I'm teaching Algebra 2 this year (for the second time ever..), which was my favorite high school math class. I love all of the stuff that is covered! Right now, though, I'm so totally frustrated with my class. There are about 10 - 12 students that just get it. They do their assignments, they ask questions if they don't understand something, and they do well on tests/quizzes. I also have 10 students or so that just don't care. They "do" their assignments (sometimes), don't ask questions when they miss something, and perform horribly on quizzes (I just graded a parabola quiz - had several perfects and some that were in the single digits!). I'm at my wits' end. Any suggestions on what I can do? I stay after school every day for the sole purpose of tutoring kids who want help... we have a math teacher every period of the day in the library to offer help. I feel like I need to spend more time on parabolas (before we start factoring), but I don't want to torture the kids who understand them, and I almost feel like that would be helping out the kids who aren't helping themselves! Argh.

Tags: Algebra2, help, math

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Thank you for posting this message. I am really looking forward to reading the many suggestions that other teachers have for dealing with this classic problem that we all face every day in every subject.

Do you have a SmartBoard (or something similar) in your classroom? I found that using video clips to illustrate math concepts works wonders with my reluctant learners. Many students don't learn by listening to lecture, they need to see a real world use before it makes sense to them. I have a video clip of how they plan a fireworks show that talks about calculating the height of the rocket (aka vertex). Another video clip shows Big Foot (the monster truck) jumping an airplane. I explain how the ramps for take off and landing are at the "solutions" of the parabola. The kids really like the one about how an owl's face is a parabola that focuses the sounds into their ear flap.

The History Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and NOVA all have great programs that illustrate math concepts. Online resources include: www.unitedstreaming.com, www.thefutureschannel.com, youTube, and TeacherTube. Best Quest has done a really nice job animating a math classroom in Algebra'sCool with fun characters that my students like to watch. You can see a sample at www.bestquest.com.

As an added benefit, now that I am using these real world video clips in my lecture, my students have stopped asking "When am I ever going to use this?"
Sounds like your class is a prime candidate for differentiated instruction. It can be a lot of work up front, but less frustration at the end makes it all worth it. Say you are doing parabolas: what are the essential ideas? maybe writing a graph from an equation, and writing an equation from the graph. Let the 10-12 stars test out of the basics, then give them a project to work on collaboratively. Perhaps they could make a parabolic reflector or test some of the reflective properties of a parabola. I have some great activities for parabolas.

Giving those kids some activities that will keep them busy as they deepen their understanding will free you up to work with the less motivated kids to get them that basic understanding.
I completely agree....in fact I am working on preparing my classroom this year for more differentiated instruction. I am basically following the idea that many elementary teachers use by setting up centers. It is a lot of work up front but if you go at it with the idea of targeting the needs for every student it is worth the time and eventually (it takes a while) the students will recognize that you really do want to try to help them "get it".



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