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Any ideas in this algebra issue?


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#1 lollie010

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:58 PM

My kiddos have always homeschooled, but this year I took a position teaching in a great classical school in our area. I love teaching my sweet little fourth grade class, but my own children have had a huge adjustment!!! The main issues have been math and Latin. I will spare you all of the Latin drama, but I am hoping to get some insight on the math issue.

My 8th grader placed into Algebra 1. As a homeschooler he did Singapore 1-6A. Then a year of AOPS pre-A. He has mathematical reasoning abilities and of course has the mental math down. The school uses holt mcdougal (Larson) Algebra 1. I love working with him in the evenings because we have done math together for over a decade. Every evening I do the homework with him. He gets it. He knows exactly what to do and can tell me what I did wrong when we get different answers. We race. Sometimes he beats me. (I have a pretty strong math background). I have no concerns whatsoever when we are doing the homework assignments. He demonstrates mastery of the concepts that are assigned. And gets 100s on homework. Then he makes a "D" on almost every single test. I requested a look at the previous tests and they are homemade. He does better on the quizzes which appear to be from the publisher.

We have got to get a handle on this as he certainly can't move forward with a "D" in Algebra. Last semester he pulled off a C because of his homework grade but his test grades were abysmal. Any thoughts or ideas??? Thx

#2 regentrude

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:01 PM

Looking at the tests is the first step. What does "they are home made" mean?

Do the tests test the material that had been covered?

What kind of mistakes does he make?

Are the solution keys correct? (Don't get me started...)

 

The issue can only be solved if you identify WHY he gets low scores.


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#3 lollie010

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:13 PM

I brought the tests home and redid every single question with him and some of them he should have gotten but many of them were significantly more difficult than those assigned as homework. I think he may look at the first few that don't work out as he anticipated and then he just kind of gives up on the ones that he could have done.

Being the independent spirit that I am, I just want to pull him out and take him home, happily doing math togetherness for a few more years, but I'm thinking since I work there that might not be the best idea. Lol!!!

Sorry--meant to add by homemade I mean, either she made them herself or another teacher made them. And I'm on my phone so maybe lots of typos. Lol!!

Thanks

Edited by lollie010, 12 January 2018 - 08:15 PM.


#4 regentrude

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:21 PM

If the tests are significantly more difficult than the homework, I would address this issue with the teacher. Homework should prepare students for the test, and ideally should be a bit harder than what ends up on the exam.


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#5 lollie010

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:31 PM

He leaves home thinking he's ready and then comes back crushed. It's so hard to see. I would get a tutor, but I feel comfortable doing it myself. And if it's something like testing anxiety, I don't think tutoring would help. We can't figure out how to move forward.

#6 kiana

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:36 PM

I am genuinely curious now about these tests. Do you know how any of the other students are doing in the class?


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#7 lollie010

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:49 PM

I wish I knew the grade distribution, but the teacher did send out an email today offering tutoring for those who made below a 60 on the last test. She mentioned that students were seeing this topic for the first time that and some had struggled with it. They are solving linear systems using graphing, substitution, and combining.

#8 justasque

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 09:28 PM

I would discuss with your ds how he is experiencing the tests - does the time limit stress him out, does he have good skills for a timed test situation, are there distractions in the classroom, how does he approach problems where he at first can't see a path to the solution, etc.

I wonder too if there is something about the wording of the problems that trips him up - are they clear, or are they somewhat confusing or able to be interpreted several ways?  If there is an issue like that, does he know how to clarify it with the teacher mid-test?

 

Another option is to see if the teacher has the EasyPlanner software for the textbook, and if so whether she would be willing to share the challenge pages and/or the Test C tests contained therein.  (Or, if appropriate, find a copy of your own.)  The text is designed to be used at three levels - basic, average, and advanced.  There are worksheets and tests at all three levels (called A, B, C, respectively).  There is also a challenge page for each lesson, which takes the material a wee bit farther yet.  You could use these pages as practice for the tests.  Obviously, this does not solve the problem of the tests being out of sync with the teaching/homework, and it would take quite a bit more time, but it would be a DIY approach to consider.

I would inquire whether the teacher is using the homework assignments recommended for the basic, average, or advanced level, or something of her own devising.  Perhaps the homework is not challenging enough to match the tests. 

