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Images from Pixabay By: Ken McCandless Are you stronger in English or math? This is the question that I often ask students before any type of course. I ask this question not to understand if the student is actually better at math or English, but to understand his or her “perceived” strength. That perceived strength only reflects confidence over the other subject rather than an actual higher ability. In reality, every student has the capability of being strong in both academic disciplines. One way to discover the commonalities: Test Prep.
Test preparation is one of the easiest ways to discover the commonalities that exist between the two disciplines. Like so many cases, I once had a student enter my SAT prep program who was scoring exceptional marks in his advanced math course. His greatest complaint about the SAT was its reading comprehension and language skills section, “The math feels easy for me, but I hate reading comprehension and writing.” Needless to say, high confidence in math was very high, but he felt helpless in his reading comprehension and grammar abilities. Finding the similarities. Given his confidence in math, I realized that finding the similarities between math and English was the best way for him to find common confidence in both subjects. Starting with simple realizations such as, “the most simplified structure of a sentence is always the most correct, just like in math, where the simplification is so important,” or, prioritizing keywords in a math word problem is no different then consolidating keywords in order to read more efficiently. The result. His improvement was striking; he began to realize that he could use his same strategies and comprehension style for approaching math to conquer his perceived weaknesses in English. We concluded that English was never a weakness of his. The Hillview Prep Difference. Every student is unique and has his or her academic advantage. That student can use his or her advantage to become a more well rounded academic. No matter what type of learner you are, where you confidence lies, or what your current academic benchmarks are, Hillview Prep can unlock your fullest potential. Visit www.hillviewprep.com to learn more! Whenever I see someone’s frustration in learning math, the first complaint I usually hear is , “When will I ever need to use this later on in life?” Though there are many answers to this question, I found the best answer in a math book that I recently used called Meaningful Math. What makes this text book so unique is its use of common math concepts to solve relevant real world situations. The reality is, understanding the mathematical foundation behind important, everyday functions and questions such as financial feasibility, allows us to develop skills that we can apply in almost every facet of our lives. A stark comparison.
Last year, I had a student who needed help with linear inequalities. He was having a difficult time understanding the purpose of the inequality. He was using a standard textbook and taught under common core standards. I was teaching him to pass the his tests, but in reality, nothing really had any meaning to him, so he would learn and then just as easily forget. In comes Meaningful Math. A year later, the same student, who was retaking algebra I as a freshman, comes back for more math assistance for linear inequalities. My first though was, “Ok, this will be the same type of material.” I was considering how to refine this session so I wouldn't be teaching him how to simply pass a test. This is where “Meaningful Math” made all the difference. The textbook was able to relate the same concepts from last year, the lines, equations, and graphs into a real life situation. In this case, it was a bakery deciding how many cookies to bake and how many different variations. This was great! I could now teach these math concepts in a format that my student can visualize, remember, and apply to similar situations. So now, instead of seeing the linear equation as a line with specific rules to memorize, we now visualize it as a constraint for something that we want to accomplish. Learning math goes way beyond math. How many chocolate chip cookies and pastries can Sarah bake for her son's birthday party given the cost of each material, oven/machine time, cost of human resources? If I need to swim across the river, which direction gives me the shortest path? Math can be taken to a whole new level when taught and learned in a meaningful way! Life is all about constraints. Clearly, each decision that we make in life has its constraints. No matter the real world situation, each constraint can be mathematically calculated, whether it be algebraic or geometric etc. How does each constraint affect how efficient we are? If we face a constraint and understand the mathematical structure of it, is there any way that we can change the mathematical integrity of it to allow that constraint to be more flexible for us? The more we understand our constraints, the more efficient and effective we are in our decision making process. Lets face it, the best decision makers are our societies leaders. So yes, math matters! Image from Pixabay By: Ken McCandless A call for help. One of my most memorable teaching experiences came from working with a 7th grade girl, Laura. Her mom called me one Sunday morning to inquire about essay writing help for her daughter. Of all the inquiries that I have received in the past for writing, her tone seemed more concerned. It was Laura's first session. She had been attending a prestigious school was struggling greatly with reading and writing. After our first conversation, I understood exactly why her writing was poor.
