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Q&A #310

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching percents

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From: ginardo napoli

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2011011818:01:44
Subject: Re: understanding percents

All of this is very nice but I have students in 10th grade who failed Algebra two years in a row that still to this day CANNOT get a common denominator when they add fractions, and CANNOT solve 21/100 = x/350 (What # is 21% of 350?) All this after 5 months (last semester + January) of teaching and reteaching, and doing hands on investigations, and using manipulatives, and teaching about the "percent" means "per 100", and teaching that a 5% commission means you get "$5 for every $100 in sales" and then linking this to ratio problems and common denominator issues. They didn't learn anything in middle school, and they still have cognitive dissonance. I've taught for 13 years now, and I am completely astonished at the woefully prepared incoming 9th graders who have to take Algebra, and they cannot add integers, they don't understand division, they don't understand percents and ratios, they don't know their multiplication tables for 12 or less, and they don't even understand the decimal place value system. Now I have to try my best to teach them all of this, but the reality is that 25% of the freshmen are so horribly prepared that they cannot make the leap from the 4th grade math to the 9th grade math, and are still having trouble in 10th grade. A friend of mine says maybe they are "just stupid," but I think it goes deeper than that. A large group of students never learn a thing in middle school, and these students come to high school without making any cognitive connections with some basic ideas. It's like teaching grammar to students who don't understand the alphabet or the difference between a noun and a verb.

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