37

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 ...


21

I spent some time looking for information that might provide some kind of reliable, evidence-based answer to my own question. I came up with the following, which is not perfect, but I thought it would be worth posting as an answer. I tried two methods of probing this: standardized test scores of students with high socioeconomic status (SES), and heritability ...


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 ...


13

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 ...


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 ...


13

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 ...


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

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. ...


11

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 ...


11

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 ...


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 ...


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

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 ...


7

Some people use a fixed grading scale, while others determine ad hoc cut-offs for an A, a B, etc. I use a fixed grading scale: 80%=A, 69%=B, 58%=C. Since the scale is fixed, there is no reason that a particular student needs to know how the other students are doing. For people who use ad hoc cut-offs, I can see why it makes sense to tell students what the ...


7

If they don't come to the office, move the office to where they are. As a TA, I used to go to the department's library during the time I knew my students will be there, working on my next assignment, and engage in some light reading (say, the latest issue of my favorite math journal). Pretty soon, someone will be over with "Sorry to interrupt, do you have ...


7

I have TAed several content courses for graduate students in mathematics education. In this respect, my interactions with students may differ from the scenarios faced by others who have served as Teaching Assistants, e.g., for undergraduate mathematics students/majors taking Calculus. (The courses I have TAed: Abstract Algebra, Problem Posing, Problem ...


7

I'd like to add a suggestion on location. I currently hold my office hours in one of the student cafés. When I had students from a particular program and those students had a common room, then I held them in a corner of that room. The idea there is to go where the students are. It can take a bit of courage to go to a lecturer's office, particularly if it ...


7

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 ...


7

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 ...


6

Give frequent quizzes. When I say frequent, I mean every day. The quizzes should be very brief: one basic problem from the lesson of the previous day. The grading will not be too onerous if the quiz has just one basic problem. Give the quiz at the start of class, after briefly answering questions. Make the point value of the quizzes very small. Drop ...


6

TL;DR: Make the rest of the course so interesting that the office hours will become appealing, too; or incidentally make yourself a very good viral advertisement. Not being a teacher I can only give account on what motivated me in my student years to go and see my prof/TA during office hours. Now I wish I had used the oportunity far more foten, but hey, ...


6

When dealing with students, especially more quiet and private ones, the most important thing is to build some sense of trust before trying to breach things that make them uncomfortable. If you just outright go up to them and tell them to show their work to you because you are the teacher it will only make them more uncomfortable and less likely to want to ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible