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My 11th grader is really struggling.  He hates math.   Wants to go into a science field, but can't seem to excel in math that would be necessary.   I feel like we wasted  years in math with Life of Fred (he did their Pre Algebra, Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra and half of their Geometry.    He did great with all of those books, but felt he wasn't learning much as there is so little practice in each lesson, and SO MUCH FLUFF.  (He hated the silly story stuff and felt it was very distracting)    When he asked me to get something more challenging for this year, we purchased Foerster's Advanced Algebra/Trig.   He is completely and totally lost in it.   How can that be if he excelled and got almost everything right in LOF Advanced Algebra?    

  

 He is struggling to understand the concepts even in the very beginning of the Foerster's book, struggling to complete all the graphing of functions, and feels like he has no foundation for any of the work in this book.    He is also using MWB flash drive videos before each lesson.  

 

  I'm really not sure where to go from here.     Would it be best for him to stick it out and struggle through?   If we switch to something that is easier, would he even be able to go into science in college?    I'm not a math person and have no idea what to even think so don't know what to do for him.   He tells me he absolutely hates math and doesn't think it will ever come naturally for him.   But I know he will have to at least master it if he wants to go into a science career of any sort.     He is a very very hard worker, very motivated and self driven, but is extremely frustrated and becoming anxiety ridden over this.  

 

  Any advice is welcome.  

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I think it's easy to fall into a mindset of standard time frames.  If your son wants a science career, and is theoretically capable, then he may need to consider taking a year at community college to get in two more (high school) levels of math before going on to a four year school.  Alternately, many universities have no issues with a student completing a four year degree in five years, it will just cost you a bit more.  It also depends on the science.  He can at least get started in biology with basic math, building up his math as he goes to meet his physics/chem needs.  

 

I can't help you with curriculum, but just want to point out that there's really no such thing as "too late", assuming he is capable but just missed the boat.  

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I think it's easy to fall into a mindset of standard time frames.  If your son wants a science career, and is theoretically capable, then he may need to consider taking a year at community college to get in two more (high school) levels of math before going on to a four year school.  Alternately, many universities have no issues with a student completing a four year degree in five years, it will just cost you a bit more.  It also depends on the science.  He can at least get started in biology with basic math, building up his math as he goes to meet his physics/chem needs.  

 

I can't help you with curriculum, but just want to point out that there's really no such thing as "too late", assuming he is capable but just missed the boat.  

 

Along these lines, he could get a leg up by taking his math at the CC now.  He could start with the remedial levels if need be and work his way up.

 

That's probably what I'd do OR get some outside help. 

 

I have used various high school math books, but I haven't handed any of them off to my kids to complete without help so I can't say how good they'd be for a self teaching situation. 

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I thought that the Math Without Borders flash drive would be similar to having a tutor/teacher and  I  wouldn't be expecting him to teach it all to himself.   

In addition, how do I KNOW if he is capable?    He is bright, but I hear so many stories of these STEM kids that take to math like a duck to water, and are doing advanced algebra in 9th grade, and are loving it, or at the very least REALLY understanding it enough to get through it.    I don't want to sell him short, either, but are there people that just cannot grasp this level of math?  Or will perseverance be enough for someone without any learning disability that works hard enough?

 

 

 

 

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Well, I can't answer for your kid in particular, but I don't believe doors have closed for him.  If he is motivated and puts in the effort, he can do this.  FWIW, my husband has a degree in electrical engineering and he'd be the first person to admit he does not enjoy math and isn't particularly great at it!  Go figure. 

 

I have only used LoF as a supplement because I was never comfortable with the small amount of problems in the book.  However, I can't imagine he got absolutely nothing out of it either. 

 

The Math Without Borders looks interesting.  Never heard of that one before. 

 

 

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I thought that the Math Without Borders flash drive would be similar to having a tutor/teacher and  I  wouldn't be expecting him to teach it all to himself.   

In addition, how do I KNOW if he is capable?    He is bright, but I hear so many stories of these STEM kids that take to math like a duck to water, and are doing advanced algebra in 9th grade, and are loving it, or at the very least REALLY understanding it enough to get through it.    I don't want to sell him short, either, but are there people that just cannot grasp this level of math?  Or will perseverance be enough for someone without any learning disability that works hard enough?

 

If he's missing foundational material (which he would be if he didn't really LEARN from Fred) he would be "just unable to grasp" algebra 2/trig because he is missing the reference material needed to understand it. 

 

The difference between the flash drive and a tutor is that a skilled tutor can look at what he's doing and figure out what concepts from algebra 1 he's missing and re-teach them, without having him re-do the entire class. For someone with some exposure to algebra but without mastery, I would really recommend at least some time spent in tutoring to find and fill in holes. 

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If he's missing foundational material (which he would be if he didn't really LEARN from Fred) he would be "just unable to grasp" algebra 2/trig because he is missing the reference material needed to understand it. 

 

The difference between the flash drive and a tutor is that a skilled tutor can look at what he's doing and figure out what concepts from algebra 1 he's missing and re-teach them, without having him re-do the entire class. For someone with some exposure to algebra but without mastery, I would really recommend at least some time spent in tutoring to find and fill in holes. 

