Monday, April 4, 2011


Sometimes I have to tell myself that what I'm doing is changing kids' relationship with math little by little. It's especially discouraging when we return to the same topics later on during the same year and kids seem to not be able to do the same problems they used to be able to do. But, recently an experience with my 11th-graders served to give me back a little bit of that glimmer of hope.

Upon my introduction of "weekend homework," various of my 11th-graders came to ask me for help after school this week on computing arithmetic series -- a Ch. 1 concept. They had trouble finding the sum by looking at a Sigma notation, even after they had listed out a few terms and visually identified the linear pattern. I asked them, "How do you add the numbers 1 through 100?" And to my surprise, every kid that came to ask for help was able to say to me (without additional cues), "You put together 1 and 100, and then 2 and 99 -- oh, I get it. So it's first plus last, times the number of pairs." After that short exchange, some of them were able to then walk off and do all those problems and the associated word problems. Others needed me to walk them through just one example, and then they were all set with the Sigma notation problems (and only needed some additional hints on the word problems, some of which were admittedly a bit tricky).

It gave me hope that somewhere, something is sticking.

PS. I have to say that I really have a soft spot for my juniors. Of all the kids I teach at this school, they remind me the most of my kids from the Bronx. So full of silliness (and sometimes a streak of badness that makes me laugh).

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