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Success in teaching concepts and motivating in Algebra 1

Last year I was an Academic Coach at North Central Charter Essential School (NCCES) in Fitchburg MA. One of the duties I had was to tutor individual students in 7th grade Algebra 1. I worked with students having difficulty in both understanding Math concepts and doing daily work.

Examples of this were:
* proportion projects, such as map reading, and
* a project where students made different sized cubes, rectangular solids, and cylinders, to understand surface areas and volumes.

I spend time motivating students, so they find out how they will use the things they are learning in later life. Concepts in Math in are often far removed from ANY realistic use, much less uses that most people might find in later life. A student of mine in Algebra 1 was constantly complaining about this: why learn all this stuff when you will never use it? I asked her: what did she want to do after school? Be a veterinarian. Then I arranged with her Advisor, and indirectly with her parents, to have her take a Career Day trip to watch her own family veterinarian.

I also discussed with the veterinarian's staff WHY I thought this would help motivate the student in Algebra. And would they please point out the use of concepts from Algebra 1 that are used every day in their business, such as:
* proportions, in animal feeding and medicine dosages
* the need to do book keeping in general, particularly including profit and loss, the need to compute taxes, and interest on investment

When I told the student that I had made the arrangement for her field trip, she literally got out from behind her desk and jumped up and down in excitement!

By the way, after I'd been with this class for a month, the teacher told me (not word for word):
'When you started with me, this class was behind all my other classes. Now, they're not behind.'
and
'You clearly have a big bag of tricks [in getting ideas across to students].'

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