th grade is capable of doing _th grade work.

    If we did this, we wouldn't be debating the pros and cons of various strategies to reach a student who is several years behind his/her peers.

    Because the educational process is (for the most part) run by the govenment I know simple, common sense solutions are not forthcoming.Instead the teachers will be left to deal with the situation to the best of their abilities.
     
  35. teach42

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    I have yet to work at a school where the majority of students know their multiplication table. It is so depressing. Yes, I've worked in high need schools in the past but now I'm at a "supposedly" average school according to the rankings and it is the same situation here if not worse. What is their excuse for not being able to do this? God forbid we expect them to know basic math and know the prerequisites for the course before coming into it. The students are allowed to use calculators in elementary school. Now not only can they not do basic arithmetic, they also cannot think or reason. I thought it couldn't get any worse but I encountered students who didn't know what 2 divided by 2 is in high school. No wonder they don't understand how to solve equations when I teach it to them. I don't even know why I bother to teach. I mind as well just teach them how to punch numbers into a calculator because it's like pulling teach at this point. I'm teaching an Algebra II class that cannot remember any Algebra I and also is helpless without a calculator. It's going to be such a great year.:(

    I'm not sure what is sadder--that they can't do basic arithmetic or that they can't see why it's important to be able to do it without a calculator. None of my students seem to understand that. They just always want the easy way out. What is also sad is that teachers give up on them and just let them use a calculator for everything once they realize the students' deficits. If one teacher just took it away for a year, they would be able to change a lot.

    Completely agree with the above. I already tried assignments with my students that required higher-order thinking or exploration/discovery. It failed miserably when they didn't have the proper skill sets and foundation and vice versa.
     
  36. PolarBear

    PolarBear Rookie

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    This. I work with 3rd graders in a math lab, after spending the day in a High School Study Hall working with 9th and 10th graders. Some of my third graders could run circles around some of the High Schoolers in basic math. I've even copied a multiplication table and basic orders of equations... for my HS kiddos. Granted, some of the HS students are at or above grade level, but that number is so low it's jaw-dropping.

    I have to word this carefully- our HS is in a low-demographic area. Another HS, in a high-demographic area (same District) has the assessment percentages almost reversed. All I can conclude from this is it isn't just the teacher's, or the school's fault. Without strong support at home, it's almost impossible for us to get our kids where they need to be. Or, more importantly, get them to understand why it's so important.
     
  37. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    I don't doubt it.

    Aiming your frustrations in the direction of students is a lot like aiming it at parents...a big waste of time. You can't change the children's history, or their perceptions. You can't change their parents, or even their previous teachers. All you can do is determine if what you are doing is making a substantial difference or not...which is a thread in and of itself. I read a study a while back that tracked 1,500 students for three years. At the end of every single year, their teachers felt significant gains had occurred and that the students were at or near grade level. And at the beginning of the following year, their new teachers always expressed horror at how little they knew. It's not hard to think of a dozen potential reasons for this disconnect, but after I read that I always made a point of going to see my kid's next year teachers a few months into that year and see how they were doing.

    In all of the schools you've worked in? Because you made it sound like this is a recurring problem.

    Most of my work was in a low income area, where calculator use was minimal at best, and the math teachers constantly complained about the kids not knowing the most basic facts. My own children went/are going to a very nice suburban district, and I never saw or heard of a calculator in all their homework/descriptions of their in-class work....whenever I got to "teacher talking" with their teachers I heard frustrations about the general population not knowing the "basics."

    I am definitely of the mind that calculator use is not a great idea under most circumstances....but it doesn't sound like calculators are the source of all of your negative experiences, either.

    Exactly why you and I agree on calculator use. I've said before that, in my mind, one of the subject's biggest values is as an ongoing thinking and problem solving exercise.

    If they've been babied up until this point, they literally do not have the experience needed to understand why they should want anything else. You're not just working with a lack of understanding...you're up against a misperception that has been reenforced over a period of years. This is exactly the kind of scenario where emphasizing scenarios high in horizontal relevance is most valuable.

    Exploration and discovery involve skill sets all their own...initiating such a process among high schoolers who have never had a chance to nurture those skills and who are exceptionally unmotivated regarding the materials (as it sounds like they are) is counterintuitive.

    I used exploration and discovery almost exclusively, along with other features like a student-run help desk and collaborative project-based simulative scenarios. It worked incredibly well...but even at the 7th grade level I had to invest the first three weeks of school to prep, training, short practice efforts with feedback, and a gradual release of those formats.

    Constructivist approaches can't be grafted on to traditional designs or tossed in as occasional stop-gaps between lecture lessons any more than a chapter from one book can be spliced into the middle of a different novel. They require completely different backgrounds and have entirely separate things to say.

