Q&A #5882

At-risk students

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From: Suzanne A. (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Mar 05, 2001 at 09:29:08
Subject: Re: At-risk students

Dear Nina,

I don't have any experience with a commercial math program that is designed
for the needs that you have but I can suggest a method that I used last year
with a class I was given of eighth grade students who had all received
an "F" first semester in their Algebra class.

They were all pulled out of their elective classes and given a second math
class.  Besides having low skills they had morale and, of course, discipline
issues. I used two resources with these students. First, I had a packet of
overhead transparencies of "problems of the day" from an elementary series
that I used as a Sponge Activity every day and second, I used the
Accelerated Math program which is worksheet driven but individualized. I 
worked hard at selecting problems of the day that had a wide range so that 
you just read the problem and thought about it you could answer it using 
basic arithmetic or guess and check methods but also it could be displayed 
with manipulative and/or written algebraically.

Sponge Activity:
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 too hard so 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, once I gave the students a little time to work on the Sponge Activity and
for my students I had them keep one sheet of paper that they copied the
problem onto and then wrote their answer. 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!

Here are some possible places where you can find ideas to use:

House of Math Word Problems for Children

Rick's math web

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

Elementary problem of the week

Accelerated Math:
There is a discussion here on T2T to read comments from other teachers:


Their site is here:


 -Suzanne A., for the T2T service

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