Understanding Math Deficiencies

Discussion in 'General Education' started by SF_Giants66, May 13, 2014.

1. SF_Giants66Cohort

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May 13, 2014

Here is a bit of an issue I had last semester with planning and teaching math lessons.

First of all, I have a mild form of Autism, but my math processing skills are above a standard deviation on the IQ bell curve, and somewhere around the 85th percentile. This has the advantage of being able to understand math really well, and give specific instructions to problem solving on a conceptual level, but it comes at the disadvantage that dealing with an autism spectrum disorder, I have trouble with what is known as "other-mindedness," and it came out this past semester. One of my professors told me that my lessons plans resembled more of a remedial college math class, and my expectations are a bit too high.

On a good note, in 8th grade Algebra 1, I got mostly all top marks in my lesson on factoring polynomials, and I got all high marks in pre-Algebra volume review lesson.

My professor offered to meet with me over coffee this summer to address this difficulty, which I'm considering, but my main issue is can anyone really give a couple specific examples when comparing the student who is a natural at math and the student who really struggles with math?

What I tended to find with experimentation with my youngest brother who is 12 is that the ability to memorize formulas and basic procedures is there, but sometimes the conceptual understanding and automatic calculation of problems is not (Example- 150% of 280. One student simply takes half of the whole and adds it to the whole, and the other student has to get out a calculator and multiply it by 150%).

The issue is everyone talks about how difficult math is all the time, but I don't really get that. I find it easy, and to me I feel in the ideal world, it would be as simple as practice after learning the steps.

I'm hoping maybe some of those that teach math and found that they were pretty good with it growing up can share some of their strategies to assisting those who are less capable. I'm trying to really see and think inside the mind of someone not good at math, but I can't really. If I had some material to study and explore maybe it would be easier.

3. Pi-R-SquaredGroupie

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May 13, 2014

Here it is in a nutshell and re-read this over and over again.........

Your abilities in math are WAY ABOVE most of your future students. If you're fortunate enough to be assigned gifted / advanced students in middle school, you MIGHT be able to teach it the way you were taught. If not, you're going to see a large majority of middle school students who are just not ready for middle school math. They just are not... Mental calculations??????? They still USE FINGERS to subtract 5 from 11!!!!! Add to the fact that kids "hate" decimals, fractions, mixed-sign integers, negatives, etc.... When some kids add decimals, they forget to line up the decimal point... They add 7.6 and 5 and they give me 8.1 when it should be 12.6. When you give students x = 4, y = 2, and z = 3 and tell them to evaluate xyz, someone will say 423. Most kids don't know the order of operations.... Sure, they will say PEMDAS forever but they won't know how to apply it.

The best advice to give you is to become VERY PATIENT with your students. Otherwise, ***YOU WILL REALLY SUCK*** at being a math teacher..... :lol:

4. UpsadaisyModerator

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May 13, 2014

I don't think you're going to understand the minds of those who seem not to have good number sense. But, it isn't necessary. What is necessary is to teach to those different levels in your classes. If you were cited for teaching above the level of your younger students, take that seriously.

Those with lower natural number sense respond well to methods that depend on memory - 'tricks', you might call them. Less conceptual, more concrete. Kids at a higher level will use strategies of their own making but will appreciate learning more mental math strategies. The kids with lower number sense will probably not choose to use those mental math strategies, anyway. I agree with the above poster.

5. Pi-R-SquaredGroupie

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May 13, 2014

You will also run into a LARGE MAJORITY of students who won't get it and never will. These students will reside in your general (regular) math classes. If you're not patient or expect them to do quick mental calculations, you're screwed even before stepping in the door. I had to adjust very quickly to the fact that most kids hate math and will always hate it.... I'm here in the classroom to make it "not hurt too much." Math-haters are not bad kids.... they just hate math.... and why do they hate math? It's likely that a long time ago, they continually got wrong answers and gave up, or did the problems too slowly, so they weren't considered "good" at math... Kids who are considered "good" at math got the right answers AND did them fast.... (Remember those speed drills????). You are correct in that learning the steps would make the math simple. Just keep in mind that you and I and probably the other math teachers in the forums think differently. We think, live, and do math... We LOVE MATH!!! MATH! MATH! MATH!!!! Only thing is, about 98% of the general population would rather have a root canal than do math problems... :lol:

6. DrivingPigeonPhenom

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May 13, 2014

Speaking for myself, I had a really difficult time understanding math when I was in school. If I studied and really practiced, I could do well. Junior year I took an algebra class, and got a D, because I didn't study hard enough.

