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Jimmy Buffett Summarizes Most Students’ View of Math

by Lisa Goldin

As singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett says in his song, “Math Sucks:”

The numbers come together in some kind of third dimension
A regular algebraic bliss.
Let's start with something simple
Like one and one ain't three
And two plus two will never get you five
There's fractions in my subtraction
And X don't equal Y
But my homework is bound to multiply

Many people share his feelings, but it does not have to be that way. In fact, most frustrations about math are centered on a resistance to attempt problems and expand the students’ minds. There are actually many math strategies that will improve your math scores. The Top 7 include:

Stop memorizing and find the path to understanding.
Math is an active sport, not for the sideline fan.
Practice, practice, practice.
Get additional exercises.
Find a study buddy.
Explain and question.
Phone a friend.

Stop Memorizing – Too often in math, students will try to memorize the information instead of reaching a level of understanding. The learner should look for the why not just the how. When working a long division problem of 73 divided by 3, we generally say “How many times does 3 go into 7?” But to understand the concept, we would look at putting 70 into 3 groups. After all, 7 represents 70 or 7 tens. The understanding in this question really has little to do with how many times 3 goes into 7, but rather how many are in the group of three when you share the 73 into 3 groups. Three going into 7 is merely a shortcut. Putting 73 into 3 groups means understanding.

Join in the game; don't just be a spectator – Math is not something that is “given to you.” You cannot learn math by absorbing the information; you must become the intensive participant. Try to make connections in math; many of the concepts in math are related and connected. The more connections you can make, the greater the understanding will be. Math concepts flow through levels of difficulty, start from where you are and move forward to the more difficult levels only when understanding is in place. Find internet sites that allow you to participate. You do not need to be good at the beginning, but with practice comes mastery.

Practice, Practice, Practice – This is self-explanatory. It’s actually similar to sports. If the quarter of the football team did not show up for practice for the entire week and then showed up for the big game, he would not be mentally or physically ready to play. The same holds true about math. Daily practice conditions the thinker and prepares you for the assessment.

Additional Exercise – This is similar to practice. There is no limitation to the number of problems that one should do. Students should work problems until they have a clear understanding of the concepts and process. Not all students learn at the same rate, so the assigned problems are a guideline but not a limitation. 

Find a Study Buddy – Often times, when a student explains to another why he or she understands a problem, the other student will have better level of understanding. Working in pairs or small groups can help to clarify concepts and increase understanding. 

Explain and Question – Teach and explain the concept. Younger students like to play “school,” and studies actually show that explaining and teaching concepts increase the level of learning. Continuing this practice of teaching others increases one’s ability to retain and understand the information. Students are encouraged to teach concepts to others. If there is no one to teach, then the student should at least explain the concepts in a journal.

Phone a Friend – Find help when you are stuck. Do not let yourself get frustrated. Call a friend or teacher and ask for help.

Other helpful resources include:

Learn the timetables in 21 days:

Long Division basics:

Strategies for solving word problems:

Help in solving problems:

Assessments: Don't Panic! by Lisa Goldin

Our new year has begun with high hopes and even higher expectations. Each year, students enter the classroom with visions of a clean slate and high expectations. During the first few weeks, one grade can cause panic in parents and derail a student’s confidence. 

While we encourage parents to monitor their child’s performance, it is essential not to overreact to one low grade. A missed assignment or low homework grade can deflate the overall class grade since there is no test or quiz grade that would show a more accurate reflection of the students work. These early grades fluctuate and are a part of the learning process.Students learn from their mistakes and these formative assessment grades are great ways for students to demonstrate misunderstandings of the material presented and to work with teachers to fill in some gaps. 

At Darlington, we encourage our teachers to use a variety of assessment instruments. Formative assessments may include homework, quizzes or other assessments. These generally do not significantly impact the final grade, but allow the teacher to discern if the student did comprehend the material presented. Teachers use these formative assessments to guide instruction. The summative assessment can be a unit test, project or other cumulative assessment. These summative assessments impact the grade significantly. The ultimate goal of a teacher is to identify gaps of knowledge in each student and then guide each student to a better understanding of the material. 

Each class should have numerous formative assessments and few summative assessments. Much work should be done through a partnership between students and teachers to identify areas that need further explanation and understanding. Communication between the two should occur often. Each student should use the formative assessment as tools to begin conversations with teachers. In an effort to teach self-advocacy, we encourage all students to request a meeting with teachers during office hours to discuss a low formative assessment grade. This will allow the student to practice skills necessary for college and life. 

Early low grades are always of concern, but should not be a cause for panic. Students should use each grade as an indicator of the material understood and should communicate with their teachers to identify ways that they can learn the material better or study the information. If a student continues to struggle with study skills, then they can contact the Teaching and Learning Center for suggestions on better study ideas. Remember that academics are a marathon, not a sprint and there will be bumps along the way. The path to success has some challenges, but these early assessments help to build the foundation for future success.

​​Apps That Help Students With ADHD & Executive Dysfunction1/16/2014 8:35:00 AM, 1,092 views
Parents often ask me what apps are available for students and adults with ADHD and/or executive dysfunction. I have researched many sites that recommend different apps. Here is a summary of what I have found and have begun to use with students that are experiencing academic difficulties due to ADHD.

Organizational struggles: Many students with ADHD and executive function disorder have trouble planning and meeting goals and objectives. If you or someone you know struggles with meeting goals, then try EpicWin. It is a cross between a digital organizer and a role-playing video game. Younger students can use this game-like app and build skills that can be applied to life.

Staying on task: Many students work better with time limits and organized tasks. Task Timer is an app that helps keep students on task and by showing time elapsed and time remaining. It also includes breaks and has a reminder to stay on task. 

Completion of activities: Students and adults with ADHD need motivation to complete routine tasks. Once the tasks are completed, the student feels better and the task becomes automatic. Additionally, students need rewards to extinguish undesirable activities. Using iRewardChart will allow you to list chores or behavior goals and track your child's progress. This app is a visual representation of the paper charts that were formerly used by students and teachers.

Losing papers, notes, homework and everything: Many students have trouble getting and keeping everything together. One solution is Evernote. Students using Evernote can store text, photos and audio notes on their Macbook, iPad, iPhone or other devices. The notebook syncs together so you can use any device and have all of the information at your fingertips. Students can scan tests, reviews or other documents and send them to their electronic notebook. They can retrieve information and study anywhere. Evernote also allows students to record class information and listen later. In addition, iPad or iPhones can take a picture of notes on the board and file them in the class notebook. At the premium level, notebooks can be shared among students so that they can edit each other’s notes. It is a great repository for all class information. 

These are just a few of the many apps that can help keep students who have ADHD and executive dysfunction more organized. If you have any questions about how to use these, Darlington’s IT department and the staff of the Teaching and Learning Center are happy to help. We encourage students to try Evernote and use it daily to make sure that they are comfortable using it. Digital notebooks can benefit students significantly.