Q&A #5858

Teaching strategy for slow learners

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From: Suzanne A. (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Mar 02, 2001 at 07:34:11
Subject: Re: Teaching strategy for slow learners

Dear Hubert,

Wow, you have undertaken quite a task. I hope I can suggest a few things that
might lighten your burden. First, I'll address the tasks that you can give
the one student operating at an 11th grade level. I would use the Math
Forum's Problems of the Week. You will find all of the problems on this page:


If you have access to a computer for this student I would encourage that the
student work on the current PoW (whichever subject you think appropriate)
because that way he or she can receive feedback from a mentor. However, if
that is not enough then you might consider printing some of the past problems
and then you have the benefit of being able to read the expected solution.
Remember, for the student you want to use the "Print this version" page.

Another idea, again if there is computer/Internet access for the student, is
the ESCOT PoW. It is an interactive problem and you can access it here:


Besides the current problem, there are also archives, best accessed from
the Teacher Support pages:


Now for some ideas for your other students! Because discipline is an
issue, I think building an expected routine can be very helpful. Last year at
the beginning of the second semester (at the middle school level) I was given
a class of students who had all received an "F" first semester in their
Algebra class. So, they were all pulled out of their elective classes and
given a second math class. Talk about discipline problems! Whew. I found that
the class settled down if I always started with an opening sponge activity. I
had a packet of overhead transparencies of "problems of the day" from an
elementary series.
Here are some possible places where you can find ideas to use:

House of Math Word Problems for Children

Rick's Math Web

Online Math Learning Center
(This is an online quiz but could be copied to present to the class.)

Math Forum -- Elementary Problem of the Week

It may take a few tries to find the type of problem that isn't so easy that
the students don't have to work a little, but isn't so hard that they don't
have a chance. I found with my students that if it was a problem that was
reachable for most of them, it was something that they could read and
understand but wasn't immediately apparent then it worked well. So,
here is one example:

There are two cousins, Bob and Jack. If Bob is 26 and twice as old as
Jack, how old is Jack?

This type of problem kids can figure out if they stop to think. They don't
need algebra (although it is fun to introduce algebra this way). Also this
kind of problem can lead into working on math phrases like "twice as
old," "half as old," etc.

So, I gave the students a little time to work on the Sponge Activity. They
had to copy the problem and write their answer on one sheet of paper. I
required a complete sentence answer. To avoid "losing" work my students each
had a manila folder and we kept this "Sponge Paper for the Week" in that
folder along with other papers.

Some class periods the sponge activity branched out and went to related math
ideas and I let that happen. Other days we went to the next activity using
their textbook. My students knew the routine quickly, though. As they
came in they picked up their folder from the box where I stored them. They
knew to get out their Sponge Activity paper and they knew to read the new
problem on the overhead. This set the tone. Because the problems that I chose
were engaging and led other places, we ended up doing a lot of math and not
too much disciplining!

I wish you luck and patience!

 -Suzanne A., for the T2T service

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