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Posts Tagged as "7th grade"

Case Study: An 8th grader goes from “math meltdown” to “math touchdown!”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

When this student first came to me as a 7th grader, she and her mom were experiencing math as a horrible struggle week to week. On her tests, she would initially get 40s, 50s, and 60s, and then spend a lot of time redoing the work over and over to pull up her grades, even more often than not staying in from lunch and recess to redo her work. So she was ending up with Bs and low As after all the do-overs, but as the result of agonizing effort.

On many nights they would spend hours on her math homework, only to have the student end up in tears. And even this massive effort wasn’t resulting in confidence or mastery.

On top of that, the student’s experience of one-on-one help from her mom had become highly fraught and the stress was affecting the dynamic of their mother/daughter relationship.

The mom was really concerned that this student’s math struggles were going to keep her back from other academic and creative opportunities. This student is highly creative, unique, and passionate – she loves to draw, plays the violin, has her own sense of style, is a gamer, and even has been on multiple botball robotics teams. And the mom was worried that doors would be closed to her if math continued to be a struggle.

This frustrating experience felt like a roller coaster, where the otherwise academically-successful student was starting to feel like an impostor after the erosion of confidence that happened from week to week of working so hard and not experiencing confidence, mastery, or good grades.

Fast forward to now! After steadily working together throughout the spring and summer, this student is now getting grades like a 96% on her first quiz of the year and a high B on her progress report. She shared that she was explaining math to her peers who were confused. The best part of all was seeing her experience what she described as “The BOOM,” which she defined as “where everything just comes together and flows through my mind like a glass of water.”

Most of all, she is now enthusiastic and inquisitive and happy about doing math and will routinely exclaim things like, “Touchdown! I could help the ‘yesterday’ me understand this!” or “Doing stuff with fractions is my favorite math to do.”

Here are some of the ways we created this transformation:

We created a safe environment of total trust and camaraderie. We operated in a space that was a “no-judgement zone” where this student could go over whatever questions she had, however she needed to go over them, and with as much practice or examples as necessary. We also kept the emotional tone lighthearted and fun, even though the material was very challenging.

We found the gaps and filled them in. By the time this student came to me, she had been struggling with math through 4th, 5th, 6th, and most of 7th grade – almost four years, with different gaps from each year. While working on whatever she needed to learn that day or that week, we excavated the layers of underlying math foundation until we found the initial source of misunderstanding. Then we would master that concept and gradually build back up layer by layer to the current material. This created a pattern of understanding, confidence, and success.

We let the student set the pace. We really focused on mastery of one skill, one concept, one problem type at a time, letting the student’s needs set the pace. Truly internalizing math in this way had a much bigger impact on her long-term understanding and achievement than rushing in a superficial way through large amounts of material to “get it covered.”

Would you like your creative, unique, passionate child to have this same experience of being completely supported in experiencing math mastery? Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we’ll get you started with my special application process to explore whether or not my magical one-on-one math tutoring programs would be a fit for you and your family!

Related posts:
Case Study: A 5th grader goes from believing “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing a purple tutu
Case Study: a 7th grader goes from “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents!
Case Study: An ADHD student raises her grade from a D to an A
Case Study: Math goes from a source of unbelievable stress and anxiety to a source of joy and strength

Posts Tagged as "7th grade"

Case Study: A Rising 8th Grader Masters Her Summer Math Packet

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

When this student came to me this past June, she had been invited to take a placement test in the fall to see if she would place into an honors math class, and wanted help pacing herself on her summer math packet.

I just found out that she placed into honors, and she was so excited when she told me that she screamed on the phone! I am SO proud of her hard work and persistence!

Here’s how we made it happen:

Openness and Trust. Throughout our sessions together, this student was extremely transparent about what she did and didn’t understand. This was enormously helpful, especially because while we thought the summer math packet consisted of review only, it turned out that a ton of material was stuff that this student had never learned. Her willingness to tell me whether she was elated or frustrated–frequently with a self-deprecating sense of humor–helped us build camaraderie and also made our work together much more effective.

Which brings us to…Adjust as you go. When we realized that we had a lot of material to cover from scratch, instead of just reviewing, we adjusted the plan and decided to meet more frequently.

Break it down. The packet was extra-challenging because each page was like a tossed salad, blending problems from all different parts of the curriculum. While this is a great strategy to use when you’re reviewing material, it is not an effective way to learn something new.

So we backtracked, and my student learned one prerequisite skill at a time, practicing it thoroughly until it felt comfortable and automatic. Then, we combined these skills in more complex problems, gradually building up to problems as hard as the ones in the packet.

Practice outside of sessions. I also gave this student individualized worksheets that gave her a chance to practice and internalize the skills we were working on, with answer keys so she could check her work as she went (instead of waiting to talk to me and then finding out that she had practiced something the wrong way). This was especially important because it was the summer and she wasn’t getting a regular dose of math from a school math class.

