If it's me - I am trying to figure out what to do differently next year. Although I still don't know what I am teaching, I am hoping that I am still teaching Algebra 2. Next year's group will have been exposed to more material and in (hopefully) a better manner, so maybe that will help. But if I'm the one making the mistakes - I need to figure out what they are and make serious improvements. I have taught 20 years and I have never seen so many students not be able to retain and/or transfer concepts like this. I know I have made some changes in how I do things but I thought they were for the better. When I do some of the different things I have done this year, students are more involved in class. They seem to be working through the problems (although they are still asking a bunch of questions). So why does it seem worse and not better?

I have blogged about this before (see here, here, here, here, and here). I know I sound like a broken record, but it is really bothering me. How do you get past this? I am also concerned because my last unit with them will be exponentials and logarithms and I am counting on them to remember the exponent rules we talked about earlier in the year as well as some of the powers (like 5^2) without going to their calculators all of the time. I am already sensing I am going to be fighting an uphill battle with them during the last few weeks of school. I know that I am more frustrated about it because it's a Friday in May and it is Prom today on top of that, so I have spent most of today dealing with students who don't want to do anything. But regardless of when it is, it is still an issue and I need to figure out what to do about it. I've got nothing right now.

## 2 comments:

I don't have anything like an answer for you, but this is just such an interesting question I have to post some thoughts anyway...

(I just went back and read all of the previous posts you linked to, and I notice that in 3 of the posts it's specifically expanding and factoring that students aren't retaining. So, I have a couple of thoughts about factoring (maybe useful, maybe not)...

First, I think about learning multidigit multiplication in elementary school: I think we did that for several weeks for 3 years in a row--maybe people just need longer to really learn something multi-step like that. Second, my own kids are at the top end of math ability, but I found that they forgot factoring (though not expanding) from one year to the next for the first several times they encountered it--maybe factoring takes longer to learn than I/we remember it taking. I get the students when they come to college. For what it's worth, most of them (at least the ones who don't get tracked into remedial math) have got factoring down by then (though not always expanding squares, and not necessarily exponents).

It seems like the things you've been doing to try to get the students to do more practice and do more learning work look very promising (you have done some seriously cool things in the last few months). I also get the feeling, thought, that you are wrestling with one of those really difficult problems in teaching. OK--I'm getting down to waffling about nothing, except--1. wow, that's an interesting problem, and 2. keep it up, you're doing good, important work!

Since it is happening not only with your kids, but also with my kids and X's kids and Y's kids, etc. may be it's not how we are teaching, but (a) their study habits (b) the way they were taught math in middle school. If all the contortions we go through as teachers do not help, may be the answer is at the other end.

No practical help, but worth investigating...

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