I am currently teaching a high-school student, 1st grade Social Science. He is weak in mathematics. My initial strategy was to explain basic concept but with high repetitions, so that he can have a strong foundation. Initially, I gave "Solving 1 Variable Linear Equations".

It has been 4 months (2 hours a week in 1 day), and we have discussed up to "Solving Inequalities with Square Roots: $\sqrt{2x-3} = x + 1$... etc." Until recently, I give him an easy problem of solving 1 variable lin.eqn, which we have discussed many times before, and he still has not got strong understanding of the concept. He keeps asking easy stuffs like : "$-2 + -4 = -6$.. right?" or "$2 + x = 3(\frac{x}{2} + 3) \implies x = 3(\frac{x}{2} + 3 - 2)$...right?".

How to solve this problem?

What I have tried:

  • Using markers with different colors to indicate different terms so that the written solution looks clearer.

  • Told him to become independent with respect to me as tutor. To get used to mathematics and read the book.

  • Repeat exercises of basic concept (1 var. linear equation) many times.

  • I also often give extra hours.. (up to 3 at most)


  • He is improving, but not enough to get good marks (or even average). If I continue the method, there could be two possibilities : either he will be good in the long term, or... not.

  • But still does not show good understanding of the concept. Very stiff, it seems that he thinks mathematics as instructions that have to be memorized.

Particular Questions:

  • Should I go back to the very basics, teaching arithmetics, understand brackets, etc..? What book or article is good for this..?

  • From my experience, I understand mathematics not through tutors but by reading math books. So, is it better to teach the student: how to read math books?


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    $\begingroup$ "−2+−4=−6.. right?" -- which is right. But I see you mentioning the constant need for reassurance, which may be caused by the pedagogy and by the fact that many schools simply have no textbooks to flip back some pages to find needed info. These students are not used to work with textbooks. This is an acquired skill. $\endgroup$ – Rusty Core Nov 30 '18 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How to teach a student algebra who misses too much previous knowledge? $\endgroup$ – shoover Nov 30 '18 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ Can you say a bit more about your specific context? I'm not sure what "1st grade social science" is. $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Nov 30 '18 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ For single variable solving, the key is to do it mechanically, in same order (group/add/divide or whatever) and always showing all the steps and painfully doing same thing on each side (NOT moving something from one side to the other but adding or subracting same amount to allow a cancelation). The problem is you smart people assume everyone is like you and don't realize some of us dummies need things to be more mechanical. Especially at first, gaining familiarity. $\endgroup$ – guest Nov 30 '18 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @RustyCore and guest, could you post answers, also? $\endgroup$ – Tommi Dec 2 '18 at 8:48

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