Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I don't think I like this

I have been helping my step-son with his Grade Nine math through most of the year. He struggled early on, but as we identified the problem and sat down with him for an hour or two each night he made a marked improvement (100% on his "angles" test!). His big final exam for the class is tomorrow, and I spent a couple of hours yesterday doing some studying. Algebra and geometry and so forth. I bought an easel and a white board for the purposes of studying and teaching and such and such, because I'm a nerd and I like the white board.

What's good is that I still know this math, and I'm still able to do it, no problem. But you know how they say those that can't do, teach? I'm pretty sure the second part of that saying is "those that can do, should probably not teach". Because although I have been helping him for pretty much the entire year, it was only today, just in time for the final exam, that I realized what the problem was. In Grade Eight, he was very good at math. Got great marks, did really well, really understood it. Now, not so much. And it finally occurred to me that the reason is that he no longer remembers that math from the eighth grade! Multiplying and dividing fractions, and that sort of thing - all the stuff you need to build on for Grade Nine.

And I think this is because he is in a semestered school. When I went to high school, I had eight classes, and they all lasted all year. In a semestered system, you get four courses at a time, spend twice as long in each class, have more homework in each one, and try to cram all that learning into half the time. I would get distracted with a period that was twice as long as the ones I had in high school too. It feels like overkill. But more importantly, with the semestered system, the fact that he had math in the second semester meant that he spent almost a full year not thinking about math at all. So now he has forgotten the basic building blocks for the math he is supposed to learn.

His class started on Chapter 2 of their textbook, because Chapter 1 was just a grade 8 review. Well, that was kind of essential. His friends seem to be having the same problems he is - I have seen them struggle with the same stuff. I'm just kicking myself for not realizing until the last second. We did the most important calculation of all though - what mark does he have to get on the final exam in order to pass math for the year. It turns out he can pass the year even with a zero on the final exam. So I told him to bring a book to the exam room. And some candy. And maybe an iPod. Don't even bother writing stuff. And next year I'll be sure to do some rehashing of the basics the week before math starts. I assume the school won't be doing that.

6 comments:

  1. I was in high school when they switched from to the semester system, and it seems to make much more sense. That's the way they teach things in university, and I would rather have the adjustment shock come in grade 9 than in first year when I'm paying big bucks for post secondary... Not only that, but with the semester system, come end of year time, you're only worrying about 3 or 4 exams in the span of 2 weeks as opposed to 7 or 8 which can get to be a heavy workload - particularly when you have to study all the way back to september rather than simply to january. Sure, the classes are a little long, but you adjust to it after awhile, and overall, I think the semester system is much more practical

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  2. I agree with the semestered system not always being such a great idea. My daughter also had problems in math because of extended periods of time being away from it. I would have the same problem, never found math easy but I think it would be better to always be hacking away at it. I know I would have gotten overloaded cramming all that math into a semester. And yes, I went on to do 6 university math courses that were semestered, but I really don't think kids have that much attention span at that age.

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  3. Get a life ... if the kid is serious about his future he will do the review himself... the whole point of school is to teach students to think for themselves>.

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  4. That's a terrific philosophy. I think I will adopt it. I will also get him to cook his own meals three times a day, do his own grocery shopping, book his own doctor's appointments and get himself there, purchase his own clothes, pay rent for his room, and get a job to pay for it all. That way he'll be TOTALLY prepared to not only think for himself but LIVE for himself. And if he can do that at 14, imagine how independant and educated he'll be when he hits 20!

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  5. Everything you do for your stepson is very much appreciated by this person, keep up the good work!

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  6. High school was difficult for me also. My mother was the wizard of math. I can't remember how many hours she spent beside me trying to make "simpler" for me. I had a way to make it harder, more complicated... I really appreciated the time she spent with me. Looking back at it today, I don't think I would have passed with her help. All this to say, your step son will be grateful of the time you're spending helping him out.

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