Q&A #525

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching Math at the High School Level

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From: Richard M.

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003042213:41:59
Subject: Re: Teaching Math to Disadvantaged High School Students

The conjunction of similarities here, Richard, which is my name too,
prevents me from passing up this opportunity.  I just started
collecting SS, and I'm interested in teaching mathematics to
disadvantaged HS students. I left the field of civil engineering some
13 years ago, and, although mine is a highly problematic situation, I
have made preliminary efforts towards certification.
During the summer of 2001, the local comunity college here in NE
Florida was required to revamp its HS/GED program, and they used me to
fill in---remediating older HS-aged/adult students towards a HS
diploma or GED certificate.  The students signed up for basic
arithmetic, algebra, and geometry courses; bought books; attended
class twice a week; worked according to a prescribed homework
schedule; and took prescribed tests whenever they felt ready to do
so---all in one room.  I was there as a tutor (on an individual
basis)and as an administrator/grader of the tests.
It wasn't a typical HS setting, and the students came with a range of
motivations and disadvantages.  I stressed neatness, completeness (no
skipping of steps)and the fact that there is nothing easy about the
study of mathematics---the student should always have pencil and paper
ready.  I wish I had had a whiteboard to work on, and maybe
manipulatives---if I knew how to work with them.
If your local CC has a HS program, you might check it out. Sorry, but
that's all I can offer; I'm mostly interested in what your experience
has been.  How are you doing?
About half-way through the summer of 2001, an 18- or 19-year-old boy
wrote in answer to the question What is the reciprocal of 2/3?:
"2/3=3/2." I calmly told him never to make such a (false) statement
even in the privacy of his room at home with no other human being
within a 5-mile radius; that the answer is simply "3/2;" and that some
mathematics can be done by inspection. He noticeably held his head a
little higher as he left the room, and was a more assiduous student
for the remaining time.
I hope, if I ever get to the classroom, I can say the right thing, and
only what is necessary.

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