This tweet was favorited, retweeted, and/or responded to at least 20 times after I posted it last night. Teachers everywhere feel this. I couldn’t decide if all of the attention made me feel slightly better, or worse.
So, the math review topic could not have come at a better time for me. For some crazy reason, I decided to grade tests on a Friday night. It was a “round up” type of test covering important topics from pre-algebra this year; evaluating algebraic expression (involving order of operations), exponents, exponent rules, combining like terms, and multi-step equation solving. The good news is my students have finally learned to use parenthesis when substituting values for variables and can solve equations LIKE MAD. The bad news? They are apparently mystified by the order of operations, especially within the vicinity of any sort of exponent rule problem. I felt so defeated after grading those tests. I failed. After my dog used me as a trampoline in the middle of the night, I could not go back to sleep thinking about it. I do so much to help them learn math, but what am I helping them do to remember it? I have failed.
The most common math mistake that I encountered was:
Students had order of operations issues and just wanted to distribute things. Michael, here come.
What happened? First, I HATE PEMDAS. This starts early, and students are already brainwashed by 6th grade when I get them. I teach my students GEMS instead of PEMDAS but all of the GEMS in the world can’t seem to fix this. I hate PEMDAS because students see parenthesis and go into “I must do that first” mode, even when there is only ONE number inside the parenthesis. Just because it is in parenthesis, one number, for example (2), does NOT a group make. I must frequently emphasize this, because very few students made this error when there was just one number in the parenthesis. But, this knowledge did not transfer when they had two numbers. The distributive property trumped all. They do love to distribute. They also distributed the exponent to both numbers inside the parenthesis. I have no idea why they would do this, because I don’t even teach them the power to a power exponent rule. I have them expand any set of parenthesis with an exponent. They do love the distributive property, but we-e have never, ever, ever, distributed an exponent. Sigh. I failed.
This year things are worse than before because our classes are shorter than last year. I have replaced my daily warm-up review with “Make a new page in your notebook and update your TOC”. It’s been awesome for our INB, but obviously tragic for the Order of Operations. So, starting Monday, I am going to have one problem of the day for both classes posted on the board. It will look like a variation of this. Evaluate -3x^2 – 2x + 5 when x = -2. I’ll throw in fractions, decimals, and any other basic, easily forgettable concept. This should help them quickly practice evaluating algebraic expressions, exponents, and the order of operations, EVERYDAY. And we will go over it, together, everyday.
I will NOT go down, without a fight.
What are YOU doing to review past math topics? What are YOU doing to help them remember what they have learned?