2009-02-13 / Columnists

Ken's Math Korner

'I'm Too Far Behind, I'll Never Learn Math'
Commentary By Ken Rochelle, MBA

This is something which many teachers hear from their students, and certainly something that many schoolaged students, as well as many adults say. It is simply not true. The problem is that if a student is in the tenth grade math class, but is really on a third grade level, he will feel hopelessly lost. He will not have any perspective on what it would take to get caught up, and even if he did, he typically doesn't know how to go about catching up. For adults who have been out of school for a long time, the prospect of learning math that they never learned before seems an impossible task, and again, they don't know where to begin.

I'm going to try to put the matter in perspective. The free math lessons on my web site cover material through approximately 8th grade. I say approximately, because there are no national standards, and each state covers topics in somewhat different order, and with different emphasis.

What is important is that if you look at those math lessons, you will see that the majority of them are quite short and easy. There is a good chance that you know most of the material in those lessons. The whole point is that we're not dealing with 1000 lessons, not even several hundred lessons to get you caught up to the an eighth grade level. There are about 100 lessons.

I find these lessons based on the content of grade 3 to grade 8 review books. In doing so, I was actually amazed to see how much overlap in material there is from one grade to the next. It might not be that way in other countries, but here in America, there is not all that much difference between grade 3 and grade 4 math. They just take the exact same concepts, and add a tiny bit more material, often just one little extra "twist" to a topic. Getting yourself to a grade 8 level is not insurmountable at all, nor will it take a very long time.

Here is the issue. If you are very far behind in math (and you need to be fully honest with yourself), you will probably need help getting caught up. It's simply not enough just to study the lessons on my site, although doing so is an excellent start. You need to find a teacher or tutor who will work with you very closely. This educator needs to insure that you fully understand all the concepts, and not just immediately spit them back when quizzed. You need to do many, many relevant problems for each topic, and constantly review the old topics until you can do them in your sleep.

With all that said, there simply isn't that much material. If you haven't yet looked at these lessons, look at them now. Just click through each one, just to see that there is not much there. It is very doable in a short amount of time, if you have the right educator and if you work hard.

Once you are on solid 8th grade level, you are actually far ahead of most American high school students. You still want to get yourself to at least a 10th grade level in math, so that you can pass your state's exit exam, or your GED, or a math test that you might need to take for your college entrance or career, or so that you can get a reasonable score on your SAT.

The 9th and 10th grade material does start to get a bit challenging, I will admit that. Still, if you have a solid foundation of the material through 8th grade, it shouldn't be that bad. Many states separate algebra, geometry, and trigonometry into totally separate courses of study, and some states integrate them together. The point is we're not dealing with hundreds of additional lessons. Granted some are quite tricky, and require lots of practice, but they can be done.

If you are behind in math, you can certainly catch up. Believe in yourself, get a great educator, study the lessons on my web site, and ask me questions as they come up. Work hard, not only physically to get through your practice exercise, but mentally, to constantly think about and review the material. You can do it! Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Algebra Question: 25 percent of 600 is equal to 15 per cent of what number?

SAT Question: A confectioner has 500 mint, 500 orange and 500 strawberry flavored sweets. He wishes to make packets containing 10 mint, 5 orange and 5 strawberry sweets. What is the maximum number of packets of this type he can make?

For the answers and solutions please visit my web site kenthetutor.org. You may also email me at kenrochelle@- gmail.com.

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