38

When I'm the instructor for the course, I remind them of the time and location of my office hours by writing it on the board at the beginning of every lecture (if you're not the instructor, you can ask the instructor to do this). It sounds like overkill, but in my experience part of the reason students don't attend office hours is because it's just not a ...


23

There are several possible explanations. Without much more information, it is impossible to give a clear-cut answer. Perhaps your student is able to "read" your unconcisious reactions very well, and you are telegraphing the solution. Some people just go blank in stressful situations, like an exam (you say it's not the case, but it might be anyway)....


22

A lot of students seem to make it through high school and well into college with the idea that school is supposed to be easy, and that having to work hard, or being confused at times, or struggling with some topics means that something has gone wrong. This is nonsense. Struggling with material is a normal part of learning. Indeed, it's an essential part of ...


22

Ask the student to "talk through" their calculations Having a student verbalize their calculation may force them to pay more attention (or a different kind of attention) to their work that causes them to catch the errors as they make them. This feels very related to rubber duck debugging. At the very least, if you're working with a student one-on-...


18

It has been nearly a year now since I've made this question, and I think I've discovered a 'magical cure'. This one simple trick has worked for all of my classes with great success (I am feeling more like a scam-advertisement as I am typing this), though I admit I don't fully understand why it works so well, though I do have theories. Simply kneel down ...


17

When I teach courses, I usually see the majority of my students in office hours at least once a week. Here are some strategies for promoting office hours: Get a room. My office isn't nearly large enough to accommodate 10 students, and students who have to wait outside don't feel welcome. By reserving a classroom or other large room, I make sure there's ...


16

As a TA, attend one of the class sessions and personally advertise your office hours. If the students see you in person, they may be more willing to come to you with questions. Also making yourself available outside of normal/regular office hours, giving them your email, and generally making yourself more approachable are all things you can do. I feel like ...


15

Here is an example from an algebra class I teach. We cover the quadratic formula, completing the square, the multiple ways to find the vertex, and try to connect it all together with the effects on the graph of the functions. In practice problems from the online homework, the students see things like Solve $x^2 - 9x + 18 = 0$. However, when I ask them to ...


14

I used to have this problem. What helps me more than anything is: Solve it two different ways if you can and make sure they agree If you are finding a general formula, test it on some examples If neither of the above are possible, re-read every step of your work with an attitude like it's trying to sell you a used car. Adopt the useful exaggeration that ...


13

Summary: Favorite options "approximate" grade breakdown (no mean, median, or standard deviation, so there is no comparison to other students, this doesn't necessarily mean fixed grading) no information at all (note at many institutions this might actually be bad. Please see the answer to a related question by AndrewC for a full explanation about how this ...


12

I've personally stopped giving the mean entirely, because it almost always gives an incorrect perception to students. Since the distribution is almost always skewed by very low-scoring outliers, the mean incorrectly tells more than half of the class that they are above-average. I'd argue that giving a measure of central tendency at all sends a fundamentally ...


12

When I was a calculus TA last semester, I was able to recruit tons of students to my office hours. Here are some tips: Hold test reviews just before midterms/finals. These were my best attended hours! Also, some students who came to these started coming to other office hours later in the semester. At your test reviews, provide materials for the students to ...


12

If you want to rely on things convered in other course, one thing I think you should try to do is to get information from the teachers of these other courses what they have discussed; if possible, in detail, so that you know exact terminology and notation they use. In my experience (both as teacher and student!), students can be (for various reasons) quite ...


12

The inabilities described in the question don't strike me as either particularly unusual nor as clear signs of a neurological learning disability. They strike me as more likely the passivity and mental shutdown that one frequently encounters in students who, whether consciously or unconsciously, are hiding a sense of incapacity, inability, confusion, etc. ...


12

If you are a private tutor, hired by an undergrad or adult student, or hired by the parents of a student in 6-12 (middle school/high-school), then I'd suggest that when you meet with a "client" as a potential tutor, that you develop a contract with the student and/or parents to make clear your expectations: what is the minimum level of participation/effort ...


