Archives for Teaching

Education

For Better Student Writing, Reading Comprehension And Thinking: Teach Conjunctions

And, but, when, although and because are some of the most common conjunctions. We hear and read them all the time, yet many students don't use conjunctions in their writing, sticking instead to only the simplest of sentence forms and producing essays full of short, vapid, disconnected thoughts. Conjunctions join words or groups of words to express more complex thoughts. Without conjunctions, writers can only create very simple sentences. Adults may be surprised to learn that many students need to be taught what each conjunction means and how to use it.
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General

How To Help Kids Make Knowledge Stick

Kids tend to under-prepare for tests and be overly optimistic about the quality of their writing, and parents may suspect laziness or lack of motivation. However, much of the problem can be the student's fuzzy sense of what "knowing the material" means or what "a good essay" is. The ability to "know what you know" is called metacognition, and it's one of the big developmental tasks for maturing students. The younger the student, the less perspective they have on their own knowledge.   Here are some ways adults can help young learners develop their logic and make sense of the world around them:
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General

Pythagorean Pitfalls: Help for Math Students

As I go on my tutoring rounds, I wind up reteaching and clarifying the same material over and over. Certain topics and concepts are just plain hard for students to wrap their heads around. Many kids in grades 6-10 are currently covering Pythagorean Theorem or other geometry topics, and many are struggling (as usual!) with the word problems. If you are a parent, thinking Yipes ! I don't remember Pythagorean Theorem, the good news is that most students find the actual formula pretty do-able. But, they need help in reading the problem and drawing the diagram. Here's a sample problem from one textbook:
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Education

Ratios Are Hard For Student Brains To Learn

Right now, algebra students are studying unit rates, proportions and dimensional analysis. Geometry students are working on similar figures and triangle proportionality theorems. All of these topics are hard for the same reason: They involve ratios, which may seem easy for adults but are actually deeply challenging for the learning brain to grasp. A ratio is the comparison of two numbers, usually using a fraction bar. If there are two dogs and three cats in a room, I could write that the ratio of dogs to cats is 2/3. Like so many things (reading, driving), ratios become second nature with enough practice, and people lose touch with how difficult they were to learn. And like reading and driving, ratios are hard for the brain because they involve simultaneity of thought. The brain is required to multi-task; it must think about the 2 dogs while at the same time thinking about the 3 cats.
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General

Tests Are Valuable Learning Tools

When students get a test back, they typically glance at the grade and then stuff the test in their backpack, never to think about it again (unless, of course, the test has a refrigerator-worthy high score). Meanwhile, teachers invest time and effort making careful corrections and thoughtful comments. This feedback is meant to help kids learn and improve. Reviewing test results with students and helping kids digest the information is an important part of what we tutors do, and parents can do the same.
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Education

Rounding Up Three More Usual Math Suspects

We tutors get an interesting perspective into students' math struggles. We find ourselves reteaching the same concepts over and over, to students from 5th through 12th grade.

The human brain has a hard time grasping and retaining certain kinds of information. Terminology is especially hard, which is why you will notice that my Usual Math Suspects List comprises mostly math words and the procedures these words are meant to trigger.

Parents need to realize...
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Education

Is Math Acceleration A Good Idea?

Way back when I was in school, Algebra I was considered a ninth grade course, and it was only a handful of "honors" kids who took it as eighth graders.

Since then, there's been a trend towards introducing algebra material to younger and younger students, in the hopes that by getting them primed earlier for algebraic thinking and giving them more years of algebra instruction, more students...
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