#MTBoSBlaugust
#ITeachMath #MTBoS

I love reading the blogs in August! Even though I retired a few years ago, I
still love hearing about the start of school, looking at the classroom décor
ideas, reading about the planning, the longing for students to excel.

And so you ask, why am I blogging?

Well, I am not in the classroom and haven’t been in while,
but I have been tutoring. I’d like to
share a few observations from that perspective.
Maybe they will be meaningful to someone, resonate, affirm, or inspire. My goal is to blog the five Fridays in August,
sharing my observations!

I recently picked up a new student. She’s a middle schooler. The first thing her mom told me about her …
and the student confirmed was that she was not good in math. I looked quizzically I’m sure … and asked,
“Why do you say that? Tell me a little
about your math history.”

And here are the few facts I’ve gathered from the student’s perspective:

And here are the few facts I’ve gathered from the student’s perspective:

1)
I don’t know my math facts so I’m not good at
math.

2)
I still use my fingers to count to figure out
basic multiplication.

3)
I was in an advanced math program in elementary
school.

From the mom’s perspective:

1)
My daughter experiences a lot of anxiety.

2)
She doesn’t know her math facts.

3)
She struggles with math.

4)
Her work since elementary school has been hit or
miss because she has changed schools more than once.

In our first few sessions I noticed that the student did indeed
use her fingers to count by a number to multiply. But I also noticed how she decomposed and
composed numbers to compute efficiently.
I also noticed that she seemed to choose to do so over using a
calculator as if she found some satisfaction in the computation in her
head. I also discovered that she has
tidbits of knowledge in advanced topics – trig, radicals, and such – but little
depth of understanding in those. She
loves math puzzles, and takes delight in learning new things.

On our third visit I said to her, “I don’t want to hear you
say you are bad at math anymore. That’s
just not true. I’m not sure how you got
that impression, but I see that you have math talent. Math is so much more than knowing your math
facts with a certain efficiency.” It was her turn to look at bit puzzled, and to
comment, “No one has ever said to me that I was good at math.”

I was hired in the summer to help the student with geometry. She had been told that in the upcoming year geometry would be a focus, and the mom and daughter realized she hadn’t had much instruction in the way of geometry. They gave me a workbook that had been suggested to them. After the first week of choosing a few workbook pages, I suggested we build a reference notebook together. I chose a sequence of introductory geometry topics, found foldables to use with them, and discovered that my new student loves foldables! She took great delight in working and building her notebook.

Her school this year started in July – on a modified
year-round schedule. It is a tiny
independent school that creates its own math curriculum. In the first week she had a packet on “work”
problems, yes, two people painting a room or two pipes filling a tank. I was a little taken aback – it seemed the
topic had been selected randomly.

I’ve asked mom for permission to contact the student’s
teacher. I’d like to know more about how
curriculum decisions are made. This
young lady will enter high school next year.
It’s my personal mission to be sure she is ready for a high school
sequence of math – finding and filling gaps, offering enrichment and joy in
math, and building her self-esteem.

I’ll be searching YOUR blogs and following you on Twitter
for all the good ideas!

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