11

This is not an answer, but an assertion that what you are experiencing is not something new. Here are some quotes from a 1993 article of a Russian (actually, native Estonian) math prof, who moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s, so the problem is at least thirty years old. Some say that the commoditization of universities started from the Reagan times. This ...


10

Weaker students need drill and rote. Make flashcards and drill the heck out of him. That will help him more than any kind of detailed explanations or motivation talks. Just treat it like a sports practice and drill, drill, drill. As he starts to master the drill, that will help him to become more confident (justifiably). You need to be less of a ...


9

I don't know how feasible this is or what kind of resources you have, but try finding a balance scale, some standard weights, and a collection of identical objects. You can set up the scale to represent a problem and ask the student to determine the unknown weight. The only rule is that the scale can never become unbalanced in the process (i.e. what they do ...


9

Have you considered using a more modern solution? They might be busy, embarassed, or don't want to walk to campus again. A few ideas: Instead of having them come to you, what about having electronic office hours? Use screen share on Skype, along with a pen input device, to go through problems. They can tell you which problems they missed in chat. Ask ...


9

I hope this answer isn't too short, but nobody else has yet mentioned one of the most obvious reasons why students won't seek extra help. They may be afraid that if they turn up and ask basic questions, then you, the instructor, will realise just how bad they are, and this will affect their final degree result. You could try to counter this belief ...


9

One thing I have done is to have taken the courses I have helped with (Teaching Assistant, Course Assistant, Research Assistant, Instructor) very seriously. A summary of my approach to TAing and office hours (your "go-to weapon") can be found in an earlier MESE post here. Of the approaches mentioned there, one that I would like to re-emphasize here is the ...


9

It sounds like he is not prepared for a course in Calculus. I would encourage him to go back and retake College Algebra which reinforces factoring and canceling out terms. Sadly, it is going to be an uphill battle for someone in a Calculus course that makes mistakes that most Algebra 1 students don't make. When my students make these mistakes, the only ...


9

This is how most students perceive math tests. Whether it's fair or not, this is the perception and it is the normal response to a broken math education system. Imagine you are a teenager and your driving test for your full license is in a week. The Department of Motor Vehicles is massively understaffed, so if you fail, you can't book another test for a ...


9

Empty praise is no good Do not give praise when it is not deserved. It is not healthy and does not lead to stronger character or anything else good. Tasks with no wrong answer Maybe, and I am guessing here, the pupil reacts badly to being shown inadequate. Maybe mathematics has always been a subject full of right/wrong -type exercises: you either get it or ...


9

Intense emotions surrounding math are not uncommon. Importantly, they tend to "feed back" on themselves - the memory of a bad experience with math makes doing math more stressful later, which then creates new bad experiences. So, taking action sooner rather than later will help immensely. Here are some suggestions. There's no such thing as being ...


8

I tell the students the mean, standard deviation, and maximum. The mean and standard deviation, because they are the most statistically useful. (The median would be useful too, but it's unclear how it interacts with the standard deviation, and sharing both the mean and median might be confusing to some students.) The maximum, because I think the students ...


8

Henry is completely right that what your struggle is normal. I want to add that your reaction to it extremely positive. Keep doing what you are doing! Knowledge cannot be directly transmitted from your teacher's head to yours; it must be translated into a communication medium such as words or pictures. There is always something lost in this process. That is ...


8

I find class voting/clickers a good way to get students used to thinking about conceptual stuff. In fact, I often frame my lectures around three progressively more challenging conceptual questions. Sometimes I write my own, but here and here are some models of good, interesting questions. For a good overview of the depth of learning that can come from ...


8

I do not specialize in learning disabilities, but it's possible that your student has dyscalculia. From Wikipedia: Dyscalculia is difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics. It is generally seen as the mathematical equivalent to ...


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