Hi there! I have been tutoring a third grade student in math since about October. She REALLY struggles. There is not a concept that we have worked on that she has mastered right away. The thing is she shows progress really slowly and unfortunately her class moves REALLY fast. So they don't really have much time to go back if a student is behind. She is not diagnosed with a disability but is in title I services at school and I see her about one hour a week for tutoring. We usually go over homework and work on concepts she is struggling with. I just feel like nothing I am doing is working with her! She gets so frustrated and shuts down and there are so many different factors that play into to it. Part of it is reading the directions/questions fully. Another part is just being drained from all the work they do, and another part is just not remembering or understanding what she learns at school. I have my bachelors in gen ed and am finishing up my masters in special ed but I feel like I don't have enough experience to REALLY assess the problem. I've never had my own classroom and only worked in after school settings. Id really like a special ed teachers opinion on any strategies you use in your own classroom. I try to use manipulatives whenever possible for a hands on approach, I try to break down problems in different ways and teach her tricks but it's hard because I also need to be consistent with what she is learning in school. I'm just frustrated and out of ideas!

Well, the good news is that it seems you're taking bigger issue steps by getting your masters! I think the two biggest variables here in the equation are 1) not having completely a more in-depth, diagnostic assessment, and 2) not having enough time with her. Those would be my next steps. Unfortunately, without more specifics about exactly how she's struggling and more time to implement strategies, I don't know that you're going to get very useful strategies or results. If I were you and only had an hour, I might spend that time just helping her grasp some of the bigger picture issues going on in her classroom.

Yeah unfortunately time is a huge issue. Sometimes it takes us 30+ minutes just to go over homework usually because she gets so frustrated and starts complaining that she doesn't want to do it. She struggles a lot with reading the question and focussing on what it is asking. That's where she gets herself into trouble because there are so many times she knows how to do the problem but just doesn't read directions or questions carefully. She also struggles with multiplication and division fact fluency (she can do the problem but it takes her a LONG time because she uses her fingers to skip count) Fractions she is okay with the basics but has trouble with word problems mostly. Right now we are working on time and measurement and she can tell time pretty well but once you start asking elapsed time questions she shuts down from frustration. In measurement she can measure pretty well but gets confused when they ask about the nearest half inch or nearest quarter inch (this is very new). The thing is I HAVE seen progress but it's very very slow. For example at the beginning of the year she was really struggling with rounding. Now she has no problem with it. If I saw her more days per week I think it would be beneficial but our schedules only allow us with the little time we have together which is hard when her class moves so fast in the curriculum.

Regarding word problems, a strategy that I have used is to have the student use different colored highlighters to highlight the most important parts of the problem. The extraneous stuff then seems to fade into the background in the mind. I also use highlighters to color different steps in the problem if it is a multi step problem. Is it possible for you to back off on homework and spend more time practicing actual concepts?

Wow I like the highlighter idea! As far as backing off HW. Unfortunately seeing her HW and how she does on it is really my only form of assessment for her...and it's the only way I see what her class is learning and how they are progressing as well. She usually has it ready for me and we go over what she got wrong.

I would give her visual aids like a multiplication chart and it sounds like she may even need a 100's chart. You can also provide her with a checklist for how to solve problems. For example, division. I would have my kiddos write DMSCB (which stands for drive my super cool bike or divide, multiply, subtract, compare and bring down) and have them check off each step as it's completed. Let her use a clock for elapsed time. There are also very good graphic organizers for word problems. Google 4 square math graphic organizers. I hope that helps some! I used to teach resource math.

Do you use any manipulatives at all? I'm thinking of base ten blocks or even pictures of them. I finally had to stop doing all the homework assigned for a seriously disabled student. It was simply beyond him. We did what was possible and then remediated. For example, we worked on basic multiplication facts for about 18 months.

Yeah I was thinking about letting her use a multiplication chart, my worry was that she would become too dependent on it and then struggle when she couldn't use it at school. We have used clocks for elapsed time she hates doing it on a clock but I make her do it anyway. I use manipulatives whenever I can. When she was learning the concept of division and multiplication we used candy, blocks, pictures and stickers .... For fractions we use fraction strips and circles cut into fractions. For time I have those teaching clocks that they sell at teacher stores.... When I was helping her with rounding I made a ziplock rounding chart and we also used hundreds charts. Now that she is moving onto measurement I am trying to think of ideas to help her. She likes using manipulatives sometimes .... Then at times she thinks that she can do it on her own and doesn't want to use them. she gets really frustrated easily and loses confidence quickly.