 
We once had a teacher who did the opposite - taught her own material then used the textbook exams.  That was simple to fix - dd studied the textbook material thoroughly regardless of whether the teacher had introduced it in class.  Your situation is the opposite, and thus that much harder.

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#9 lollie010

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 10:27 PM


I would discuss with your ds how he is experiencing the tests - does the time limit stress him out, does he have good skills for a timed test situation, are there distractions in the classroom, how does he approach problems where he at first can't see a path to the solution, etc.

I wonder too if there is something about the wording of the problems that trips him up - are they clear, or are they somewhat confusing or able to be interpreted several ways? If there is an issue like that, does he know how to clarify it with the teacher mid-test?

Another option is to see if the teacher has the EasyPlanner software for the textbook, and if so whether she would be willing to share the challenge pages and/or the Test C tests contained therein. (Or, if appropriate, find a copy of your own.) The text is designed to be used at three levels - basic, average, and advanced. There are worksheets and tests at all three levels (called A, B, C, respectively). There is also a challenge page for each lesson, which takes the material a wee bit farther yet. You could use these pages as practice for the tests. Obviously, this does not solve the problem of the tests being out of sync with the teaching/homework, and it would take quite a bit more time, but it would be a DIY approach to consider.
I would inquire whether the teacher is using the homework assignments recommended for the basic, average, or advanced level, or something of her own devising. Perhaps the homework is not challenging enough to match the tests.

We once had a teacher who did the opposite - taught her own material then used the textbook exams. That was simple to fix - dd studied the textbook material thoroughly regardless of whether the teacher had introduced it in class. Your situation is the opposite, and thus that much harder.


Thank you so much! This is very helpful--I will look into it.
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#10 EKS

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 10:41 PM

If the tests are significantly more difficult than the homework, I would address this issue with the teacher. Homework should prepare students for the test, and ideally should be a bit harder than what ends up on the exam.

 

Yes, this.

 

Unfortunately, some teachers think that the opposite is true.


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#11 Heigh Ho

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 12:36 AM

I brought the tests home and redid every single question with him and some of them he should have gotten but many of them were significantly more difficult than those assigned as homework. I think he may look at the first few that don't work out as he anticipated and then he just kind of gives up on the ones that he could have done.

 

 

What do you feel made the test questions more difficult than the homework questions?

 

You noted your dc knows what to do...but can he explain the why on the problems he missed on the test?


Edited by Heigh Ho, 13 January 2018 - 10:56 AM.

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#12 MarkT

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 01:56 AM

My kiddos have always homeschooled, but this year I took a position teaching in a great classical school in our area. I love teaching my sweet little fourth grade class, but my own children have had a huge adjustment!!! The main issues have been math and Latin. I will spare you all of the Latin drama, but I am hoping to get some insight on the math issue.

My 8th grader placed into Algebra 1. As a homeschooler he did Singapore 1-6A. Then a year of AOPS pre-A. He has mathematical reasoning abilities and of course has the mental math down. The school uses holt mcdougal (Larson) Algebra 1. I

Do you have the ISBN for the particular text that they are using?



#13 Lecka

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:26 AM

Have you talked to the teacher? The teacher may have some insight about how your son can prepare for the tests. I have found my son to have a hard time sometimes grasping some classroom expectations (like copying down problems the teacher writes on the board to study from).

This year my son’s teacher gives far less partial credit than my husband or I are accustomed to from when we were in school, but that is our problem — i did ask about it though.

If it’s truly not fair I would go over the teacher’s head. I would ask around and if I heard things like — kids who get better grades the year before and after, get a much worse grade in this teacher’s class, I would go over the teacher’s head.

But I would talk to the teacher first and especially see if there is anything like extra worksheets or problems done in class that could be making a difference and if there is some kind of miscommunication happening that way. To be honest this kind of thing has come up a lot with my son it is just hard for him to intuit expectations and he needs to have an explanation. It can come across as him having an attitude and he can have an attitude “I don’t need to do this” about things that he doesn’t realize are really expected of him while being in the class. It sounds ridiculous but I think it’s not that uncommon.

Edit: really overall I think talk to the teacher, and you will get a sense if the teacher seems reasonable and has suggestions for your son, or if the teacher seems unreasonable. Or it can be somewhere in the middle, too.

