February 7, 2019

My 8-Week Challenge - Part 2

This is a follow-up to an earlier post I wrote titled "My Perpetual 8-Week Challenge".  I teach at a large local community college and two of the classes I am teaching this semester are 8-Week arithmetic classes to adult learners.  In my original post, I shared the responses many of my students gave about their mathematical background.  The common theme among their responses was a feeling that they had "struggled" with math most of their life.

My goal is to assist these students in overcoming their previous struggles by helping them understand basic mathematical concepts.   I want them to gain
confidence in their mathematical and problem-solving abilities.  And, I hope to have them well-prepared for their developmental algebra class that begins in just a few weeks.  That's a LOT to accomplish in the 23 class sessions we have to work with during the semester!

Patience, hands-on activities, and carefully planned Lessons help them develop a more positive attitude towards math.  I am the author of the curriculum we use in the arithmetic class.  I wrote the first edition of the work-text in 2010 and have been updating and revising it regularly.  We are currently working out of the 7th Edition.  I designed the curriculum to be very non-traditional, with lots of hands-on activities to help demonstrate the concepts of fractions, decimals, and integers.  (Why keep using the same methods that haven't worked for these students in the past?)

To assist in the learning process, we have worked with Fraction Tiles, Base-Ten Pieces, number lines, and decimal grid models.  At this point in the semester, we have completed 17 Lessons.  This includes:

  • 5 Lessons about Place Value and Regrouping Numbers
  • 3 Lessons about Addition and Addition Strategies
  • 2 Lessons about Subtraction and Subtraction Strategies
  • 5 Lessons about Fractions and Adding Like Fractions
  • 1 Lesson about Integers
  • 1 Lesson about Decimals

As I predicted in the first post, now is the time in the semester when my students have started settling in and feel more comfortable with their mathematical learning environment.  Every semester, I hear similar statements to the one a students made yesterday during class.  At the end of our Decimal Lesson, she said "I thought my English class would be my favorite class this semester and Math would be my least favorite class.  But actually it is the other way around, I LIKE MATH THE BEST!"  Several others spoke up and said they like this class better than their previous math classes because we take the time to UNDERSTAND the concepts in this class and we don't rush through the material.

(Illustration created by Sarah Pecorino Illustration)

I always feel a GREAT sense of accomplishment when students express such positive feelings about the class and math in general.  I LOVE being able to help students overcome their past struggles with arithmetic and guiding them towards a more positive mathematical future.

We only have five more weeks remaining in our 8-Week journey.  I am pleased with our progress to-date, but we have much more learning to accomplish!

Happy teaching,
Janet Mitchell

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