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Subject: Math + siblings + poor grades = depression rss

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My younger sister is currently struggling with pre-Algebra. Without going into the grisly details, she is barely keeping from failing. I mean barely as in "by the skin of her teeth" barely. It's pretty much getting me down. When she was younger she was really natural with numbers, though never advanced. But now, if she doesn't get her act together, she'll have to retake pre-Alg. She's pretty discouraged about it. It doesn't help that her teacher is a real-life Dolores Umbridge who the whole town hates and the school cannot replace.

I've decided to step in and do my best to help her out. I'm getting her to start using the Khan Academy videos and math problems (how I wish Khan Academy was around when I was taking pre-Alg!). I've also set up an account on that site so I can monitor her progress. Hopefully, the videos will help get her GPA up. If not, she is really gonna be screwed.

I dunno what the purpose of this post is. I guess I'm just looking for a little encouragement; I had to retake pre-Alg, a factor which has greatly reduced opportunities for me, and I'm afraid that she is going the same route.

~Euen

Edit: I forgot to add that she gets good grades in all of her other classes.
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Jason Sadler
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Is this high school? Even in college retaking a course isn't the end of the world. Your help should improve her GPA, and she is not "screwed" even if she still gets a bad grade in a math class, particularly if her other grades are good. She's lucky to have someone there to support her in her weakest subject.
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braveheart101 wrote:

I'm getting her to start using the Khan Academy videos and math problems (how I wish Khan Academy was around when I was taking pre-Alg!). I've also set up an account on that site so I can monitor her progress. Hopefully, the videos will help get her GPA up.


When I saw the title of this post I thought that I was going to come in here and suggest Kahn Academy, but I see you already are on it. That's pretty cool.

Our state has an online high school that offers credit recovery for courses. Maybe your state has a similar option?
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+1 on Kahn Academy great place
Also can she get a tutor at school to help her? If she does well in other subjects maybe she has someone in class that is struggling in a class that she does well in and they can help each other.
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David Molnar
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Watching somebody else do Math is no substitute for actually doing it yourself. Yes, I'm happy that you are willing to set aside some time to help, and yes, it's good to know there's a resource out there, but try to take it easy on the videos. The only way to master anything is to practice.
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And as you both age, it is important to mention, a person's mind can become better able to be ready to learn concepts that eluded a person when they were younger. I am a teacher, and sometimes the person does not meet the information at a time in their life when they could optimally learn it. I'm close enough to 36, and Now I'm grasping science and math principles that stumped me in high school, not that I ever felt like an academic slouch. I'm still learning, and Goddamn, the universe is fascinating and near magical.
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molnar wrote:
Watching somebody else do Math is no substitute for actually doing it yourself. Yes, I'm happy that you are willing to set aside some time to help, and yes, it's good to know there's a resource out there, but try to take it easy on the videos. The only way to master anything is to practice.


Uhm...the Khan Academy does that. It's not just videos, you know. I set my daughter up with an account and she went from just barely passing to A's and B's. I highly recommend the Khan Academy stuff.
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I'm just glad I don't have do math anymore. Philosophy and Theology for the win!
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The Khan academy is great until they stick that bug in your ear and kill your captain's son. I wouldn't bother studying topography with them, though, since they have trouble thinking three dimensionally.
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Son #2 really struggled with math and we got him a once/week tutor. She was fantastic and really helped him. Math never became his best subject, but he did well in both hs and college.

Nothing beats one on one help.

Congratulations to you for helping your sister.
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NBAfan wrote:
I'm just glad I don't have do math anymore. Philosophy and Theology for the win!


I don't know you.

MisterCranky wrote:
The Khan academy is great until they stick that bug in your ear and kill your captain's son. I wouldn't bother studying topography with them, though, since they have trouble thinking three dimensionally.


You, I know. I never forget a name...Mister Cranky.
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It's normal for many students to hit a wall when algebra emerges in math classes. It requires working with more abstract concepts and that capacity is part of regular brain development.

The important thing during this period is that she not feel discouraged and so you stepping in to help is exactly what she needs to help her through the emotional roller coaster that this can cause.

