With equations, I found teaching ‘big-picture’ style helped. Here’s a reflective post on working with equations and some links to useful resources. Also, one struggling class opened my eyes to the question of why we need to isolate x when solving for it. I thought it was obvious but for some, it wasn’t.

With strugglers, I found that having a ‘hero’ helped and we found one in Polya (read about it here).

Teaching strugglers has opened up my eyes on a lot of things. So much so that now, I’m doing my Masters in Special Ed. I’ve just started but I can see why some of the things I did worked – or not! I devised a ‘token system’ that cut back on the ‘hiding/escaping’ strategies, promoted a sense of community (of learners).

Anyway, I wish you well on your endeavours. You’ve got a lot of support around you – I felt I didn’t even need to respond! But obviously, I changed my mind…because I empathise! (if nothing else, there’s that). ðŸ™‚

cheers,

Malyn

For today’s lesson, I identified the kids who had the most trouble on our most recent test (the ones who couldn’t even independently start the problems), and I sent them to work with a para for 30 minutes of class. I told them if they got to a point that they could solve the basic problems independently, they could work up to a “2” on the assessment. At least one kid really did fix his issues with surface area and volume, and he’ll pass the assessment just fine. The rest are still struggling, but I need to come to peace with this being a slow march and just don’t give up on them.

Thanks for the resources and help – I will review this week and will update you all on the process…

]]>1. Make everyone’s thinking more visible, where possible.

For example, if you use rich math tasks where the objective is to spend more time explaining your reasoning AND which are “ramped” tasks (they start below grade level and move up to grade level by the end of the task) then you have a better idea of where each kid is at. Examples: http://www.insidemathematics.org/index.php/tools-for-teachers/7th-grade-math/mars-tasks-scoring-rubrics-a-analysis

Also, the use of counting circles and/or number talks will benefit a lot of your students, even the ones who are more proficient (they may be proficient at the mathematics, but not at explaining themselves to others, or in using a variety of approaches). See http://iamamathnerd.wordpress.com/category/counting-circle/ and http://www.insidemathematics.org/index.php/classroom-video-visits/number-talks

2. Decide on individual goals for your students, and find assignments which all of your students can do, but which are applicable to many different goals for different students. This means you have one assignment to explain and assign to students, and one goal for the main mathematics you want all students to learn, but you have many different areas for different students to focus their growth edge on during the assignment. It is pretty important that this assignment be approachable with a variety of different solutions, and that you circulate around the room (along with the other adults — who must be bought into this approach) to check for understanding with each of your students during the activity. See “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching” for a very careful description of this process in detail.

3. Phil Daro had a great slide about this exact issue in his presentation at NCTM. Look at slides 84 through 88 in this presentation: http://s3.amazonaws.com/relwest_production/related_materials/251/Phil_Daro_PPT_10.11.12.508.pdf?1351811976

Slides 88 is especially important. Your goal with these kids isn’t so much to get all of them with the same understandings, your goal is to reduce the differences in what they understand while moving all of them forward. I know that this doesn’t actually help address this issue, but it helps me conceptualize what I’m working toward each day when I’m teaching.

]]>One technique that has helped me with my pre-calculus students is group quizzes. I assign the groups so that I have mixed levels in each group. I tell the students that I randomly select one student’s paper to grade for each problem and the entire group receives the same grade. The students are also informed that if they score better one the individual test, then that grade will replace the group quiz grade. The students help each other during the group quizzes. It helps some of the students and they do ask questions of each other. The students also ask me questions and I give them hints and tell them to ask their group members.

For your equation example, have you tried setting up a chart such as

x 3x + 5 My answer 17

The students can plug in values for x and see how close they are to seventeen.

]]>I think that this year I have more students than I’ve ever had who are working at around a 4th grade level of mathematics. If I look back at my test data I usually get poor results from kids who were the farthest behind at the start of the year. They need to understand concepts like equations, but also need to get multiplication, and fractions. What if I had work and assessments for them that had the partially-proficient 7th grade material and the proficient/advanced 4th-5th grade material? They could still get the equivalent of a “C” and would know they’d grown…

Still thinking. ]]>

But your reality is that you have to find a way. This is one of the toughest questions for teachers, I think, how do you help kids you’re supposed to be teaching P, Q, and R when they never got L, M, and N. In Algebra 2 I’d try to build in review as needed. For example, to start an exponents unit that was supposed to start off with rational exponents, they’d have an assignment where they had to just remember how exponents basically worked.

I’m interested to hear what others have to say!

]]>I can’t water down the content because 20% of the class should really be in an advanced class and they deserve an entire year of geometry. These kids quickly get new material and then are waiting for way too long while I (it’s just me!) try to get everyone else up to speed.

Here’s my latest plan to try: uber-differentiation. I created a list of standards for the current topic, separated into basic -proficient-advanced. I have 3 versions of the quiz. If they choose the basic version of the quiz, it only covers those standards and the max grade they can get is a D (for the students who are on the verge of failing for the year, this would be a step up). The proficient version covers only the stds in basic+prof and the max grade they can get is a B.

The adv version covers all stds, they can earn an A on it, and it should be challenging to those top kids (who really have not been challenged yet this year).

Tomorrow, they can prepare by looking at the standards and solving problems relating to those standards.

I’ve tried something similar before in physics and it worked well.

At least the struggling kids can actually learn some part of the curriculum w/out being overwhelmed with problems that they will never be able to complete independently. ]]>

I hear you on the keyboarding, and the students will make better progress if they type on a regular basis in all of their classes – not just when it matters on an assessment. Although a keyboarding class in elementary school really does help set the foundation. ]]>