Edited by Lecka, 13 January 2018 - 11:28 AM.

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#14 Lecka

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:38 AM

I have had a kind-of similar situation where it turned out my son didn’t think he needed to actively participate and take notes when the teacher did some sample problems with the class. He just watched and thought that he was doing what he was supposed to do. Really he should have copied those problems down and studied from them.

He just did not realize it.

It’s one of those things — if it’s something like this, you would want to ask the teacher so then you can tell your son that this is what he needs to do in class.

It seems so obvious to me it is hard for me to believe but it just is not obvious to my son.

But it’s better now because he does understand what the expectations are right now, because he has had it explained and connected some consequences he didn’t like with a need to do some things.

But if expectations change and evolve I don’t know if he will pick up on a new set of expectations or not.
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#15 lollie010

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 04:50 PM

What do you feel made the test questions more difficult than the homework questions?

You noted your dc knows what to do...but can he explain the why on the problems he missed on the test?


I need to get the tests back so I can give some examples, but the best way to describe it is that the homework problems work out neatly. This gives a kind of a reassurance along the way that you are on the right track. But, the test questions aren't like that. One of the exams was so tedious that it took me 2 hours to complete. Lol!!! But, he needs to be able to tackle it, if this is the expectation. It's just such a bummer to see his grade in the red, when I know I sent him in with the skills to do what had been assigned.

#16 lollie010

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 04:51 PM

Do you have the ISBN for the particular text that they are using?

It's 0-395-93776-0

Thank you all for the insight. I think it's a combination of factors coming together. It's the last of 7 classes in the day and I think his stamina has not built up yet. I really hate to make him do more problems when he is clearly understanding but that might be necessary. Maybe that will help him with speed and confidence. He will definitely be reminded to write down every single thing that comes out of the teacher's mouth.

Edited by lollie010, 13 January 2018 - 05:12 PM.

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#17 Lecka

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 06:04 PM

When you say it takes you two hours, I think of two things.

One, maybe the teacher accepts some things not fully worked out. Maybe there’s some way you are making it harder than it has to be compared to what the teacher wants.

Two, maybe this is a hard grader who thinks a D on a test is a pretty good grade, and a C in the class is a pretty solid grade, and that’s known and accepted at the school.

If there are a couple of really hard problems at the very end needed to get an A, maybe your son could reasonably just completely skip them.

My dad was a math teacher and he wasn’t like this, exactly, but sometimes they will want to get some kids to push themselves more, who can. This might be considered an honors class (unofficially) if many kids don’t take Algebra in 8th grade. It might be that it is run like an honors class with extra challenge instead of like a regular class.

I don’t know — just guessing. I think you would find this out by talking to the teacher. You can ask the teacher what the teacher thinks about your child’s performance and readiness for the next level of math next year.

And see if what the teacher says makes sense to you or not!

Edited by Lecka, 13 January 2018 - 06:09 PM.

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#18 creekland

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 06:18 PM

I'm pretty sure I'd be scheduling an appt to see the teacher and discuss the exams.  I'd also want to know how the rest of the class did on them.  Where did my guy fit in on the grading curve?

 

This sounds odd.

 

In general, make sure your guy knows most math problems don't end in X=2 IRL (without rounding or truncating), so it's good to get used to fractional answers and similar.  Solving linear equations is still the same.  Answers can still be checked by plugging in the results too.

 

A test that takes two hours to complete for an 8th grader is definitely unusual IME.


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#19 MarkT

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 06:26 PM

It's 0-395-93776-0

Thank you all for the insight. I think it's a combination of factors coming together. It's the last of 7 classes in the day and I think his stamina has not built up yet. I really hate to make him do more problems when he is clearly understanding but that might be necessary. Maybe that will help him with speed and confidence. He will definitely be reminded to write down every single thing that comes out of the teacher's mouth.

that's a fairly old text so the school is probably adding some "Common-Core" like items which may not be covered/explained well.

 

Do all the HW assignments / problem sets come from the text book?

Any Hand-outs?

 

You have a bunch of good suggestions from the folks here - I am trying to pursue a more "technical" path.

