Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)
By Larry Whittington
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Teaching high school algebra can even be more aggravating.
But I don’t want to blame it all on students. They have their share of blame and we will get to that a little later. What I want to suggest is that teachers and some schools policies may be part of the blame. Follow my thoughts on this.
Teachers are pressured into having their students show an average distribution of grades in their class work. If teachers don’t have their classes do well, they may be relieved of their teaching position at that school. Tests are given to asses grades. Final tests are usually required at the end of each quarter or semester. Here is a problem I see as happening. In some types of Social Studies and History type classes, teachers may not test on all the material covered throughout the whole grading period. In other words, students may get in the habit of thinking that if they remember enough material to pass a Chapter Test once, they don’t have to remember any of the material again for any reason. When a student passes a test it shows that the teacher performed well for that particular chapter. The student gets a good grade but the student can also be learning bad habits.
Let me explain what this bad habit might be. In some schools and concerning some teachers, semester tests are not given that would require students to remember any material from Chapter 1. When a student consistently sees this happening from their Junior High years on into High School years, the habit the students are learning is to learn enough to do one thing – pass a test but then forget everything that was ever taught about that subject.
Students who get into this habit of only remembering material for passing a test and then forgetting it are in serious trouble when they enter an algebra class.
In algebra classes, material builds on previous concepts. What is presented in Chapter 1 will be developed and expanded on in Chapter 2. Students who are in the habit of thinking all they need to do is learn enough of Chapter 1 to be able to pass the test are in trouble in Chapter 2. In algebra, each concept and mathematical principle presented in Chapter 1 will be developed and used in Chapter 2. This will be true throughout the course of the class. A student cannot expect to do well (read pass the course) if they only think they have to remember something for a certain period of time. Students with a thought pattern of needing to learn something for just one assignment or until the Chapter test is over are in trouble. They won’t pass unless they see the error in their thinking.
This is why I don’t think it is good for teachers to not retest students on all materials covered in a semester’s time. This training of students should actually begin in their early grades and be carried out through their junior high years and then into high School. When students are taught in this manner, they will know they have to remember concepts and facts for a length of time and not just for the present chapter.
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