Case Study: Are you open to new approaches?

Not long ago, I met with a new student whose goal was to reach a perfect or almost-perfect score on the Math portion of the ACT.  She was only a few points away, so it was time to put on my "detective hat" to see how we could squeeze out those last few points.

I began by explaining that there might be some surprising ways to accomplish this, and they might be easy to implement--"low-hanging fruit" I call them.

First, I had to check her out on something that may surprise you--basic Math facts!  What?!?  For an honor student getting an A in her Calculus course?  Yes, I test everyone for this, regardless of age, gender, or academic standing.  In fact, it turned out that she did not know some of the basic Math facts (like 8+5), and was losing valuable testing time punching them into the TI-84 graphing calculator, not to mention "mental space."

Now, I can understand where someone could find this a bit embarrassing, so I know to tread lightly, and tell the student she is in good company;  at least 50% of my Math students of all levels, have gaps in the basic Math facts and/or fraction operations.  I consider it part of my job, to uncover any skeletons and usher them out of the closet.  It's also very easy to fix, usually in less than two weeks, which is where the "low-hanging fruit" idea comes in.

I have found that many students who are looking for personalized help with Math have some form of "skeleton" that needs to be exposed and dismissed, be it a missing skill or some limiting concept.  Being open to this kind of discovery can make it easier for you to reach your academic goals!