 



#20 Heigh Ho

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 06:48 PM

I need to get the tests back so I can give some examples, but the best way to describe it is that the homework problems work out neatly. This gives a kind of a reassurance along the way that you are on the right track. But, the test questions aren't like that. One of the exams was so tedious that it took me 2 hours to complete. Lol!!! But, he needs to be able to tackle it, if this is the expectation. It's just such a bummer to see his grade in the red, when I know I sent him in with the skills to do what had been assigned.

 

 

ime, that's a lack of understanding of the difference between an exercise and a problem.  One does not expect exercises on the test, especially after the first one is handed back, but one does expect to use the concept the exercise illuminated. What you should consider is grabbing a test, and over the next 4 day weekend, go back and have him figure out the difference between the homework and the test.  Pinpoint what the actual difficulty is...discomfort with the arithmetic, not solid on the concept, etc. 

 

Also, instead of doing hw alongside.....he needs to segue into owning the check, and formulating the questions for the study group and teacher.  Perhaps there is a study hall earlier in the day where he can get his questions answered?


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#21 Pen

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 07:31 PM

I need to get the tests back so I can give some examples, but the best way to describe it is that the homework problems work out neatly. This gives a kind of a reassurance along the way that you are on the right track. But, the test questions aren't like that. One of the exams was so tedious that it took me 2 hours to complete. Lol!!! But, he needs to be able to tackle it, if this is the expectation. It's just such a bummer to see his grade in the red, when I know I sent him in with the skills to do what had been assigned.

 

Are these timed tests?  If so, how long do they have?  

 

Unless it is expected that it will take 2 hours to do the tests, I think it would be helpful to talk with the teacher about the tests in general, and the sorts of questions that are taking you a long time in particular.  

 

Possibly there are faster, easier ways to solve the problems than you have found.  (For example, regarding a type of geometry problem my ds was having, we just came to realize that something we were doing that could get to a correct answer in 20 minutes or so, but often to an incorrect answer due to many steps to keep track of, could be done in less than a minute by adding up 3 numbers and dividing by 3.)  

 

Or possibly the teacher is not aware how long the problems take to work out.

 

Or...???


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#22 Pen

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 07:38 PM

Also check to make sure that there isn't something going on like that others are using calculators during tests and he is not.


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#23 justasque

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:51 PM

that's a fairly old text so the school is probably adding some "Common-Core" like items which may not be covered/explained well.

 

Do all the HW assignments / problem sets come from the text book?

Any Hand-outs?

 

You have a bunch of good suggestions from the folks here - I am trying to pursue a more "technical" path.

 

Agreed!

Some more thoughts -

I've taught this textbook many times; in fact it's my preferred Algebra 1 book, in part because there are so  many support materials available for it.

The "advanced" problem sets suggested in the TM, the "practice C" worksheets, and the "test C" for each chapter usually have fractions, decimals, square roots, and such "complicated numbers" in the problems and solutions.  (The "basic", "A" versions do not.)  The challenge worksheets may or may not have complex numbers; they generally require more complex reasoning or have multi-step problems or ask the students to take the concepts beyond what has been taught in the text.  So as I suggested in my previous post, perhaps there is a mismatch between what has been assigned and what is being tested.  

 

If it's just a matter of a teacher who writes more complicated problems than she assigns for homework, perhaps it would be helpful to discuss some strategies when encountering "icky numbers" in a test situation, especially one where there is limited time.  Some discussion of when to calculate vs. when to carry uncalculated numbers may be useful (e.g when to convert 3(sqrt 5) to a decimal and when to carry it as-is), having solid cancelling skills can help, significant figures might be something to take a look at (I don't believe it's taught in this text), and how to provide a quick "this is how I would solve this problem if I had more time" write-up may be useful if time is running out and there are still problems to be finished.  There's also ways to be fairly confident in one's work even if you aren't getting "pretty numbers" feedback - things like taking smaller steps (that you can often do more quickly), having less in your head at one time and more written on the page, building a double-check in every single step as part of your overall technique (going back over each combination or calculation or movement of something from one side of the equation to the other - did you add right, did you multiply right, did you get the signs right?).  

I also wonder if, since it's such an old edition of the text, the teacher actually has access to the supplementary materials that include multiple ready-made assessment pages (quizzes, chapter tests at three levels, alternative assessments of various kinds, and so on).  If she's making her own tests because she doesn't have the ready-made ones, and she's open to dialog about it, you may find that she'd love a second-hand copy of the materials.  I believe they even make test bank software for this series, so that you can pick and choose from ready-made problems, and also, IIRC, vary the numbers in them.


