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.
First of all I should tell you that I am a social studies teacher. I should also tell you that I integrate all the sciences, math, art and literature in that classes I have taught. I've done this to the point that students sometimes ask me if they are in science, art or math class. I have used the concept of 0 in European and Arab cultures as a way to show how demonstrated truths can be trumped by received truths. For some students solving for X is quite tangible, they have no problem digesting and interacting with abstract knowledge. For others, like myself, abstract knowledge is well an abstraction.
For those of us who are not innate mathematicians (thick when it comes to math) or who are not turned on by math like your 10 students, it may help to ask yourself: "What is the purpose of what I am teaching?" I ask myself this same question no matter what it is I am teaching. I do not mean the answer should be, "to solve for X," but what can be done with these equations, this knowledge: What are the real world applications? Is there something that can be built or made that is tangible to students: It seems that all great mathematicians visualize math in a way that most can not like Mandelbrot. Also can your students find ways that the math they are learning is apparent or not so apparent in their world, in their lives.
I do not mean to say that all math must be visible, but it must be approachable to those not turned on by math. I believe that all learning must connect in some way to the lives and interests of learners not matter where they are or what age they are. I have found that if I can relate material to the interest and lives of my students, most, but not all come to the information with their own prior knowledge and integrate what they bring to the table with what we as teachers and curriculum bring to the table.
What about parent involvement?, rewards? If we could get the parents motivated and involved, that would help. How do you do this? If the parents don't see the need or don't care, what then?
I've contacted parents (e-mail, voicemail messages) and don't hear anything back. Maybe I'm being idealistic, but wouldn't you think they'd be concerned after seeing all of the report card/interim grades? If I saw my kid come home with an F you'd be sure that I'd want to talk to the teacher!
Hi Kristen,
Believe me, I understand your situation. I don't have the answer, but I think you need to move on for those kids who are doing the work for you class. May I ask, is this a cultural issue?
I know I have to keep moving on. The kids who are doing poorly need to start being accountable for their performance and do something about it - we definitely have help available for them! Tomorrow will definitely be interesting after 2 weeks off. :)
Definitely not a cultural issue. I teach in an middle class high school in the 'burbs. We have some variety of students but not too much.
Although I teach English in high school, I can completely relate to having students that do care and work hard and a handful that really seem to care less and feel like I should be honored they chose to show up. One solution I have employed is "failure is not an option" to be chosen. Any student that is failing my course is choosing to attend mandatory study sessions with me before or after school. This is in my policies and parents are notified and have to sign their understanding of the policy at the beginning of each semester.
I work hard to establish a sense of respect in my classroom. If I'm respectful enough to be prepared to teach each class, they should be respectful enough to be prepared to learn each class - this includes any homework that has to be done. The first time students do not complete homework I become highly offended and insulted. I speak to them privately outside and explain that it is unacceptable for them to be unprepared for life - thus being unprepared for my class is unacceptable. Next time it happens, I have them call home during class and explain to their parents why they feel it was acceptable to come to class unprepared and that they will have to serve a detention the next time it happens. Students that are failing the course but are trying to pass meet with me in private during class. Parents are notified, and we schedule study sessions before or after school - failure to attend results in detention and additional discipline action; parents are usually grateful to me for bringing the problem to their attention and giving their student an opportunity to fix the problem.
Overall, I have very few failures in my classes, and while I try to find ways for my students to realize they really can enjoy and like learning - even English, I realize that I will still have students that could care less about learning. But, overall, the number that let themselves fail is VERY low.
I work at making it difficult for them to fail. If they are going to fail, they have to work for it, and along the way, they will learn something - even if it is only to "HATE THE TEACHER".