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July 30th, 2019, 04:45 PM   #1
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Tutoring Arithmetic With Negative Numbers

I'm tutoring a girl who is going into seventh grade, but her is way below that. I haven't seen what she was taught and what her grades were. I asked her what's she's doing in summer. She's said she's in school for Math and ELA (English Language Arts). When I asked if she had any notes or assignments, she said no. Her family speaks Spanish, but I have not observed her not understanding any English words. She will give answers such as -1 + 5 = -6. I drew number lines and showed that if you add two positives, the sum is greater than both numbers, and if you add a positive and a negative, the sum or difference will be in between the two original numbers. For positive numbers, I wrote fact families like:

2 + 3 = 5
3 + 2 = 5
5 - 2 = 3
5 - 3 = 2

Even with positive numbers, it could take her 10 seconds to say what 5 -3 equals. I don't know how much I'm helping, and I'm looking for advice on tutoring a struggling student.
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July 30th, 2019, 05:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by EvanJ View Post
… Even with positive numbers, it could take her 10 seconds to say what 5 -3 equals … I'm looking for advice on tutoring [her]
Hi Evan. She may suffer from math anxiety (a condition that results from lack of confidence, practice and/or substandard instruction).

I've had some success tutoring arithmetic with signed numbers using multiple approaches at once (rule based, shifts on the number line, algebra tiles, relating expressions to money). I explain each by working a few examples, and then I have the student solve exercises three or four different ways. It takes extra time and effort, but it usually helps.

Check out some of these videos. I hope the ideas help her.

Cheers
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Last edited by Otis; July 30th, 2019 at 05:18 PM.
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July 30th, 2019, 05:16 PM   #3
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She's not struggling, truth be told she has no interest in what you have to offer. She's not interested. It sounds like you're force feeding maths because you need your bills paid.

We're all capable of maths, it's born in our genetics. A nice example I always like to use is, if I have a child with three toys (I use three because the brain likes the number 3) and I take away a toy the child cries, that tells me they're aware of subtraction.

When a mind is ready to learn, those in the vicinity of that mind will know about it.
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July 30th, 2019, 05:24 PM   #4
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… sounds like you're force feeding maths because you need your bills paid …
Wait a sec, tutors get their bills paid?!!
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July 30th, 2019, 05:37 PM   #5
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Wait a sec, tutors get their bills paid?!!
What's your definition of tutor?
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July 30th, 2019, 05:41 PM   #6
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Does she think in Spanish? I've seen -- heck, I've experienced a phenomenon where trying to figure out a relatively simple maths problem in one language becomes difficult if one is not used to working maths problems in that language (even if one is otherwise fairly fluent in said language). It's possible this might be some part of it. You might try learning enough Spanish to give her some simple problems that way, and see if it makes any difference.
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July 30th, 2019, 06:12 PM   #7
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Does she think in Spanish? I've seen -- heck, I've experienced a phenomenon where trying to figure out a relatively simple maths problem in one language becomes difficult if one is not used to working maths problems in that language (even if one is otherwise fairly fluent in said language). It's possible this might be some part of it. You might try learning enough Spanish to give her some simple problems that way, and see if it makes any difference.
The only language that unifies our differences and terrestrial life is geometry. I bumped in to a friend of a friends brother who's had experience sending signals out into the unknown abyss. And I was like what would your first words be to an unknown signal? His response was so simple but effective.

You send geometry.
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July 31st, 2019, 04:58 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Otis View Post
Hi Evan. She may suffer from math anxiety (a condition that results from lack of confidence, practice and/or substandard instruction).

I've had some success tutoring arithmetic with signed numbers using multiple approaches at once (rule based, shifts on the number line, algebra tiles, relating expressions to money). I explain each by working a few examples, and then I have the student solve exercises three or four different ways. It takes extra time and effort, but it usually helps.

Check out some of these videos. I hope the ideas help her.

Cheers
I don't know if the videos will help, but thank you for trying. I don't know if they have a computer, I don't want to ask, I don't want to bring my own computer, and I don't like watching videos on phones because the screen is too small. The pictures from the fifth and sixth videos gave me ideas.

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Originally Posted by NineDivines View Post
She's not struggling, truth be told she has no interest in what you have to offer. She's not interested. It sounds like you're force feeding maths because you need your bills paid.

We're all capable of maths, it's born in our genetics. A nice example I always like to use is, if I have a child with three toys (I use three because the brain likes the number 3) and I take away a toy the child cries, that tells me they're aware of subtraction.

When a mind is ready to learn, those in the vicinity of that mind will know about it.
That's somewhat true, but her mom requested tutoring, and she's not going to succeed in middle school and above with what she knows. Giving up because you don't know something doesn't give good grades. I would prefer to tutor somebody who was better at math. I would never apply to a job (regular or tutoring) to make money if I knew in advance that I could not do it. If teaching students things they don't want to learn is "force feeding," then thousands of teachers do that every day of the school year, and the concept of making all students pass several subjects to graduate shouldn't happen. Teachers should be rewarded for trying to help struggling students. If your logic was applied to teachers, teachers whose students struggled are making money they don't deserve even if the students would struggle being taught by the best teacher. I'm honest, and I'm spending time asking for help here that I'm not being paid for. I don't appreciate having my motive questioned.

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Originally Posted by DarnItJimImAnEngineer View Post
Does she think in Spanish? I've seen -- heck, I've experienced a phenomenon where trying to figure out a relatively simple maths problem in one language becomes difficult if one is not used to working maths problems in that language (even if one is otherwise fairly fluent in said language). It's possible this might be some part of it. You might try learning enough Spanish to give her some simple problems that way, and see if it makes any difference.
It's possible she thinks in Spanish, but the ultimate goal is to learn in English. I'm not going to learn Spanish for the sake of tutoring math. The tutoring was only wanted during the summer, so I don't have a long time to learn Spanish if I wanted to. I also don't want to make any suggestions or questions about lack of knowledge of English hurting her ability in math, especially with Trump and all the comments that are rightly or wrongly called racist. One of my sister's friends teaches ESL, so maybe I'll ask her for advice on teaching students with difficult situations.

I'm going back tomorrow. If I feel like I can't help, I may stop.

Last edited by EvanJ; July 31st, 2019 at 05:28 AM.
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July 31st, 2019, 06:03 AM   #9
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It's possible she thinks in Spanish, but the ultimate goal is to learn in English.
I'm not arguing that. My point was trying to figure out how much of the mental block was conceptually-based and how much was language-based. One would benefit from the advice given while the other might require more repetition/practice in English.

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Originally Posted by EvanJ View Post
I'm not going to learn Spanish for the sake of tutoring math.
It's mas, menos, uno, dos, tres,…. You don't need much.
And who is going to claim it's racist to acknowledge that someone speaks more than one language? I have frequently told international students struggling to figure out problems or explain concepts, "Do it in [French/Arabic/Vietnamese/whatever] if it helps."
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July 31st, 2019, 07:42 AM   #10
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If this video doesn't help, you need to find out why she's having so much difficulty.
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