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#24 Lecka

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 11:47 AM

Wow, those are great specific suggestions. I will keep that in mind with my 7th grader (my oldest) when he gets to Algebra.
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#25 MarkT

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 03:01 PM

Which chapter in the text are they about to start or have started?



#26 lollie010

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 03:07 PM

I cannot TELL you guys how much I appreciate the thoughts on this issue. I have come to a few conclusions. He thinks it is test anxiety and the fact that math is the last class of the day makes the "fear" more intense. He does seem to be struggling with quickly and efficiently dealing with some of the fractions, even though he is fine with the algebraic concepts. He pulled the latest quiz out of his backpack and I am seeing a combination of things. Out of 7 problems 1 was significantly harder than the homework but he tried and 1 was not covered in the section being quizzed, but he should have tacked it and figured it out. The other points off were for things that I can easily address.

 

We will come up with a plan of attack, but I am trying to figure out if now is a time I should pull back and let him figure some things out, or keep on plugging because he has potential to make some good progress with more help. I may have him repeat the class over the summer. I know he will be sooooo excited about that. Lol!!


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#27 lollie010

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 03:09 PM

Which chapter in the text are they about to start or have started?

 

They just did the quiz on Chapter 7.1-7.3. Next will be the chapter 7 test. Heaven help us all!!! Lol.


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#28 Heigh Ho

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 04:03 PM

I cannot TELL you guys how much I appreciate the thoughts on this issue. I have come to a few conclusions. He thinks it is test anxiety and the fact that math is the last class of the day makes the "fear" more intense. He does seem to be struggling with quickly and efficiently dealing with some of the fractions, even though he is fine with the algebraic concepts. He pulled the latest quiz out of his backpack and I am seeing a combination of things. Out of 7 problems 1 was significantly harder than the homework but he tried and 1 was not covered in the section being quizzed, but he should have tacked it and figured it out. The other points off were for things that I can easily address.

 

We will come up with a plan of attack, but I am trying to figure out if now is a time I should pull back and let him figure some things out, or keep on plugging because he has potential to make some good progress with more help. I may have him repeat the class over the summer. I know he will be sooooo excited about that. Lol!!

 

ime, with a similar philosophy from a grade 5 teacher...you want to be a coach since the fear factor is present. let him know you are all on his team and express confidence that he'll get it with effort..encourage him to use his problem solving skills. Encourage him to use his test taking skills.  Have him rework everything he missed  and have him id what problem solving steps he used and why he missed what he missed. Have him figure out what to expect.   Encourage him to discuss the reworked quiz/test with study group..have them over to your marker board if you need to.   Remediate anything that needs remediated from prior years, arithmetic or problem solving skills, but if its from this class  have him ask the instructor, have him benefit from review in class.  Its a hill to climb, but it will pay off.  


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#29 kiana

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 04:05 PM

Heigh Ho has some good suggestions.

 

With problems, he needs to just start writing stuff instead of freezing and worrying about whether it's right or not.

 

For fractions, it might be worth it (if he has a phone) to convince him to put a fraction app on it -- gamified, or give him some minor reward -- he really needs to just keep practicing. 


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#30 luuknam

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 03:50 PM

Also check to make sure that there isn't something going on like that others are using calculators during tests and he is not.

 

 

Or, alternatively, if he is using a calculator, sometimes kids spend too much time trying to figure stuff out with a calculator instead of simplifying by hand, which depending on the problem, can be much faster.

 

But yes, work those fractions, and ask the teacher how he's doing compared to the rest of the class. DW once got a B in a multivariable calculus class with a 35 average or something crazy along those lines, because the curve was more than enormous. 

 

ETA: the curve was always like that for that class - it wasn't just a weak group of students being passed along that semester because they had to pass a certain percentage.


Edited by luuknam, 15 January 2018 - 03:52 PM.

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#31 MarkT

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 06:16 PM

Lollie

sent you PM

Are you still around?



#32 lollie010

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:48 AM

Lollie

sent you PM

Are you still around?

 

Just got it!!!! Thank you so much. I am just now hopping back online after a crazy week. I am going to print out all of the ideas and suggestions and come up with a plan of attack for this guy. I appreciate the information and support.