I Think My Students Learned Something …

May 11, 2011 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

This semester I taught an arithmetic class. The students in this class have experienced little to no success in their mathematical career, their study skills are severely lacking, and their level of anxiety is through the roof. It is the hardest class I have ever taught, and although occasionally frustrating it is the most rewarding class I teach.

I used all the tricks in my bag to help the students understand the mathematical concepts that they never understood. I helped them to lower their anxiety and actually enjoy mathematics. Their confidence is high, and their outlook for future math classes is positive.

Yesterday I was driving to school to give their final exam and was smacked in the face by Murphy’s Law. A big rig had caught fire on the freeway, and only one lane was open. It took us 40 minutes to move 1 mile. I was already late and knew it was going to take a while longer – about 3 miles to the burning big rig. I thought about the students I had on day 1, and I worried that the old levels of anxiety would come back. I called a colleague who wrote on the board that I was stuck in traffic and was running late. I found a gap in the barbed wire fence that runs along the freeway and cut through a field to an access road, and managed to get around the traffic.

I arrived 45 minutes late, leaving only 1:15 for them to take the exam. As I entered the room I expected to see a panicked group, but that was not the case. Students were calmly going over their notes, reworking practice problems, and helping each other with questions. I was so proud. The big picture lesson I worked on all semester had stuck with them. Relax, be confident, don’t panic. As long as you understand what you are doing, and practice good student behaviors, you can be successful.

For what it’s worth, they went on to do really well on the exam – I had 6 students who had perfect scores.


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.


Entry filed under: General Teaching, Math. Tags: , , , , , , .

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