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Negative Talk May Harm Motivation
In a 1988 junior college mathematics course, I found myself facing a student whose aim in my class to obtain the borderline mark of 60% to pass. In challenging his lack of effort directly and trying to explain why he needed to study mathematics for his future plans to become a police officer, I found that I was the first to confront him on his lack of will and effort and that his mother had said mathematics after arithmetic was a waste of time.
The latter remark is understandable. In course design and delivery reaps what it has sown. For too many years, secondary mathematics in covering mathematics after arithmetic has had technical difficulties in introducing algebra. Secondary mathematics has immersed students in skills and concepts whose presentation when done well may be algebraically and logically correct, but whose presentation is unclear because of a lack of systematic development of algebraic and logical skills. For many students and many of their mathematics teachers, many unversed in mathematics, the sole apparent reason for skill and concept mastery is preparation for the next final examination. Year after year, decade after decade, The latter has left a poor impression of mathematics education on high school leavers and graduates - the parents of today's high school and college students included. So aversion to mathematics may be inherited. Site ideas on emphasizing skills and practices with clearer value for adult and daily life may ease or remove that aversion and lack of context for mathematics education.
For Positive and Active Learnings
Talk to your children and teens. Ask them about their school days. See if they are passive learners - working to rule - doing the least amount possible, or opposing their own instruction. Regardless, encourage your offspring to be positive, independent, self-directed learners, learners actively and deliberately seeking to obtain and perfect skills and knowledge - alone or with help from readings, tutors and teachers. Teachers may meet dozens or hundreds of students each week, and so have not the time nor inclination to be personal tutors. So active cooperation with attention to details, the will to listen and try instead of passive or overt opposition or resistance to education, will all help your charges in school and out.
Your children and teens have decisions to make. Whether to try or not, to cooperate in their own education is one of them. The proper choice may be harder when a teacher is not charming but the decision still has to be made. So talk to your children and teens. Ask them about their school days, and guide them if you can. In raising kids, if you are unlucky, there may be two difficult even stormy periods during the horrible two's and the horrible teen years. Wait for the storms to pass, if you can. Giving your child or teen the will to learn counts more for his or her education than being well-educated yourself. Students with limited gifts or abilities with the will to learn and to keeping trying may go further than student with many gifts. Much depends on will, effort and the chance to study, preferably with clear material.
Do not be Negative - Find a silver lineing.
A teenager planning to become a policeman said he did not work at learning mathematics, that he was doing the least possible (in fact less) to pass, since his mother had told him, mathematics after arithmetic was a waste of time. My late or too late objection to that came as a surprise - no earlier teacher had done that. For students to do better in school, they need parents who value education and say so repeatedly for the sake of motivation, especially when and where immediate take-home value is missing - not self-evident. While I disliked writing essays and book reports as a teen, had difficulty deciding what to writing, I would not today tell any child of mine that reading and writing skills, and understanding the characters in book or play, is unimportant. With the passage of time, I might have acquired the maturity to do well and avoid the misery of my earlier high school days in expressive and creative subjects.
Help your child with Mthematics and Essays
Help your child with homework without always doing it for them. With school work, your objective should be for the child or teen to write as much as possible alone, or with a few kind hints, while you encourage the greatest possible independence. In mathematics, the vertical alignment of equal signs in evaluatio of formulas and arithmetic expressions provides a pattern to follow and encourage. For good work habits, it will help your teenager or pre-teen do and record work in steps that can be seen and checked, and make the domino effects of care and mistakes easier to see and correct.
When you child or teens writes an essay, point out mistakes in spelling and sentence structure. Say when sentences are too long, run on and on, or include too many ideas. While writing that, I fear that the advice is not always not followed in site material. So do as I say, not as I do. Writing essays will be easier for teen or pre-teen if there is a story to tell. In the case of a writing block, ask your son or daughter leading questions: Do they have a story, a chain of reason, a chain of instructional steps to present, or a collection of examples, to present in an organized manner. In writing as in packing a suitcase, the order of packing is not important as long as all is packed. Other times, sequence is important. Further say, if the son or daughter cannot answer the question posed by their teacher, than they should improvise by picking a topic, close or far, to demonstrate and practice their writing and story-telling skills, fictional or not, in a technical or non-techical area. In that the aim is to produce a work of art, fiction being easier and requiring less rigour than non-fiction. If you teen is lucky, his or her teacher may accept a good essay, on topic or close. As a rule of thumb, producing one is better than producing none.
Learning from and Correcting Mistakes - Before Submission
How to limit your help. For the sake of your sons or daughters mark, you or a tutor may help more initially. But eventually, your son or daughter should do more and more. In doing writing for mathematics or for producing an essay, the objective is for your son or daughter to eventually learn how to independently produce so well in correct, well-formated manner. You or tutor may help by identifying errors in form, content and logic well-ahead of the homework or assignment due date. You son or daughter may have to learn that not corrrecting the errors will lead to lower mark.
Remember on tests and final examinations in school, your son or daughter will be alone. So the aim of help from a parent, sibling or tutor should be independence - show how to mathematics and write essays alone, and identify errors small and large. The aim is for your son or daughter to learn from them in order for errors to be caught and corrected before submission and in order for like errors to be avoided in future written work. Good luck.
Postscript: Advice-Summary for Young Writers
Teachers are not interested in what you say or think. They are interest in developing and/or observing skill. You do not have to put your heart into your words - use your head instead: Teachers are interested in how you write: Do your words tell a story or present a theory which others can follow in steps or pieces that other may follow? Are your words presented carefully without spelling and grammatical errors?
You are presenting written work to teachers not only for grades or marks, but also for corrections, to learn where you are making mistakes in content and format. But that learning from mistakes could take place before you hand in your work if you ask others to identify errors, small or large, in your work that you may correct before giving your work to your teacher, and mistake or lack of quality penalized. The reward for this extra attention to detail may be higher marks, justified we hope by the fact that have learnt from correction or feedback of others.
And in essay writing, if you have a mental block for an assigned topic, you have nothing clear to say about it, talk to others to see if you can unblock, and failing that write about another topic to exercise and demonstrate your story or argument telling or development skills, and to exercise demonstrate your spelling and grammatical skills, all in the hope that your instructor kind - preface the essay with words to say you had a writing block. The foregoing advice is more easily followed in writing essays than it is in answer given mathematics questions. That's life.
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