Feedback on solo work. After building up her skills, my student worked independently on chunks of the packet at the time. This way she got comfortable with problem sets where different kinds of problems are juxtaposed on one page, just like they would presumably be on the placement test. Then, when we worked together, we would go over all of her work so she knew she was on the right track.

Which brings us to, “What did I do wrong?” At first, my student just seemed annoyed with herself when she made a mistake, but I really emphasized to her that it’s okay if you make a mistake as long as you take the time to ask yourself why and learn from it. Scrutinizing and learning from errors gradually went from being an irritating chore to just a routine and helpful part of the learning process.

Enthusiasm. More than any other student I’ve ever worked with, this one has a great appreciation for mathematics’ dramatic resonance and poetic potential. When she learned how to find the solution to a system, she said that that would be a great name for a band. Frequently she remarked that new concepts we were going over would make the premise for a great science fiction story.

Her gleeful excitement about the greater meaning of what she was learning seemed to help her take the tough stuff more in stride, because even the “annoying” math procedures were part of something that was exciting to her.

Parental backup. The best tutoring happens when everyone works together as a team, and this student’s mom was totally focused on the process of learning. She made sure that her daughter completed assignments in between sessions (especially important during the summer). She asked me thoughtful questions about the material and her daughter’s progress that showed me she herself was deeply engaged with her daughter’s math material.

Because she was so organized and also willing to re-learn math and ask questions about the parts she wasn’t sure about, she was also a great role model to her daughter. Her involvement and support was instrumental in her daughter’s success.

I was so thrilled to hear that this student had rocked her placement test and placed into honors! Hooray!

***Update: I just found out today (12/7/2011) that my student got an A for the trimester in her honors math course! I love it when students become completely self-sufficient and continue to succeed after they “graduate” from tutoring. Hooray!!

Related posts:
The Rhyme and Reason of Making Mistakes
Five fun ways to help your kid learn math this summer
Case Study: An ADHD Student Raises Her Grade from a D to an A
Case Study: Regaining Love of Math

Posts Tagged as "7th grade"

Case Study: A Seventh Grader goes From “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents

Monday, June 13th, 2011

When this seventh-grader started math tutoring, she felt like she didn’t always “get” math, and the curriculum at her school wasn’t always totally connecting with her brain.

After about eight weeks together, she earned a 100% on a test, and her teacher sent her parents a note that she was doing really well and really seemed to be understanding the concepts in class.  After about six months of tutoring together, she just finished up the school year making more 100% percents on her tests!

Here’s how we did it:

Fill in the gaps. Algebra builds on everything that comes before, and a lot of 7th graders struggle with algebra because they still feel shaky about decimals, fractions, and other prerequisites. Whenever we found a gap – like when she told me she’d rather convert fractions to decimals whenever possible – we’d go back to where it started to get murky and then work step-by-step through many practice problems until she had mastered the material and filled in the gap.  She also learned fun songs for all of the times tables to feel more secure with those foundational math facts.

Customize: make it visual. This student seemed to get a lot out of seeing the math.  When we went over decimals, we used grids to show how multiple decimals can add up to wholes.  When reviewing fractions, we would divide a square into parts to make the concept visual and concrete.  When her class started working on adding and subtracting negative numbers, we spent a lot of time using a number line to practice this.  Making it visual made the material less abstract and more clear (and also more fun).

Practice. Everyone needs to practice challenging material until you internalize it.  When she had questions about the material from class, we’d do lots of extra practice problems I’d make up for her on the spot.

For example, when she started working on order of operations problems, I’d create progressively more elaborate order of operations problems for her to practice.  This way all the steps became automatic—no more second-guessing or feeling confused.

Extend. If we had extra time, we’d do more problems based on what she was doing in class, but take it to the next level.  I frequently asked her to create her own problems and was delighted to see that a lot of the time, the problems she made up were harder than the ones I made up for her – because she wanted to make it even more interesting!

I believe creating her own problems helped her feel like math was something that belonged to her, something that she could create, instead of a bunch of impersonal, arbitrary problems from a textbook.

Preview. This same principle of taking it to the next level meant that sometimes, instead of encountering a challenging new concept for the first time in class, we got to introduce it and explore it one-on-one.  Then, once it came up in class, this same student who used to feel like she “didn’t get it” knew exactly what was going on.

Immediate feedback. Throughout our work together, she got immediate feedback on whether or not she was doing the problems correctly.  This nipped potentially bad habits in the bud and also meant that she could learn the material right the first time without feeling disoriented.

Immediate feedback also meant that when she started to feel frustrated, we would talk about it, take a big deep yoga breath, and clear the air, which made her effort much more productive.

Working with this student was a great pleasure because she did such a good job of communicating what she wanted to work on and what she did and didn’t understand.  Because of her hard work, persistence, and open mind, she finished her year earning 100 percents!

Related posts:

Case Study: An ADHD student raises her grade from a D to an A
Case Study: Confused by math instruction in a foreign language
Case Study: Regaining love of math