Blog Post

Thoughts on Student Attitudes about Mathematics

The last couple weeks in my Pre-algebra class have been especially frustrating for me. We have started working with negative fractions and the placement of the negative sign seems to be a major stumbling block for a few of the students in the class. I can only repeat myself so many times before we run out of time, I become frustrated, and I start to wonder if they even hear what I am saying.


I know that most of the students in the class want to do well and that the majority of them really want to know what's going on. However, the fact that they do not know what is going on during the exact moment that we are doing it in class makes for tension in the classroom. I am not sure that they have come to realize that it takes practice outside of class in order to master the material. And that the majority of the time this practice needs to be above and beyond the regularly assigned homework.


However, the key to everything for me is that I am working with a group of students who want to do well, despite the fact that they might have been told that they might not be good at math in the past and despite the fact that in the past, they might have actually been told that they are not even college material. At the community college, it does not matter if you are good at math. At the community college, it does not matter if you are college material. What matters is that you want to do well and that you come ready to work with a hard work ethic to do what needs to get done in order to get your degree and go to work in the community.


This is a far contrast from when I taught at the International Academy of Duped and Tricked. At this particular school, I honestly believe that students were told that they have always been ready for college and all of the challenges and frustrations that come along with college, but no one has ever let them achieve to the best of their potential. I have no problem with encouraging students to work hard and try their best, but to allow students not to recognize in themselves that they may not be college material should be a crime. It causes chaos in the classroom.


For example, in one of my classes a few weeks ago, I had to remind students that shouting out the answers during class is not appropriate because we need to remember that we have to give everyone time to think about the problem and that everyone does not learn at the same pace. After one friendly reminder, the students have not been shouting out answers since. On the other hand, when I taught at International Academy of Duped and Tricked, students would not just shout out the answers all the time, but many times they would be shouting out the incorrect answers. However, I honestly believe that the students were not responsive to being assisted in getting the correct answer because the school had trained them to believe that they were ready for college (meaning that that they did need to listen to the teacher because they were even smarter than the teacher).


I do not want this to be a rant against for-profit schools, but I do want to point out that from my own experiences, the attitudes among students at community colleges and at schools like the International Academy of Duped and Tricked are completely different. I may actually have a chance to change the life of a student at the community college by helping them through college one day at a time. This makes all of the frustrations I may have teaching my Pre-algebra class about negative fractions completely worthwhile.

By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.

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