As someone else mentioned, I don't think math will "click" for all students, so you just have to find a strategy that works, and they will just follow the steps and get through it. I finally started to enjoy math in college. I took a class for teachers called number systems, where we had to add in different bases. That REALLY helped me understand base 10 better. I also took an intro to algebra class in college, and it was the first math class that I ever enjoyed. I just needed to see it and hear it again, and again, and again.

7. underthesunRookie

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May 13, 2014

When I was in high school, I had a very similar issue whenever I tried to help my classmates with Chemistry (my classmates in my math classes were at the same level as me, so there wasn't any issues in communication there). The math behind Stoichiometry just MADE SENSE to me; I thoroughly enjoyed it and I barely needed the lesson on it to understand what to do. Naturally, if one of the kids beside me was struggling with the concept, I tried to help, and tried to show them the way that I did it (as opposed to the way that our instructor did it, as I figured maybe looking at it a different way would help them). Yeah, my teacher ended up making a rule that said I wasn't allowed to help answer anyone else's questions related to Stoich. I couldn't understand their mindsets with them having a lower understanding of the math behind the operations, and that meant that I only confused them and frustrated myself when I tried to explain something several different ways and they still weren't getting it.

Since then, I've been able to tutor many high school students in Stoich, and I've helped them all better understand the difference. If I could go from being banned to offer help to being recommended by my former teacher, then I'd say for you to be able to get through this, too. You've just got to really step back from the problem, and not worry about how YOU would go about solving it. There are going to be some students that you'll be able to offer your tips and insights with, and for some of the kids, they'll love you forever for it, but you have to understand now that the majority of the students you work with probably are going to approach problems in a very different manner than what you'd even consider. The best thing you can do is listen to the students; they'll let you know if you're expecting more than they can do or if you're expecting less than they're able to do, and if you listen to the individuals and figure out how their minds approach the problems, then you're better able to see what individual strategies will work for them. I always thought math was a subject HUGE in differentiation; there are countless ways to approach everything, and so many kids approach it differently. Knowing as many alternative ways to solve the problem (even if they seem long or irrational to you!) is a huge step toward being able to better reach students who don't have the same number sense that you have.

At least, that's the best advice I can give from a student's and a tutor's perspective. Pi seems to have some excellent advice from a teacher's perspective. ^^

8. swansong1Virtuoso

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May 13, 2014

I can speak from an elementary teacher point of view. Our math teacher editions give us an enormous amount of material to help struggling students. It's very helpful. Maybe middle school works the same way?

9. Caesar753Multitudinous

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May 13, 2014

Isn't this what teaching is all about, though? We all understand (or should understand) our content at a level far above wherever are students are. It's our job to make our content accessible to our students. This isn't just a math issue; it's an every-grade-every-subject issue.

10. MrsCMultitudinous

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May 13, 2014

I was one of those kids who didn't enjoy math very much in high school. I did reasonably well because I was able to memorize and regurgitate--I had my facts down cold, had formulas memorized and knew how to apply them. However, I had no real understanding of what I was doing or why the formulas worked. It wasn't until I started teaching grade 6, 7 and 8 math that I had some "a-ha" moments and began to have a truer understanding of what I was doing.

It will be very important, as a teacher, to not focus on what your students "should" know or the way "should" do things. You'll need to recognize where they are and help to move them along from there. Your students will approach the learning of mathematics in very different ways; there is no one-size-fits-all or "best way". I allow, and encourage, lots of risk-taking and collaboration in my math classroom. We all learn from each other as the see how their peers approach a problem and as they work to explain their thinking to others.

Math is now my favourite subject to teach, not because I find it easy or because I "know it all", but because of the community we have created.

