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Posts Tagged as "math u see"

Case Study: A 5th grader emerges as a successful student and enthusiastic mathematician

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

When this student first came to me, her dad was concerned that she had lost interest in learning math. During the school year, it also emerged that the student was in danger of not passing fifth grade.

Here’s what worked for this student:

Supporting the student’s own efforts to be proactive
During one of our first math tutoring sessions, I pointed out to this student that numbers that end in zero are even. Somehow she hadn’t learned that before. To help herself remember this new fact, she spontaneously made up new lyrics to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” They went like this: “Even! Even! Numbers with a zero are even!”

The next time we met, I added to her original lyrics: “Even! Even! Numbers that end in zero are even! So are the numbers 2, 4, 6, 8. They are all even, and they’re all great! They’re even!”

She would sing the zero song whenever this topic came up. Not only did my student create a great way to remember this fact (and inspire me too), but singing also allowed her express her enthusiasm for math and let off a little steam.

Another time, she suggested we create a “Mistakes Log Blog” to help her analyze what mistakes she had made on a test that we were reviewing. I ran with this idea. When she wrote down where she’d made mistakes, the patterns became much clearer to her. In later sessions, she’d refer back to the “Mistakes Log Blog” when analyzing errors.

“Field trips”
In order to make concepts more concrete, we’d take field trips—to my living room, where we’d practice perimeter and area by measuring my rug, or to the kitchen, where we’d measure a round plate to show where the number pi comes from.

At my kitchen sink, we poured water between different containers to show the relationships between units of measurement. And we acted out word problems using food from my refrigerator. Field trips were way more engaging to her than sitting with a worksheet, so I tried to maximize this.

Multi-sensory learning
From taking all those field trips during math tutoring, I noticed my student benefited from hands-on learning. So we also used fraction overlays and math blocks from Math U See to build fractions and do “fraction of a number” problems. Using the manipulatives made abstract concepts concrete for my student, and really helped her “get” the material. Plus it was fun!

When I realized my student didn’t know her 9s times table yet, I taught her the Rockin’ the Standards song for the 9s, to the tune of the hokey pokey, so she would remember them forever. I also taught her the Place Value Rap to remember key facts about place value. Not only were these songs a great chance to stand up and play air guitar, but they were also an excellent way to internalize crucial material and build on the success of the Zero Song.

Managing focus
During the year, we met twice a week for either 60 or 90 minutes. If I noticed my student was losing focus, we’d take a break to jump up and down to rejuvenate ourselves. After a while, my student would ask to jump when she was having trouble concentrating. It might sound silly, but I was proud that my student was starting to pay attention to whether or not she was paying attention and that she knew how to refocus herself. (Thanks to Gretchen Rubin for inspiring me to try this!)

When I realized my student was in danger of not passing fifth grade, I decided to use Carol Dweck’s Brainology curriculum, one of the most powerful motivational tools I know of to address one of the underlying cause of low achievement: low motivation. For several weeks, we would spend part of each tutoring session doing Brainology, which uses basic neuroscience to teach students that their brains are plastic and they can grow their intelligence.

My student enthusiastically embraced the Brainology program. She talked about the characters like they were her personal friends, and she responded to questions like “what is happening in your brain when you think?” with answers like, “Neurons are sending messages within a trillion connections.” She also used Brainology concepts like getting enough sleep and eating “brain food” while she was taking her end-of-year standardized tests (the CRCT).

The results

Three or four weeks after we began working together, her teachers reported a positive change in this student’s attitude. She started sitting in front, participating, and speaking up when she didn’t understand.

After about sixth or seven months of meeting twice a week, this student mastered the material, pulled up her grades, and successfully passed fifth grade. Her final math test score was so high that she was only either 10 points or 10 questions away from placing into the advanced math class in sixth grade. I am so proud of her!

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Posts Tagged as "math u see"

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:
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Case Study: Regaining Love of Math
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