For elapsed time, do the problem on a number line. That lit the lightbulb in several of my struggling kiddos.

Unfortunately using the number line was what she was having trouble with. That's actually how they learned it in school so I wanted to be consistent but she wasn't grasping it well so I showed her the clocks as a visual. It helped s little I think.

Yeah, only so many hours in the day (or in your tutoring schedule) . A few thoughts: 1) I might not focus on helping her with homework. A lot of times homework is not on the child's level, particularly if the child is behind. Let her do that at home with a parent. You CAN, though, use homework as a guide to help you understand what she's working on so you can come up with your own activities. For example, if you can tell she's working on elapsed time (based on homework), use that as a starting point, but figure out the component skills of that skill class that she's missing (e.g., subtraction, telling time use clock hands, etc) and come up with your own activities. 2) Focus on the target skill, not computational fluency. For example, if you're working on long division but she still struggles with basic math facts, let her use a calculator for the basic math facts while she's with you. That way you all can devote your time to learning the target concepts, not just practicing computational fluency (which she can do anywhere with anyone).

Ha sorry swansong - looks like you already posted my previous comment. In terms of assessment, your thoughts are valid here about knowing what the class is working on. I'd say only use that for 5 minutes, though - just have her do one or two problems until you figure out what she's struggling with, rather than trying to get ALL of the homework done.

I agree with not working on the fluency, but I disagree with having her use the calculator for multiplication or division of facts. I suggest she use a times table chart and teach her how to use it for both division and multiplication. Work on the questions she needs to be asking herself before she puts her fingers on the multiplication chart. I haven't seen calculators mange to bring about the same recall. Honestly, I wouldn't have her work on fluency until she gets to basic accurate recall for almost all facts. In my experience, any fluency practice without accurate slow recall actually makes it harder to become fluent because too much guessing ends up happening even if that isn't how flash cards should be done.

This is the fear that actually ends up making kids have to struggle longer. People don't tend to use something they don't need when it slows them down (unless their confidence is lacking terribly which will also interfere when they don't have the accommodation). I've seen kids when allowed to use the chart slowly abandon it when they start being able to recall the facts. They go from complete dependence, to checking their initial recall, to realizing that every time they check they are correct (even if not fast). Few stay with the chart once they realize the are getting them right all the time. If they stay with it, the issue that gets them to stay with it needs to be addressed because it comes into play in other things they do. My opinion is moving to fast to fluency drills and lack of resources leads a good number of students to take longer to learn the facts than allowing them to use the resources in the first place.

Thank you for the advice! I see your point on not really focusing on fluency. I may have her use a multiplication chart as an accommodation when we are working on word problems instead of he using her fingers and getting frustrated since I feel like it does waste time having her try to get to the answer rather than focussing on what the question is asking (which is what she struggles with) The problem with the homework thing is that usually she completes all of her homework before I come and she has me check it. This lets me know what she isn't really understanding. It takes us a LONG time to go over the questions she got wrong sometimes simply because she is struggling. So the time consumption is really not so much her doing her homework, but us going over the problems she didn't understand.

Wow I actually never thought about it this way. I think that makes perfect sense. When she is answering multiplication or division questions I would say she gets them right 99% of the time. She usually only gets them wrong because she uses her fingers to count and counts by a number or two off. I used to let her use a hundreds chart to skip count on when she was first learning multiplication but stopped due to the fear of her becoming too dependent. But I see your point now and will give her a multiplication chart to use.

For story problems teach the CUBES strategy. I have used it with great success with my poor readers. It teaches them to break apart the story problem and to look at the different parts critically to understand what is being asked. My only issue with it is it doesn't have a step to evaluate if it is a multi-step story problem, so I just added to the evaluate step what is it asking? Is it asking more than one question? Circle important numbers Underline the question Box the key word and write the operation sign Eliminate unnecessary information and/or Evaluate, what is the question asking Solve, does my answer make sense

Cool - so I'd suggest maybe don't go over the homework, but do the activities that YOU think are important. Homework tends to be given to the class as a whole, not differentiated for each child, so you will probably have better stuff for her to do given that you're hand-selecting it.