11. TeacherGroupieModerator

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May 13, 2014

Amen and amen!

12. smalltowngalMultitudinous

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May 13, 2014

:thumb:

13. UpsadaisyModerator

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May 13, 2014

Yes, I agree, mostly. But, in some subject areas, kids can get good grades just be absorbing information on a specific topic despite never knowing anything about it before. That doesn't work so well in math.

You know, I read about a study that was done on infants. They measured the pupils of the eyes in response to something or other (sorry, it was a long time ago) and found that babies are born with a certain amount of number sense. Some more than others. Very interesting. I saw it all the time in my students.

14. RoxCohort

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May 13, 2014

Can you try to write your lesson plans with an additional section for those who are struggling with the concept? So that if you encounter students who are struggling, you can use that section of the lesson plan to focus on with them. Many math curriculums provide little sections of "extra support" for those who may be struggling. Google "differentiated instruction" for more ideas.

15. Special-tEnthusiast

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May 13, 2014

My BA was in English and it was always my strongest subject. When I first started teaching high school English, my lessons tended to be more like college remedial - just as you described. I think most of us have trouble with other-mindedness is certain areas. I encourage you to not critique yourself through the lens of autism (valid though it may sometimes be). You are learning to teach. It's a process we all go through. The more experience you gain with a variety of student abilities, the better you will become at differentiating and scaffolding instruction.

16. Linguist92021Phenom

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May 13, 2014

I think as you gain more experience you will see how your students are, that they're at a much lower level than you'd expect and you will be forced to break things down, go over it over and over again, practice, practice and be patient and so on.
The sooner you do that, the better it is. You already know it's a problem and are asking for help, so that's a good start.

17. gr3teacherPhenom

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May 13, 2014

I used to teach special education (and during the summers, still teach different programs for struggling learners), and currently teach gifted kids. One of the most important things to remember when you're working with kids... ANY kid... is that different kids work at different paces, and different kids have different learning styles.

My IQ is in the 150s. Math came extraordinarily easy to me, to the extent that I probably should have taken high school level math classes the year I turned 10. I have to constantly fight the "this is so easy, why aren't you GETTING it?!?!?" demons. Ultimately though... if they all knew it, they wouldn't be in your class.

I can say with full sincerity though that the hardest thing for any new teacher to get is the actual pacing of teaching. I don't think any lesson takes the amount of time a new teacher expects it to.

After you've done it, it'll become very natural for you to fill in the gaps. Every child is different, but there are often common trends. You'll also get to know your classes, and you'll get a feel for how long a particular concept will take. My district pacing guide is a godsend... I don't follow it word for word, but knowing, for example, that they expect me to spend a week and a half on addition and subtraction definitely helps me plan things out. If you have any access to good pacing guides, they will help you out a lot in terms of how to break things down to manageable levels for the kids.

18. SF_Giants66Cohort

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May 14, 2014

Did your IQ get determined by a professional psychologist? If not, it isn't accurate. I score in the 130+ range in all those silly online tests, but only about 109 total with a professional, and the test is a lot more extensive.

19. SF_Giants66Cohort

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May 14, 2014

What I'm also saying, is I generally can get frustrated easily, and I want to try and avoid planning too much content in one lesson that leads to a set up for frustration.

Also, I think most of us could agree that understanding students misconceptions and how they see the material would be most beneficial in how to teach it to them.

That's why I was interested in what goes on inside the mind of someone not good with math, so it can be made easier for them.

They can memorize equations and algorithms, but without conceptually understanding them, they are going to hit many dead ends.

20. gr3teacherPhenom

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May 14, 2014

It was done by a psychologist. My elementary school's recommendation was that I skip from second to sixth grade.

21. MathCohort

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May 14, 2014

I just want to add that is why some of the best teachers are ones who struggled a bit. These teachers have an easier time I am sure understanding the students frustration. I am glad I did struggle in math in the past.

In the past I could score really high on testing for placement but once I got in the class I felt clueless. Some people that have things coming so easily are the worst because they expect for everyone to get it just as easily as he or she did.

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