Tutoring Ricky

On Kitchen Table Math, RightWingProf writes about the eighth-grade boy who he’s tutoring in math.

Ricky enjoys learning, and is naturally curious. He’s like a knowledge sponge. When I started working with him, he couldn’t tell me what 16-9 was without reaching for his calculator. He had no mastery of basic operations, so that’s what we did. He resisted at first (why do I have to do this when I can use my calculator?) but now that he has that information mastered, he can do things like basic algebra much more quickly and effortlessly, and he understands now.

Ricky’s math class is disorganized, writes the prof. Everything is “covered,” but nothing is taught.

They hop from topic to topic weekly, with no logical progression from topic to topic (for example, going from simple linear equations to probability — and why they’re doing probability in the 8th grade, I do not understand). They don’t spend enough time on one topic to actually learn it, nor do they cover any topic to any depth, which makes no sense to me. The first thing on the list when they go back after break is limits — why would 8th graders be doing limits when they don’t understand basic fractions? Why would 8th graders be doing limits even if they did understand basic fractions?

Homework “reviews” topics that haven’t been taught in class, leaving Ricky baffled. He couldn’t do long division.

He’d never seen anybody do long division, nor did he understand factoring. I asked him if his teacher had shown them how to do this, and he said no — which normally I would take with a grain of salt, had I not seen so much disorganized nonsense already. He said she sent it home with this — and he dug out another worksheet, a “how to” sheet on long division. He’s in the 8th grade.

Ricky is the son of PhD-holding parents, but he is not able to figure out math on his own.

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