While math is important for many professions and college entrance, you don't have to excel at it to be able to make it in life. It all depends on the kind of work you're aspiring to and there is a wealth of options that doesn't require any advanced math. So don't get discouraged, just keep chipping away at it!
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I recommend Danica McKellar's books on math. The pre-algebra book is titled "Kiss My Math".
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echoota wrote:
It's normal for many students to hit a wall when algebra emerges in math classes. It requires working with more abstract concepts and that capacity is part of regular brain development.

The important thing during this period is that she not feel discouraged and so you stepping in to help is exactly what she needs to help her through the emotional roller coaster that this can cause.

While math is important for many professions and college entrance, you don't have to excel at it to be able to make it in life. It all depends on the kind of work you're aspiring to and there is a wealth of options that doesn't require any advanced math. So don't get discouraged, just keep chipping away at it!


She's pretty discouraged at the moment (and yes, for those of you that asked, she is a high school Freshman). We did a session with the Khan videos and problems. She got what he was saying in the videos, but when it came to the problems she really had a hard time. We are doing percent word problems right now. She seemed to understand what to do at first, but as she went on into harder problems and made more mistakes, she started to get flustered and miss all of the problems. We had to call it quits for the night as she was on the verge of a total meltdown, as was I.

For those that are interested, here is an example of a problem type she's doing and how she does it compared to how you're suppose to do it:

"Alma had 62 dollars in the bank yesterday. Today she has 124. By what percentage did her bank account total increase?"

Or:

"What is 132% of 42?"

For the latter problem, she set it up like this: X+1.32X=142.

It's like she has a mental block in her brain; she can understand it when the video shows a problem being solved, but she cannot seem to apply what she learned in the video. It's really frustrating for me.

~Euen

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Kurt
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She's lucky to have you helping out.

Keep being encouraging and working with her, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't start to suddenly click for her.

Anecdotal note: My mom and brother are both teachers, and they both say (as well as a number of 'experts' I've read while researching education methodologies for my own kids) that mentor/family figures showing an interest in a student's work frequently makes a VERY big difference in their performance long term EVEN if they can't actually help with the problems at hand. That you can help her with specifics is all the better.

It can often be frustrating and painful for some elements of learning even with this help, but they are more likely to show a turn around from 'not getting it' to passing and even excelling. You being interested in helping is a great thing.

Conversely, they've seen first hand that the students that have the most long term trouble (as in get so discouraged that they quit and/or don't ever improve) are often left to their own devices and have very little encouragement or interest shown from family at home.

And taking the course over isn't the end of the world. Encourage her to not give up, stay patient, and keep helping if that's how it goes on this first go.
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I just want to say that you are a good big brother.
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You are a great brother for helping out.

When it comes to the more logical mathematics and spacial reasoning (which comes later) some people can just get it, some people need a lot of practice to get it, and some people will never be able to get it.

Hopefully your sister falls into category 2. Doing problems over and over and over again with coaching and encouragement is the way to overcome this. But beware, don't push to hard. 30-60 mins a night at most is usually good. If you push to hard she may shut down and stop actively trying.

You are really great for helping her out here for sure. As a former math tutor, I can tell you that this is going to be as hard on you as her, but without your help in the evenings she may never get it. With you she has a fighting chance.
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NBAfan wrote:
I'm just glad I don't have do math anymore. Philosophy and Theology for the win!

I work with Philosophers and Theologicans... and they are VERY big on math...
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braveheart101 wrote:
"Alma had 62 dollars in the bank yesterday. Today she has 124. By what percentage did her bank account total increase?"

It reminds me a bit of:


I sometimes think it is gender-related. My daughter was really good at math and sciences, and now she hits puberty, her math skills and understanding seem to deteriorate and her language and communication skills are improving enormously (and that when in middle school they thought she had dyslexia from the mistakes she made).

I taught my sister math in high school, and she only wanted to learn tricks, not understand. It's pretty easy to learn tricks. "If the question is: how much is x% of y, you take x, divide by 100, and multiply by y to get the answer." Anyone can learn that, not understand, and still get the right answers.

I realize that is not how we (couple of science nerds) want others to do math problems, but it works for many people (at least in most countries, where education spending is deplorable).
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
I sometimes think it is gender-related.


