Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Where Do I Go Wrong?

Year 11, Language Disordered, ADD and acutely anxious.

For a term now we have been working on mastering the process of finding a percentage of a quantity.

First he does a sheet like this:

Change this percentage to a decimal.

He moves the decimal place back two places and gets 0.235. He does 50 of these in around one minute now.

Next he does a sheet like this:

23.5% of 252.5

He converts to a decimal and puts the numbers into his calculator.
0.235 x 252.5
He does 50 of these in under 4 minutes.

Finally he does a sheet like this:

What is 23.5% of $252.50?

He has to convert the words to a number sentence
23.5% x $252.50
Change the percentage to a decimal
0.235 x $252.50
And put the numbers into the calculator.

Today was his 'exam'. He had three pages: 50 questions like the above on each page. He completed the first page. He mostly completed the second. He froze on the third.

After his exam time was up he came to me and told me he couldn't do the third page, they were just too confusing. He had no idea where to start.

"You've done these problems lots of times before." I protested.
"I don't care, I can't do them today. It's too confusing Mrs A. I don't know what I'm doing."
"But it's exactly the same process as the page before only this time it's in words..."
"I don't care, I can't do it. It's NOT the same. It's too confusing."

I explained the process again. I showed how the three sheets built up, one from the other using the same skills. I gave him another 15 minutes to complete the last page. At the end of the time he came to me and said "It's no use. I can't do them," and flounced away in a state of high anxiety.

What am I missing? Where has my process fallen down. Can someone please give me his perspective because I am at a loss!!!!!!

Still, on a positive note, at the beginning of term he couldn't even do 1 sheet of any type without asking for constant reassurance and asking questions every 30 secs. At least he got through the first two pages unaided today......

Oh. This young man has an average IQ by the way! He has what is called a Specific Learning Difficulty.


Laine Moore said...


Those kind of word-number problems would be SO hard with a language disorder!!

Does he have an NEP?

Laine Moore said...

oh and p.s. it sounds like you've done great with him so far!

Arizaphale said...

I am his NEP! What I couldn't get over was that he'd done it before and was simply totally convinced that he couldn't do it. Even though he's done it heaps of times before. *sigh*
What do you expect of an NEP by the way? Specific objectives or general aims? Just curious.

Laine Moore said...

I've actually never SEEN an NEP. Every student that I work with has one (or is in the process of having one made for them if they have a new diagnosis.) Sometimes they have specific goals though, because the teachers and my consultants tell me about the goals that I'll be helping with, but I really don't know what they look like in general. (and I'm sure it differs across schools?)

I was just wondering if due to his NEP he might have different standards for his exams? (It looks like he already MUST have different standards than other year 11's... but if he can do those problems, and you know he can, do you think it was just the "exam" label plus his anxiety that was throwing him off?)

Sounds very frustrating though! I know how that is though, working with students who CAN do things but refuse sometimes.

natalie said...

I have no idea what a NEP is, but I'm sorry you're it!

I can't explain his perspective, but I can empathize with you.

I'm sorry you both ended up frustrated. Boy, oh, boy am I sorry.

Arizaphale said...

An NEP is a Negotiated Education Plan. In the UK we called them IEPs (Individual Education plans or Irritating Extra paperwork...depending on your perspective). Over here I find they are a token gesture but yes Laine, he does have different exam standards. I was just so disappointed that he wasn't able to do even his usual negotiated tasks once you put the 'exam' label in front of them!!

Stacy said...

It does sound like you have done great, but it sounds like he just gave up. I'm not a teacher so I can't give you any advice, but just keep trying. Eventually he will probably get it.

Elisa said...

Oh dear!!
Sounds like he panicked at the thought of an exam. And, word problems seem to instill a ton of anxiety into people. Words and math are like oil and water- they just don't go together. (for some people)

I don't know that there is anything you could have done differently. Maybe some meditation before the exam (for both of you)???

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Maybe two pages really just was what he could accomplish for the time period as of right now? It sounds like he just hit the wall. Could he have taken a break and then taken the third page? Maybe even the following day?

Was the third page word problems, or were they just like you wrote out? I wonder if it might help to do the third page first next time? Or do you think then the frustration would set in right away?

It sounds like you've done great work with him in any case. He's come a long way!