Use Freefind to search this site (or the web)
Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Teaching Remedial Students

Cross posted at blueollie:

At my university, we have a special class called "Calculus with review". What we do is we take our standard first semester science/engineering major calculus class and split it into two semesters and cover the material at half speed. The students who take this are those who don't do well on our placement tests or who have low (for us) entrance exam scores.
We really hit the algebra hard during this course. Now, some students are doing well; I have an unusual number of A's so far (3 out of 28 starters). Others have had to drop. Many have told me that they have grossly understudied so far.
The real trouble that we have in this class are with the students who claim to have taken a calculus course in high school (and have gotten an A or B!). I had the following conversation with a student this morning (who asked me if she could still pass; she got a 38 out of 100 on the last exam): "but I understand this stuff; I just can't answer your questions." I laughed and said "that is like saying, 'I know how to swim, but when I get in the pool I drown.' If you understand it, you can do it." She exclaimed "that's not true!"
This person just hasn't grasped that they don't know what they are doing; evidently their high school grade gave this student an overinflated opinion of where they are, in terms of mathematical ability.
I suppose it is a fine line between trying to build a student's confidence and being realistic; what this student doesn't want to accept is that he/she is going to have to work very very hard just to achieve at an average level; the current attitude seems to be "hey, I am bright so if I have to work hard just to get a C, then something is wrong with the course or my professor."
So, I have to find a nice way of saying: "this course is designed for people who are better prepared and more talented than you are. Therefore if you don't work your rear end off, you are doomed to fail. Forget what you were told; you have an inflated opinion about your current abilities."
I had another interesting conversation with a student; this person wanted to know why they got no credit on a problem. The problem said something like:
"if y = (x^2 + 3x + 1/x)/x, then y' = He wrote: y = x + 3 + 1/x^2 and then circled his answer.
I said: ok, the problem told you to differentiate, right? He read the problem and nodded his head. Then I said: "ok, where did you differentiate?" He looked open mouthed and slinked away.
The problem was is that he was so sure that I had shorted him; this kid has had an attitude for the whole semester. He is another one who has an inflated self image.
I think that what we have to work toward is an attitude of "yes, you are smart enough to be successful, IF you are humble enough to do what you are told and IF you work hard. Your success is far from guaranteed; this is a very conditional sort of thing!""

I posted the above at I recieved the following comment, which is hysterical:

"When I was a graduate student in physics, we were required to spend 1 hr per week in the "study hall" for the physics undergraduate students. I was trying to help a student who was in the honors program with a simple electrostatics problem. It was a line charge, so he had to integrate dx/x. He couldn't do the integral! But he didn't think that was a big deal. He told me that his high school calculus class they had used Maple for everything, so he was used to just typing stuff in.
But, my best story was from tutoring. I had this student, who by the way she dressed, came from some money. She wasn't great at physics, but she wa a hard working student. I always forced them to do the algebra 1st, then substitute in numbers at the end. So we get to the "numbers part", and she reaches for the calculator. I say: "you can do that may w/o a calculator."
She says: "I always use a calculator for math."
I say: "But what do you do when your shopping & the tag says 25% off and you have to figure out the price?"
She deadpans: "I never look at prices, I just buy what I want."
Silence. I deadpan: "I'm not charging enough am I" "


Post a Comment

<< Home

View Counter Statsfree hit counter
frontline plus