I asked, “Hi, Laura. What did you do today at school?” She responded, “Well...” “Like…” “But…” “and then…” I could tell right away that her speech had no structure and was all over the place. It was almost like her ideas were trapped in her mind. I decided to change her learning strategy. Instead of writing, we began with speaking exercises. We spent our session formatting conversations about her day in the most basic, minimal, yet effective sentences. I asked, “Laura, how was your day?” She Responded, “Well, like...” I stopped her, “Let's try again. How was your day?” Her response, “My day was great. I woke up at 7 then went to school then Tegan and me turned in...” I stopped her once more, “Start over.” She replied, “My day was great. I woke up at 7 and went to school. My friend Tegan and I turned in our math project.” Our speaking exercises were working. In a short amount of time, forming basic sentences turned into developing eloquent sentences with complex grammar. She was becoming a more expressive and confident speaker. She was now ready to write. Laura’s much improved speaking ability immediately translated into improved writing. She was able to gather her thoughts more efficiently, creating more meaningful content. I also noticed that her grammar and organization had drastically improved. She was blossoming into an exceptional writer. Our learning methods enabled Laura to discover her natural speaking and writing abilities that she never knew she had. With the right methods, any student can discover his or her natural ability to excel at any subject. What makes you succeed? Come join us and find out! Common Core, a bad first impression. I remember an experience when a student came to me for math help. She was in 7th grade and was performing well in her prealgebra class. Her mother had told me that even though she was scoring well, she had absolutely no interest in math and didn’t seem to fully understand the concepts. She was afraid that her daughter would underperform on the upcoming High School Placement Test (HSPT) and ultimately fall behind in 8th grade and high school. As I started working with this girl I realized what the problem was: Her foundation in math was very poor. However she was taught in her earlier grades did not offer her the conceptual stability to properly approach more complex math. The importance of early learning. Academic development at an early age substantially influences how a student will perform in later stages. It’s like walking up a stairmaster and missing a step that will not be there going forward, causing every step ahead of you to be that much harder. Pretty discouraging, right? This applies to all disciplines of academics, whether it’s reading, writing, grammar, math etc. Lack of foundation: a byproduct of frustrated learning. I noticed her frustration with multistep algebra problems and realized that those fundamental, foundational skills were not developed correctly, leading her to resort to inefficient methods such as mental math. She was having a hard time understanding the purpose of a variable and the concept of an equation among other elementary concepts such as multiplying positive with negative numbers. How could this girl be getting an A in her math class? A discouraging past= lost confidence.
After consulting with her mom, I found the underlying problem: She has been taught math under Common Core Standards. After speaking more with this girl, it made perfect sense. She could not recall when, how, or why she learned specific foundational concepts, even from the year before. The reality was that she was never really a bad math learner, just a unique one. She was not given the opportunity to take interest or learn the way that best suited her. Discovering a solution. I looked through her math syllabus and was disturbed to see how concepts were being taught out of sequence and had little emphasis. I decided that the best way to help her was to break math down to the foundational basics. We focused on strengthening her understanding and execution of elementary operations using real world examples to apply context and understanding of how, when, and why operations work the way they do. Because she is an abstract thinker and visual learner, using hands on and visual methods helped her to comprehend and process the concepts more efficiently. More importantly, her retention translated to increased confidence and proficiency. Common Core: Is it a developmentally irresponsible approach? After months of building, she was able to solve multistep equations and word problems in a meaningful and methodical way. Her newfound confidence renewed her approach to math, enabling her to comprehend and learn in a more strategic and efficient manner. I was proud to see how far she had come. Common Core had failed her throughout her earlier education and could have robbed her of her potential; it was a watereddown, overly technical yet underemphasized method of teaching. It was a system that in theory was designed to fit a wide parameter of students, but in actuality never fully fits one. By: Ken McCandless Founder, CEO of Hillview Prep 
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