Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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Case Study: a homeschooler prepares for the SAT

Monday, February 1st, 2010

When I started working with this student, math was “almost painful” for him. He’d decided to homeschool for 11th and 12th grade so he could take time to really learn the material he was studying, instead of just getting by. He’d asked his mom for a math tutor so he could prepare for the SAT and achieve his dream of attending art college.

Here’s what worked for this student:

Address the fundamentals. Before we approached the SAT math test as a whole, we had to master basic algebra and geometry topics one at a time. We started at the beginning of an Algebra 1 textbook and moved at our own pace. We focused on what was important and what would be on the test.

Solo work and feedback. Most students that I work with are sitting in math class and doing math homework at least three times a week. But this student wasn’t in a math class. Tutoring was his math class. And he wasn’t getting homework assignments unless I gave them to him. So it was essential for him to have carefully planned homework assignments and get detailed feedback from me on each one.

Adjust the textbook when necessary. We started off using the Glencoe Algebra 1 textbook, but after several months of working together, I realized my student needed more drill and better sequencing. He needed to be able to do as many problems as necessary to master the material. And he needed to be able to check his answers without having to wait to see me. So, as a supplemental text, we added another algebra textbook that had better sequencing and more practice problems. In the end, we relied on it more than the Glencoe.

Adjust the pace when necessary. When we started working together, I’d demonstrate a technique and then give him a chance to do it himself, correcting him immediately if he made any mistakes. I wouldn’t move on to the next concept until he’d mastered the material. But at this pace, he wouldn’t learn enough of what was on the SAT. So I started assigning him sections of the book to read and teach himself. This worked for a while, but then we reached a point where he’d get stuck midway through the material and have to wait for our next meeting before getting a clear explanation.

So we changed our approach and aimed for a middle ground. I would demonstrate one or two problems from each section before asking him to do the work himself outside of tutoring. This gave him a preview of what to expect and let him learn more material. I just wish that I had known about Math U See back then. It would have been great if he could have used Steve Demme’s instructional videos as his “math class,” and then used our time together as a resource to discuss whatever he had questions about.

I was so proud that he was so willing to work hard to learn something that didn’t always come easily. And I was thrilled to hear that his work allowed him to meet his goal: he got into the art college of his dreams!

Related posts:
Case Study: An ADHD student raises her math grade from a D to an A
Case Study: Regaining Love of Math
Case Study: Learning Geometry with a Spatial Disability
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