It's a new school year which means most every student has gone up a grade level and a math level. Every athlete knows that when you go from middle school sports to high school sports to college to Olympic or Pro each is a big step up and requires a whole new level of mental and physical fitness in order to be competitive. Math is the same way. Your teacher will have higher expectations of you this year and will take for granted that you know all the concepts learned from previous classes. The first days of school pay extra attention to the format of the class: Is homework graded? When are the tests? Are there pop quizzes? How are points earned or lost? Notebook quizzes? Participation points? Group quizzes? Use this information to guide you in your strategy to maximize your performance. Try a little bit more this year and start off strong by studying to get an A on that first quiz or test. In this way you are encouraged to continue and you are not spending the rest of the quarter trying to boost up your overall average if you start off with a low score. Ask your teacher questions when you don't understand and for clarification. Last but not least enlist the help of a good tutor early as good tutors are generally in demand and book up early!
In learning to read, beginning readers "sound out" what they are trying to read. In this way, they gain confidence that they can read any word that they come across but they also gain confidence in themselves. Similarly, in math, students need tools to help them solve problems as each problem is different from the next. Talking out loud or to oneself about what should be done first, second, and third helps in thinking the problem through gives the math student a starting point to get over the hump of "not-knowing." What I often find when working with students is that they do in fact know more than they realize or give themselves credit for and, with a little prompting, are able to verbalize what needs to be done. What I aim to do is give students the encouragement and the tools to convince themselves to begin the problem with confidence and to talk themselves through the steps. There is a saying, "to teach is to learn." This can be used to a students advantage by the student actually teaching another person how to solve a problem or even to pretend that they are explaining to someone how to solve a problem in every minute detail. This helps them to examine each step more closely, see which steps need clarification, and cements their understanding more deeply. Henry Ford's often quoted saying of, "Whether we think we can or we think we can't, we are right." is appropriate here because what I have learned through teaching is that often a large part of my tutoring is aimed at getting students to agree with me that they are good at math.
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