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What are your math tips for students who are enrolled in algebra and calculus classes?

Too many students of all ages struggle with math. I have discovered that math is the foundation for success in many professions. We need to all do our part to help students to succeed in math course. What are your tips for students who are enrolled in algebra and calculus classes? Do I have your permission to share your tips with students? Your tips can make a difference.

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Comment by Jennifer Lawler on November 19, 2009 at 2:29pm
As a former high school math teacher, I can tell you with great certaintly that the key to success in any math class is practice, practice, practice, and this means doing homework. Not just once in a while, not just a few of the problems until you think you understand it, but every problem, on every assignment. Even if students don't think they know how to do a problem, they should at least attempt it. Often they have resources like class notes or a textbook that they can use to help them figure it out. Please share this with students.
Comment by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro on November 12, 2009 at 6:12pm
In my opinion math, being the language of the sciences (and business too), is the most critical curriculum taught (outside of basic reading and writing) because success in so many areas is dependent upon knowing math (at least through and including algebra). Like reading, learning in this area is cumulative. You can't just skip something and move ahead... If you miss something you will have problems later on. Thus, it is absolutely critical to be sure students have learned material before moving on... Students need to check to be sure they fully understand material very frequently. They need to visit teachers and get all the help they need to understand material daily. They need to manage their learning. Falling behind is just not acceptable.

I would highly recommend an exam for students to be sure they are ready for Algebra (and Calculus) months before the class starts (say in April or May)... so there is time to catch up on gaps... Also, teachers should review with students who are not doing well their learning management strategy.

Some students, in my opinion, are taught that they can't do math (the old "girls are not good at math"). I would recommend a course explaining conditioning, paired associate learning, etc. to these students to help them overcome this learning (or perhaps fear) months before algebra.

Let me know if I can be of further help.

Comment by Scott Habeeb on November 11, 2009 at 9:37pm
I think Assessment FOR Learning strategies work great in Math classes. Math is a skill that requires practice. Too often, though, the practice gets graded too much. The low "practice" grades then get added in with the summative grade (which tends to demonstrate understanding better than practice) which can then means the final grade doesn't actually represent mastery. When students earn low grades they begin to view the subject as too hard and are less inclined to see a benefit for their effort. This is a shame in any class, but especially one that requires effort at practicing the way Math does. Students' practice should not get in the way of their learning or in the way of earning a grade that represents mastery.

Click here to see a video illustrating my point.

Think about homework, classwork, and quizzes as practice. Practice is important, but too often the final grade is determined too much by practice. For a humorous look at this idea of grading practice too much, click here.

For more on Assessment FOR Learning visit

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