Can We Talk About This?

Whenever I read math teaching blogs, Twitter, or whatever else on the internet, I find awesome ideas. Ways to integrate technology and digital media into the classroom, great activities, techniques for promoting understanding, great open-ended tasks. So much more. It’s really awesome, I love it, and I try to communicate what knowledge I have.

I have a student who, about several times in the last two weeks, was taking apart his pencil instead of (insert math I asked him to do here). Today, he was playing with his watch. Other times, it seems like he’s trying hard to look engaged, but he’s producing little to nothing intellectually. One time, on a sheet of 5 word problems I asked him to try, he circled the numbers and underlined the questions — neatly, but slowly — on all five questions. Turned out he had no idea what to do on any of them, and had no interest in getting my help. He is often very engaged in doodling on the wrong page of a handout. He does his homework every night, although the quality is pretty low.

It doesn’t seem helpful to sit here and complain about him. I want him to learn math, and while I’ve tried tutoring, individual check-ins, and phone calls, I’ve been unsuccessful, and he’s not the only one. How can I help him? I mean, obviously, he’s unique, but so is everything else that teachers experience in their classrooms — there must be some language or set of tools that can be shared to transfer knowledge on this topic.

Why aren’t more of these conversations happening?
Are they harder to have than conversations about the best task to teach linear equations? Why?
Are there effective, transferable teaching strategies for students like this one that aren’t being shared? What are they?

3 thoughts on “Can We Talk About This?

  1. Kate nerdypoo

    The first thing I’d do is find out of he’s doing these kinds of things in other classes. Questions that immediately pop into my mind are:
    1) can he read?
    2) does he have some sort of spectrum disorder?
    3) what did he do in his previous math classes?
    4) is there something personal going on?

    I’d invite him to meet you after class to do some problems together and try to ascertain whether he’s doing this because he doesn’t want to do the math or because he’s unable to do so.

  2. Pingback: The MTBoS and Special Teachers | Five Twelve Thirteen

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