 

Well that and immediate feedback and the ability to ask questions is very helpful. 

 

I've done a lot of math learning on my own and really nothing beats having a live teacher or tutor for some help.  There is only so far I could get with doing it on my own.  And I'm very motivated and disciplined. 

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Following up (because I wrote hastily) -- another option could be to move through algebra 1 in a diagnostic-prescriptive manner. One way to do this is:

 

Have student take chapter test. If the grade is 85%+ (A/solid B), correct missed problems, explain, move on. If the grade is 70%-85% (low B/C), correct missed problems, explain, work either chapter review (if a couple of problems are missed from multiple sections) or sections where problems were missed (best if there is clearly one section that is poorly understood). If the grade is lower than that, work through the sections where problems were missed.

 

This would still be best done by a tutor imo. 

 

But please don't give up on him or have him give up on himself. One of my friends flunked out of college at 18 after starting in college algebra. At 25 he went back and started in beginning algebra (college math usually goes beginning algebra/intermediate algebra/college algebra/precalculus although variations exist). After spending 3 years (including math in summers) at a community college, he transferred to a state university as a junior. He recently graduated (after two years at the state college) with a bachelor's in engineering and a very decent GPA (grade replacement of the classes he failed helped). 

 

Nobody at 18 would have said he could become an engineer. But he did. 

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How much math does a person need for STEM?  How deeply do they need to understand it?  

 

This is really, really field and job dependent.  

 

Does he want to be a theoretical physicist?  Then he needs a whole lotta math, and needs to KNOW that math.  Similar for chemistry and (obv) mathematician. 

 

Does he want to be a field biologist?  Then he needs basic math and a good understanding of statistics.

 

Does he want to go into medical practice (dr, nurse, PA), then he needs basic math and stat.  Medical research:  way more math/stat.

 

Architecture and engineering:  Generally a VERY GOOD GRASP... but not as much breadth/height

 

Programming/computers:  not much experience here, but probably good math, but lots of logic/programming experience requiring a mathematical mind, but not necessarily a mathematician.  

 

 .........

No way to know if he'll "make it" in STEM.  The drop out/major change rate is HUGE... I can't look it up right now, but I want to say something like 80+%, so doing well in high school math is not really that strong of a predictor, but doing badly probably is.  (Assuming he's had a fair shot, which it sounds like your ds hasn't had yet.)

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We just switched from the Foerster Alg/Trig book to Larson's Intermediate Alg. What a breath of fresh air! My ds was hating math and now it is going so smoothly. We will go back and do the Trig in the Foerster book when we finish the Larson book. Sometimes, such as in my ds's case, it is the presentation of the material that's the problem.

 

Good luck in finding a solution that works for your ds.

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It really sounds like this was possibly curriculum problem vs. a problem with your son’s math abilities. Neither of mine would have been successful with LOF because there is so little practice in those books to solidify the material. So, like others have said, don’t give up. I think the CC idea is okay, but you could also get the Lial’s books, which is what a lot of the CCs use. They are very inexpensive and you could have him start with a quick review of algebra using the chapter tests and move through quickly. The Lial’s books each have a diagnostic test to let you see areas of weakness and which chapters those areas of weakness tie to. Since he’s a motivated, hard working student, he could probably move through the books very quickly.

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I thought that the Math Without Borders flash drive would be similar to having a tutor/teacher and I wouldn't be expecting him to teach it all to himself.

In addition, how do I KNOW if he is capable? He is bright, but I hear so many stories of these STEM kids that take to math like a duck to water, and are doing advanced algebra in 9th grade, and are loving it, or at the very least REALLY understanding it enough to get through it. I don't want to sell him short, either, but are there people that just cannot grasp this level of math? Or will perseverance be enough for someone without any learning disability that works hard enough?

From everything you say about your son — he asked for more challenging material, he is motivated and a hard worker, he is bright, he was able to do the LOF problems — it really sounds like it could just have been a problem with the curriculum. I do not think you should really even consider that he isn’t capable in this area until you have tried a more standard math series. Honestly, I’ve never heard of anyone using LOF as anything more than a supplement. I’m not saying it’s never happened successfully, but I think it would be unusual.

 

ETA: And I hope that doesn’t sound like a criticism! My intent was to make you feel like it is quite possible your son’s math abilities are fine. If it was a curriculum mistake, you are not alone in making mistakes. I have made plenty of them myself!

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I appreciate ALL the comments.    I absolutely agree that it is more a problem with the curriculum/teaching method than with my son's abilities.   While he certainly isn't a genius, he is very bright and very determined and  as such I have no other explanation than he didn't "master" the material through LOF.   I do, however, blame myself for that .....try as I might I can't seem to do things right sometimes! 

 

Anyway, we have a lot of options here and I will work my way through them one at a time to see which will be the best option for him.  He has a definite mastery of Algebra 1, but I believe the holes are within Algebra 2, so I will get a tutor to analyze where to begin and how to fill  in those gaps so that he can be successful in the higher levels of math no matter when he is ready for them.

 

Oh, and by the way, for whatever it is worth, he wants to study atmospheric science.   He would need to go up to Calc 4.  Yikes!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh, and by the way, for whatever it is worth, he wants to study atmospheric science. He would need to go up to Calc 4. Yikes!!!!

He would preferably have Calc 1 or Calc 2, not Calc 4. Not all high schools have Calculus BC (Calc 2) so it would be uncommon (other than engineering direct admit) to require a minimum of Calc 2.

 

You can have your son practice with Khan Academy for free to review and fill in the gaps while looking for a tutor. Lial’s books gently used copies are easy to find online or in a used bookstore.

 

From UNR

“Students who have taken high school physics, advanced math (trigonometry, calculus) and chemistry will be highly qualified for success in the Atmospheric Sciences degree program†https://www.unr.edu/degrees/atmospheric-science/bs

 

NOAA has a long list of colleges offering Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences. You can look at the admissions requirements for those to get an idea.

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/lib1/nhclib/SCHOOLS.html

 

ETA:

Not sure what you meant by Calc 4. Multivariable Calculus would be Calc 3 locally for us.

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Thank you for the link, Arcadia.   We are in NJ, and Rutgers has a great atmospheric science program.  We went to an open house, and we were told the math goes up to Calc 4 for this program.  Yes, it also went by another name, but I can't recall what they said it was, just that some people consider it Calc 4.       No, he definitely does not need that in high school...God forbid!

 

Again, thanks for the links.     It will be nice for him to look them over.   NOAA is his goal....and it keeps him motivated to work hard at everything.      The encouragement quote is also helpful.    He felt so discouraged yesterday and I felt horrible for him.  I know we can get him back on the right track.

 

 

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My 11th grader is really struggling.  He hates math.   Wants to go into a science field, but can't seem to excel in math that would be necessary.   I feel like we wasted  years in math with Life of Fred (he did their Pre Algebra, Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra and half of their Geometry.    He did great with all of those books, but felt he wasn't learning much as there is so little practice in each lesson, and SO MUCH FLUFF.  (He hated the silly story stuff and felt it was very distracting)    When he asked me to get something more challenging for this year, we purchased Foerster's Advanced Algebra/Trig.   He is completely and totally lost in it.   How can that be if he excelled and got almost everything right in LOF Advanced Algebra?    

  

 He is struggling to understand the concepts even in the very beginning of the Foerster's book, struggling to complete all the graphing of functions, and feels like he has no foundation for any of the work in this book.    He is also using MWB flash drive videos before each lesson.  

 

  I'm really not sure where to go from here.     Would it be best for him to stick it out and struggle through?   If we switch to something that is easier, would he even be able to go into science in college?    I'm not a math person and have no idea what to even think so don't know what to do for him.   He tells me he absolutely hates math and doesn't think it will ever come naturally for him.   But I know he will have to at least master it if he wants to go into a science career of any sort.     He is a very very hard worker, very motivated and self driven, but is extremely frustrated and becoming anxiety ridden over this.  

 

  Any advice is welcome.  

 

My daughter who is loves math and has always done well was also completely lost in Foerster's PreCalc with the MWB flash drive videos. We wasted 2 months on that, then tossed it, started over with Shormann's PreCalc, and it is going great. Sometimes a curriculum just doesn't work. I hope you can find something that works for him!

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Just because your son is having trouble going from Fred to Foerester does *not* mean that he is not a "math person."  Foerester is a difficult text, and, frankly, video lectures aren't the same thing as having a human teacher.

 

I recommend that you find a human to teach him. I would start with Algebra I and move quickly (the Lial Algebra I text would be good for this) and then move back into an Algebra II text.

 

If it isn't possible to get a tutor, the next best thing would be Derek Owens.  I suspect that your son would be able to jump right into the Algebra II course because it begins with an excellent review.  

 

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Did you pick the text or did he? How many options did you consider? Changing math curriculum is always tricky. As others have noted, working with a tutor or teacher can make it easier to make a switch.

 

As you get into upper level math, you may need a regular tutor or class if you cannot teach it. Just because your son cannot self-teach precalculus does not mean he cannot learn precalc or that he isn't ready to do so with a teacher.

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I thought that the Math Without Borders flash drive would be similar to having a tutor/teacher and  I  wouldn't be expecting him to teach it all to himself.   

In addition, how do I KNOW if he is capable?    He is bright, but I hear so many stories of these STEM kids that take to math like a duck to water, and are doing advanced algebra in 9th grade, and are loving it, or at the very least REALLY understanding it enough to get through it.    I don't want to sell him short, either, but are there people that just cannot grasp this level of math?  Or will perseverance be enough for someone without any learning disability that works hard enough?

MWB is quite a challenging course easier than AoPS but that's about it.

We did not use MWB but I did use his Precalc syllabus as a reference for Foerster's Precalc after-schooling.

We also did Foerster's  Algebra and Trig.

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And don't forget to breathe!!

 

Math is one of those things where the wrong book is worse than useless, so it might take a few tries. I like the review idea Kiana posted. I'm going to be using it myself for my own math. 

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