I love math. Not many people do, but I think it is amazing what problems can be solved with a pencil and some paper.
Math is also important. And it is required to graduate. Few people hire math tutors for their children because they think it's the job of the teacher to make sure they learn. Well, it isn't. The teacher can only teach. It is up to the student to learn. And sometimes, there is a problem.
It seldom takes long to find out if a lack of math knowledge is a problem. You would be surprised at how weak your children are in math. Even the honor students who do well. An "A" in our school system is not proof that they have strong math skills. It's a problem throughout the United States.
Here is a small piece of an article U.S. News and World Report.
Some of these articles are older, but they are just as true today as they were when they were written.
There is little doubt that schools could do a better job educating students, especially in math and science. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka the nation's report card, found that only 36 percent of fourth graders and 30 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math last year. In 12th-grade tests in 2003, the United States ranked 16th out of 21 countries in science and 19th in math. And those scores matter: A production associate's job in an automobile plant requires basic math skills that nearly half of America's 17-year-olds do not possess.
Here are links to just a few other eye-opening articles you should take a quick look at.
Teach math, not esteem (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
U.S. students lagging in math skills (The Seattle Times)
Waiting until your child is failing makes it terribly difficult for them to catch up. It's like learning to swim during the race. How can someone both learn to swim AND keep up at the same time? Besides, being lost in a class and doing poorly is really stressful which is unhealthy and, after a while, they tend to just give up since they feel they are failing anyway so why bother to spend ANY time working at it?
I tutor various topics and have had excellent results with my students. Every one of them has improved their grades and slept better knowing they weren't going to flunk.
There are several reasons why a person doesn't do well in math. Some students learn better when someone explains things to them instead of learning it from a book. Some need extra practice. Many times a student is embarrased to admit they don't know how to do the work. And some just won't study unless they have someone checking up on them every few days. Unfortunately, teachers don't have time for one on one lessons with each and every student.
I am there to find out what's wrong and help, not to punish or judge, so they feel comfortable asking me questions in private.
I almost always find some weaknesses in the students who are having trouble with math. For example, they may not be very good with decimals or with fractions. Or percentages may be a total mystery. Or negative numbers. Or division. Or graphing. (ESPECIALLY graphing!) The majority of students do not understand the concepts behind the math they are doing! They can do the problems and crank out the answers by following the steps, but they have little or no understanding. So when they have to do a problem that is not the same as the problems they have been doing, or one that requires some original thought, they don't know what to do.
The conversation always seems to go something like this...
Parent: "How did you do on the test?"
Student: "I got a 'C'"
Parent: "But you said you studied and understood it!"
Student: "I DID, but there were problems on the test we didn't do before."
Sound familiar? I hear it all the time. And it's because they don't understand the concept which is the reasoning behind what they are doing. If you understand that, you can figure out almost any problem... not just the ones you've seen before.
And math, unlike some other subjects, builds on itself so you need to know how to do all the basics (fractions, decimals, multiplication and division, percents, graphing, simultaneous equations, etc.) or you WILL be lost when it starts to get complicated.
My approach is to find out WHY someone is having trouble and work on that while trying to catch up with what the class is doing. Sad to say, I'm almost always called when things are pretty bad and the student is completely lost and the grade is very low. This makes it hard to fix the underlying problems and understand the current material at the same time. But we try and I've always seen the grade improve. Again, the message here is Don't wait until it's too late!
While helping with learning what is going on in class, I am constantly watching for the gaps in the math knowledge and working on improving them. I also teach the most amazing shortcuts (I don't like to call them 'tricks' because they aren't) that allow students to quickly do problems in their head whereas before, they had to use a pencil and paper. This helps in several ways...
For example: Quickly! What is 110 divided by 2 1/2? How about 11 times 3.6?
If you know some easy shortcuts, it only takes seconds to find the answers are 44 and 39.6. In your head! No need to write!
Summer is a great time to work on those weak math skills and for getting ready for the SATs.
It is amazing how much scores can improve with some focused help.
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