Studies have shown that the difference is much more cultural than innate. Girls are just as capable at maths as boys but society thinks that girls will perform less well. It gives girls an easy excuse not to bother with it (or not to study harder) if they're told they're not supposed to be good at maths on account of their gender.
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braveheart101 wrote:
For those that are interested, here is an example of a problem type she's doing and how she does it compared to how you're suppose to do it:

"Alma had 62 dollars in the bank yesterday. Today she has 124. By what percentage did her bank account total increase?"

Or:

"What is 132% of 42?"

For the latter problem, she set it up like this: X+1.32X=142.


I've been working as a math tutor at my college, and in particular I've tutored students on the subject of percentage problems. Here are some general tips you can pass along (though of course having it told in person is probably more effective):

When dealing with a word problem, I try to understand what is happening, often by drawing a little picture for myself on the page. In the first problem, I'd read "Alma had 62 dollars in the bank yesterday" and write the number "62" on paper. Then I'd read "Today she has 124" and write the number "124" beside 62 and an arrow from 62 to 124. This is to help me understand that she went from having 62 dollars to 124 dollars, from some amount of money to MORE money.

Once you understand WHAT is happening, then you can worry about calculating. At this point you have to figure out what sort of calculation to do. The question asks for percentages, so we recall the typical percentage formula:

initial amount
TIMES percentage/ratio/proportion
EQUALS new amount/final amount/portion

(or)

percentage/ratio/proportion
OF initial amount
IS new amount/final amount/portion

Now re-read the problem and try to figure out what those numbers should be. Note that we wrote the equation not in terms of variables, but rather in terms of things. It's always important to understand the things in the formula, even more than memorizing the formula itself. If you are able to construct a sentence relating the things to each other, you're much better off than having memorized a formula you don't understand.

For percentage word problems, one thing you need to know/memorize is that the word OF almost always turns into TIMES if it follows the word percent. So, 30 percent OF 144 is the same as 30% TIMES 144.

I may have blathered on a bit, and this may be of no help whatsoever, but I figured I'd throw my experience at you!
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woodnoggin wrote:
Flyboy Connor wrote:
I sometimes think it is gender-related.


Studies have shown that the difference is much more cultural than innate. Girls are just as capable at maths as boys but society thinks that girls will perform less well. It gives girls an easy excuse not to bother with it (or not to study harder) if they're told they're not supposed to be good at maths on account of their gender.

There was an interesting Radio Lab I just listened to on this very topic.

They found that the same thing happens to minorities in testing situations. Under different conditions before a test, participants as a group (gender, race) would score differently, even though the test was identical.

For instance, in repeated studies, when simply told that an math based IQ test was a "test" women and minorities score more poorly. When they were told that it was a "puzzle" their scores were indistinguishable from white males. There were more examples throughout the interview that supported the idea of expectations of society and the negative results it can have on people.

I'll try to find the specific episode and get back to you guys.

It's a great podcast anyway, so if I can't find it, you should all just go out and start listening to it. Very entertaining and informative.

EDIT: I can't find the specific podcast I heard it in, but I highly recommend the podcast as a whole:
http://www.radiolab.org/
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I read a book describing something similar. There was a test where people were told beforehand "Asian students tend to do better on this test". Guess what? The Asian students performed better on average than in cases where they weren't given any preconceptions. meeple
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braveheart101 wrote:


"What is 132% of 42?"

For the latter problem, she set it up like this: X+1.32X=142.


I hope in a situation like this you commend her for coming up with an equation whose solution is within 5 or 6 of the desired quantity. Encouragement is key....
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braveheart101 wrote:

We had to call it quits for the night as she was on the verge of a total meltdown, as was I.


In a more serious vein than usual, the above comment is why you can't be an effective tutor for her. I don't know what the financial situation in your family is, but you need to find her a professional tutor. There are almost always people in the neighborhoods near schools who supplement their retirement or whatnot by patiently tutoring kids in whatever subjects they themselves are capable of imparting.

Some family members are able to maintain the sort of stress-free tutoring style required to really get people past whatever mental hurdles they're facing, but even then the students are frequently too concerned with the dejection they feel when they're unable to perform well in front of the people closest to them. Virtual strangers can and should be considered in this situation. Obviously well-vetted virtual strangers.
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