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Confidence

I recently started working with a pair of twins who are preparing for the GED. They were both panicking about the math section. Having struggled with life as young women with no high school diploma, they are reevaluating the value of high school and their decision. Trying to study with any member of their family didn't work very well. Both parties got frustrated quickly. One member has a tendency to read half a problem and say, "well that's so easy; you should get that really quickly." Another family member is an avid intellectual who really doesn't support the decisions they've made. This was the situation I entered into. I decided that the best method was to go through practice question after practice question. In this way I minimized the amount of time I was lecturing at them. The session started with the girls completely clamped up, convinced that they were no good at math. I never let the word "easy" slip out of my mouth. Every question, I waited until... read more

Parts of a mathematical sentence

I was helping a student through some ACT prep work, focusing on math. We came across a defined function problem that looked somewhat like this: Let x [] y = (x^2)/(y-2). What is 2 [] 6 ? She asked, "Am I supposed to find []?" I responded, "No, it tells you what [] does. It takes the thing on the right, squares it, and divides it by the thing on the right minus 2 *pointing*." She was able to work it out from there, but this got me thinking. When we introduce students to grammar, we discuss parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. When we introduce algebra, we usually only use five verbs: +, -, *, /, and the linking verb =. Students know what actions they describe from previous experience. Variables are essentially pronouns. They stand in place of a noun, but we have to do a little work to figure out what noun they represent. Students become accustomed to pronouns being the only unfamiliar objects in the math sentence, and the task... read more

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