    Low income families aren't just facing a financial problem.

    Well over 50% of our base was Latino...a tremendous number of parents had received little to no education, had been forced to drop out to help family, etc. My experience was that those people were FAR more likely to feel appreciative/supportive of teachers than in the upper-middle class school I'd worked in, but that there was a combined set of problems preventing that from helping.

    By the seventh grade, most of their children were already learning things they themselves didn't understand. There was an intimidation factor to that...both in terms of shame and in a total loss as to how to help. There was often a sense of helplessness in general, as the children got older. One kid we were working with, his father had passed away some time ago. At 12, he already towered over his mom. He started staying out late, getting high with some older kids in a gang. Then he would just flat out refuse to get up in the morning. She called the police, finally, to take him to school. They ticketed her and threatened to put all her children in foster care if she couldn't get control of him. Big help, guys.

    Side note, feel free to ignore:
    when I first met my wife she was a single mother in South Dakota, working hard for peanuts. Her two kids were out of control, too...the elder was a big boy at just 11, and was dealing with a pretty intense emotional disorder. He flew off the handle one night, maybe two or three weeks after we met. He grabbed her by the throat, pushed her up against the wall, and screamed. Then he ran out the door. She called me and the police. I was at work, so I got there just as they were leaving...having ticketed her for him being out past curfew and given her a pamphlet on child abuse. So apparently that's quite the thing.

    The world is a rough room. I honestly believe that every second we spend complaining about parents is a second of our life that we have rather stubbornly wasted. You can't change them, you can't undo whatever they've done, and you don't know their whole story anyway. My hairdresser doesn't complain to me that they'd be able to better do their job if only my hair wasn't thinning. They do what they can with what's left.

    (that's a lie, I cut my own hair, and I do complain).
     
  38. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

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    Oct 10, 2012

    Yes, in all of the schools I've worked in. The problem is perpetuated in middle school and high school because teachers realize that their students don't know basic math and eventually give up. They take the easy way out and just let them use a calculator. I often wonder whether it is even worth the struggle because I'm one of the teachers in the minority in the district who doesn't allow the students to use a calculator. Why bother to make my life harder and try to fight the system? The sad thing is that the administrators can actually change it but they don't.

    I just had a meeting with a parent today and her child is one of the students who can't do basic arithmetic and is frustrated with the class. Geez, I wonder why. I would be too if I was learning advanced math and couldn't understand it because I lacked the foundation. As a parent, I would've sat there and thought why my child doesn't have the basic skills and why nothing was done all these years to help her. It's not something that just happened overnight and none of the teachers knew all these years.
     
  39. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    Oct 10, 2012

    again, you are describing a sympton and not the disease. Treat the disease. Then us math teacher will be teaching students who truly are ready and capable of doing grade-appropriate work. We don't need to eat our own here, which is what the pedagogy debates appear to be.
     
  40. PolarBear

    PolarBear Rookie

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    Oct 10, 2012

    I honestly think one of the biggest things I had to get over, as a noob, was the realization that there are some things I just can't fix.
     
  41. McParadigm

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    Oct 11, 2012

    Even ignoring the other half of my statement...which was the addition of my own personal experience to yours and which runs pretty much in the opposite direction...you still seem to be suggesting that an entire nation of students struggling to master basic math facts boils down to the following:

    1. Calculators prevent the learning of Math facts. Not a bad premise, all by itself. But it doesn't explain the widespread prevalence of the problem unless...

    2. The majority of Math teachers allow for liberal calculator use, which when placed in conjunction with point #1 and some of your other statements of frustration, that...

    3. The majority of Math teachers are incompetent and/or lazy.

    If all three of those conditions isn't present, then your logic doesn't hold up. You get by without calculators, which means it's possible but a lot more frustrating. So the only reason for all those other Math teachers to rely heavily on them (which they must be doing in near universal numbers, for calculators to be one of the principle causes of unlearned Math facts) is that they either can't be bothered or are unable to learn how to teach otherwise. This seems like it's doing Math teachers a grave disservice. And even then, it won't explain why kids aren't learning the parts of speech, or why reading scores aren't improving. So you'd still only be defining a small part of the problem.

    It seems far more likely that the reason for all this failed learning is a lot more complex. It involves where we are as a society. It involves outside forces impacting education. And it involves the fact that, as molecular biologist and human brain development researcher John Medina put it, "If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom."

    I do think a lot of teachers get wrapped up emotionally in wanting to fix the problems, which is way beyond our ability and expertise. But we are expected to overcome them, and that can feel just as impossible.
     

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