I think one of the hardest things for any math teacher is helping the ones who are falling behind, the students who either don’t get it or aren’t motivated. I wrote about my frustrations with this a few days ago – this blog entry will be a bit more positive than that one 🙂

So some students fall behind – what do I do about it? It depends on why they are behind. The reason why seems to fall into a few groups:

1) Students who are convinced they can’t do it so don’t try.

For this group I try to find ways to show success, and reward them when they do. Then when they get frustrated I can remind them about the one time they didn’t think they could do it and did. Something else I do for this group is try to find something they are good at and relate it to that. For example one girl who does cheer leading said in class that math makes her head hurt, so she doesn’t try. I asked her how she feels when she knows she does something perfectly in cheer leading. She had a huge smile and was excited to tell me about it 🙂 Then I asked her HOW she got to that point. Did she have to practice? Are some things hard at first? and those harder things feel even better when you practice enough to get it, right? She stopped complaining about math and that one conversation seemed to totally change her attitude about it! I’ve had similar conversations with other students. Just find something they are good at and help them see that work = success = happy feeling!

2) Students who really are already trying and still don’t get it.

This group breaks my heart… It is a small group. But I have a few who try so hard and really just don’t get it. Most of the ones in this group are at least passing the class, but they want to do better, they get frustrated that math is so hard for them. For this group I offer help for 20 minutes before school each day and the school has tutoring available after school for an hour twice a week. I also teach a math lab class where they can get extra help, but many students who could have benefited from it didn’t have room for it in their schedule.

For students in my Saxon classes I have a test tracker they use to see what concept they are missing on each test and where they can find examples in their book. I then email the answer key to practice problems to their parents so they can check the practice work at home. For their daily homework I also allow them to pick what to work on, then they can focus on the areas that are more difficult for them.

For the class I have that’s not Saxon (we use www.mathematicsvisionproject.org), I have a class website where they can go for extra resources. The class is set up on standards based grading. The class website has a resources page where they can find the standards listed. Under each standard I have videos, tutorials, examples, practice problems, etc. I encourage them to go there for help. This has been especially useful for one student who is gone about half the time.

3) The last group of kids falling behind are just unmotivated.

There are different reasons they are unmotivated, but for some reason they have decided to not care, or at least act like they don’t. Some of these students act this way because they don’t understand the math. I kind of treat everyone in this group as if that’s the reason they are acting unmotivated. I’ll also try to tie in something that interests them, like when I used a football analogy for systems of equations. For this group I also try to make sure they know that I am there for them if/when they want to work on it. And sometimes they do decide they want to try! Getting parents involved helps with this group sometimes too.

Well… this is what I’ve been doing so far to help them out! I look forward to reading all the other ideas from this week’s Sunday Funday!