What's so hard about formulas??

Discussion in 'General Education' started by MrsTeacher2Be, Oct 21, 2008.

  1. MrsTeacher2Be

    MrsTeacher2Be Companion

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    Oct 21, 2008

    OMG the past two days have just been one huge crazy whirlwind. I started my first teaching job, as some of you know, and I have already graded my first set of papers (which I both cried and rejoiced over), given and mostly graded a quiz, written up one student for throwing pencils, caught another one cheating on said quiz, and had my first impromptu parent teacher conference! Whew!

    This week we're covering formulas, and we had quite a bit we needed to cover this week. Monday alone we were supposed to do perimeter, area, and volume but they are having so much trouble with it we haven't even gotten to volume yet! Monday my observation went well and my dept. chair said he was impressed for my first day and everything was fine. I let them spend the last 20 minutes working on their classwork (4 detailed word problems straight from the state test folks) and the results seriously stressed me out. That should be PLENTY of time to do 4 problems, although I do know that I had a few who were on task and didn't finish because they're just slow (speed-wise) but what they had was correct. Even though I walked around helping the entire time, I'd say about a third of them got 100s and the rest failed. I mean like 0s and 13s and 25s. Many of the 0s were because they wouldn't shut up and only got 0 problem done. I thought I had really screwed up teaching it until I got to all of the 100s. I've given them the opportunity to redo it for homework for half credit added, and talked to them about how that's the only time we're doing this, etc. Yet, they kept on chatting today (nothing major, and I'd tell them to be quiet and they'd quiet down for a while, etc, just typical new teacher testing) and they were still having a lot of trouble.

    I don't understand what else I can do for them to get it. They do well with equations in general, but for some reason the idea of having to plug in numbers we know for most of the variables and solve for the one we don't know is messing them up. I've told them they have to show the equation, all of their work, and what each variable represents because that's where they're messing up, but the just keep doing it in their head and refuse to write it down. If I counted them off for not showing all of their work, I would have one girl with a 100 and the rest 0s. Any ideas on what I can do to help them understand formulas better? :help:

    Sorry for all the rambling!!!
     
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  3. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Oct 21, 2008

    I don't know what to tell you. My kiddos wont be quiet either so they are getting double work tomorrow. I'm going to have to turn into Viola Swamp on them.

    Is the problem that they honestly don't understand or that they are too busy doing other things to pay attention? My class has problems more with the latter than the former. I do remember struggling with equations in algebra and geometry when I was in high school though. Just figuring out what number went where could make my head spin. Then all the theorems and keeping everything balanced added new confusions. The only suggestion I have is lots and lots of practice. I do remember one of my teachers giving us three problems to solve. We did the computations on the left side of the page and wrote out the exact steps we took on the right side. I guess the writing out part of it helped some people slow down and organize their thoughts.
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oct 21, 2008

    I call this "Word Problem Shut Down". Students are so afraid of word problems that they freeze when faced with them, even if they can do the operations involved in the problem.

    I would suggest having a lesson on solving word problems.
     
  5. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Oct 21, 2008

    I can't remember what the technical name of the teaching strategy is, but it is teaching students how to do a problem horizontally rather than vertically. I will try to explain how to do it, but I apoligize if it is confusing.

    1) Divide the paper into sections horizontally for the number of steps it takes to solve the problem.
    2)In each section at the top, write what to do for each step.
    3) In the first section, do the first step.
    4) In the second section, do the first step having the students tell you what to do and then do the next step.
    3) In the third section, do the first and second step while students tell you what to do and then do the next step.
    Continue until you have done all the steps. Make sure students are taking notes in the same way. Then when it is work time and you are helping students have them point to the step in the notes they are stuck on and help them from there.

    Many times when we are helping students solve problems we do the examples and it is not clear what to do when and in what order. I found that this strategy helps students more easily figure out what to do next and learn how to help themselves.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 22, 2008

    I don't think the problem is with formulas, per se. I think you were expecting a LOT from your first 3 days with a new class.

    The other day you laid out what you needed to teach to get the kids up to speed. You have large blocks of time, but still you planned to cover a lot of different material. It seems like a lot for kids to absorb.

    So I think you may be expecting a bit too much of yourself and of them. I realize they're behind, but maybe slowing down a bit would help? You're a stranger to them-- your teaching style and mannerisms are brand new. I think you need to slow down a bit and worry less about catching up.
     
  7. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Oct 22, 2008

    I agree with Alice. I'm new to my school this year and new to teaching math. As a result, I spent nearly a month reviewing because I am also new to the math curriculums. The other Grade 7 classes are nearly done the first Unit, and my kids are only a couple of lessons in, and I'm stopping to teach PEDMAS (which they need to know, but isn't covered in our old Grade 6 curriculum or in the new Grade 7 curriculum) before we continue.

    I use United Streaming videos, Brainpops, as well as interactive activities to help kids understand. Right now, with balancing equations I'm thinking of doing something with a balance so that kids can really see what I'm talking about. Try something that gets the kids up and moving, and don't worry so much about catching up.

    My principal has flat out told me to cover what I can this year, and if I don't get through the curriculum, he's not that worried. Of course, I have the benefit of not having any standardized tests for my kids to write....
     
  8. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Oct 22, 2008

    All that might be true, but every year I wonder what makes formulas so difficult for many students. To me, they should be easier since all you have to do is substitute.
     
  9. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Oct 22, 2008

    Could it just be that they freak out when they see something so different from what they are used to? Do letters make kids jumpy? Could it really be that simple? I have tried teaching formulas and equations in the past and had the students look at me as if I was speaking Greek. When I removed the letter from the equation and wrote an empty box in its place they new exactly what to do.
     
  10. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Oct 22, 2008

    I've encountered exactly the same thing myself, runs... just last week in fact.
     
  11. MrsTeacher2Be

    MrsTeacher2Be Companion

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    Oct 23, 2008

    Thanks for the advice everybody! I have definitely slowed way down from what the pacing guide said, in fact the first day we didn't get through even a third of what we were supposed to, and that's FINE. It's picking up and getting a little better today once I was able to get behavior a little better under control. (I had one student suspended for a week for telling me to suck his.... so they now believe that I'm serious :lol:) The funny thing is that they are having the hardest time with simple formulas like perimeter and area, but today when I introduced the Pythagorean Theorem with all of it's squares and square roots, the majority of them understood perfectly. Go figure!
     

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