Saturday, September 10, 2011

Another Math Rant in the Making...

Yes, you were spared my math rants last school year because of the Incredible Mr. Knickerbocker™, the most Awesome Math Teacher in this district. He, unlike most of the other teachers here, actually makes it his business to find out what the kids that will be coming into his class are learning at their previous schools. And this is why he is rarely surprised when they come to him with little or no math skills.

I wish the other teachers at the freshman campus and the high school would do this. It would reduce the amount of eye-rolling that happens whenever they say, "You should have learned this by now..."

This goes for every single subject they take, by the way.

Anyhow, the Impertinent Daughter's current Algebra teacher is completely unaware of what they have and haven't learned before coming to his class and... he doesn't care. He started his class with, "I don't do subtraction or division. I don't like it."


Yeah, we're in trouble.

Because his "explanations" are... horrendous. I have no doubt he can do the math. Problem is, he understands it so well, he takes all these shortcuts, and expects his students to understand them. Problem is... if you don't have a grasp of how the equations work in the first place, if you don't understand the "long method " (his words) of doing them!

She understands how to do this. However, the wacky explanations she's been getting over the last three weeks have completely thrown her, so when she had to take a test yesterday, well... she didn't do well. And was so very upset when she got home. 'I know I know this stuff!" she wailed, "but I'm so confused!!"

She wrote out one of the problems she remembered for me and said, "I have no idea how to do this!"

I looked at it and was stunned.

x - 5 > 7

"You do know how to do this," I said, shaking my head.


"Honey, you treat the greater than sign like an equal sign," I said and did the problem for her.

x - 5 > 7
x - 5 = 7
x - 5 + 5 = 7 + 5
x = 12

Her jaw dropped. "I do know how to do this! But... why didn't he say that??"

I shrugged.

"This is how he showed us how to do this," she said, and grabbed my pencil. "You just turn the minus sign into a plus."

x - 5 > 7
x + -5 > 7
x > 7 +5

And... he didn't go past that point in the notes.

Okay, that's great, and that works... if you already know how to do it the way I did it! If you don't, or if you don't remember it because you didn't spend your summer holiday doing algebra and math, you'll be completely lost!! You want to teach them shortcuts, great. Do it after you've taught them the standard forms!!

It looks like the Husbandly One and I are going to be algebra teachers again this year. As well as chemistry teachers. Because, yeah, I had to spend some time learning how to do dimensional analysis so I could teach the Impertinent One how to do it, because her chemistry teacher can't. And she admitted it, too! "If you can't understand my explanations, go to the teacher next door and ask her. She's better at it than I am."

And this woman is the Advanced Placement chemistry teacher!!!

In better news, I got the Impossible Son through a misunderstanding in multiplication. It seems one of his previous teachers, in teaching him how to multiply large numbers, taught him to add... oh, geez, let me just show you.

This is, of course, completely wrong!! Because the answer is actually 125.

So... I did it both ways, side by side and right next to each other, explaining what I was doing on every step, and asked him which answer made more sense.

"Um, 125," he said, frowning. "And the way you did it makes more sense, too. Because the way I was doing it just... felt weird."

Yeah, tell me about it! And I got him through long division again, too, which normally he breezes through, but for some reason, he wasn't getting it. Took me a while to figure out he'd never been taught to use trial and error to figure out where to start. You know, taking a scratch paper and multiplying different numbers against your divisor to get close enough to starting the actual dividing?

Okay, I know that made no sense whatsoever, but it's something we all do. Once I got him past that, he sped through his homework. I'm going to have to chat with his math teacher and point out what's going on so she can reinforce what I've already done. Fortunately, she's a good math teacher, once she knows what the problem is.

It's enough to make me want to scream. And absolutely dread the years he'll be in junior high, with the absolutely sucky math teachers there. It's almost, but not quite, enough to make me want to go back to school and change my major to mathematics so I can teach it. But not quite.

GAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! *tears out hair*

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