August 22, 2010

Math Irritants

I'm going to rant here for a minute on how some folks should NOT be allowed to teach math.

Let me state first... that I've run into more GREAT teachers than poor. The problem is, the poor teachers are so piss poor they stand out like poop in snow.

If a kid has signed up for 'regular math', it does not mean he does not deserve to learn as much as possible through the school year. If you are teaching 'regular math' then it is up to you to determine what skills those kids are REALLY going to need to know for the next year's math.

Case in point, because you are teaching 'regular algebra II' does not mean that your students DO NOT NEED to know the rules of exponents. Skip matrices. I get that. And you can skip circles. Under NO circumstances do you skip things like... roots and rules of exponents.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, help me.

I had a student call me last week that is in Pre-Cal. She's really bright and last year signed up for 'regular Alg II'. She signed up for it... not because she couldn't do Honors, but because she was REALLY worried about the tough schedule she was taking.

Bright kid... all year long I was like, "You don't belong in this class.." and I'd teach her stuff her teacher left out. Things like... The rules of exponents.

So now she's in Pre-Calc and all the other kids from her 'regular class' were taken off the 'college prep math' band wagon and relegated to some kiddy stats class. Her Mom stood up and said, NO, had her put in Pre-Calc and one of her girlfriends followed.

Both of them had me help them this week. I nearly stroked.

Her gf looked at me in the beginning and said, "I can't factor. I'm not good at it..."

I got a case of the vapors. A mild case, but it was definitely there.

Trying to act like I hear this every day I said, "It's cool. I'll teach you..." (Come to find out, someone had never bothered to teach her the tricks. I was seeing spots. As soon as I taught her, she was a factoring fiend.)

We progressed to graphing x^2/3 which reads, the cube root of x squared.

She looked at it and said, "I have NEVER seen ANYTHING like that in my LIFE."

Now I'm fanning myself, searching for air. No! No! NO!

I gave her a quick lesson in roots and my student from last year said to me, "Bou, I'd not know any of this if you hadn't made me learn it. Remember? You'd flip through the book and say, "I don't care if she's skipping this, you're learning it...""


I spent today with the new girl teaching her basics. She's a great kid and I do think she'll do fine. I do. The fact she didn't know that x^1/5 was the fifth root of x or that she'd never even HEARD of the cube root or fourth root of anything, absolutely... blew me away.

But I'm really pissed because taking 'the regular class' doesn't mean you shouldn't learn the real math. It just means a slower pace.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother is pissed and is going to the school to chew them out. This girl pulled a B PLUS IN ALG II last year and she doesn't know the rules of exponents?

This year could eat her lunch... Good Grief.

Posted by Boudicca at August 22, 2010 09:54 PM

as a math teacher, i'm going to have nightmares tonight. i'm teaching algebra ii this year, at a school without any regular/honours distinctions, but regardless, i wouldn't be able to live with myself, as myself, if i didn't teach them everything i could!

thanks for all you do to pick up the slack of the slackers, bou; you are my hero.

Posted by: amelie at August 24, 2010 10:32 PM

Amelie- Crap, I didn't know this was posted. I thought I had it in draft and it was just a rant I wrote a couple nights ago!

I'm so angry at what happened to this girl. I think she's going to drop into kiddy stats now, which is fine, because I don't know if I can pull her through. Its going to become a quality of life issue. She's going to have to devote ALL her time to living in his office hours, doing homework, working with me... everything else will take a backseat.

And I told her, for her to switch to the kiddy stats is not a reflection on her. She can still do what she wants to do in life... she'll just start with college algebra in HS, which is why they call it... college algebra! Still, there is ego involved. It's crushing and I feel horribly for her. Makes me sick, it does.

Posted by: Bou at August 25, 2010 05:43 AM

I learned "math" on paper and a "Slide Rule" my father gifted me. The American ,current education system, is in dire trouble. The roots are dying.

Posted by: Yabu at August 25, 2010 09:18 AM

Math education just seems to me to be all over the place. I have seen 8th graders working on problems involving exponents and roots. Then I see kids who are in a similar situation to what your friend is. The title of the class should mean something, but often it doesn't really give an indication of a student's knowledge level.

Posted by: PeggyU at August 25, 2010 12:12 PM

Sadly there are far too many bad math teachers. They don't have the first clue what they are doing in math and then they try to teach it. I think my kids hit all the bad ones in the state. We never caught one break with a good math teacher - not one! I nearly stroked when I saw how they were teaching fractions. It was the most convoluted mess you've ever seen. Why? Because the teacher didn't understand it. Period.

I'm really sorry about that girl. And all the others who got substandard educations because the teacher didn't do the right thing. *sigh*

Posted by: Teresa at August 25, 2010 02:27 PM

no, bou, i'm glad you posted it! it gives me more focus to be the best math teacher i can possibly be, given the way some of the others teach...

Posted by: amelie at August 25, 2010 04:08 PM

I am shocked about this. I grew up in a small town in farm country and we had all that stuff in Algebra I - even the FFA kids had that in 9th grade. WTF are they teaching these days.

I saw a yearbook on line for a school I knew had no kind of reputation. The math teachers were all coaches. Every one of them. I know some coaches can teach math. Not many of them.

Posted by: dick at August 25, 2010 10:33 PM