how do you teach people?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by strantor, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    I am many things, but an educator is not one of them. I suffer from a crippling "cognitive bias" for lack of a better term. I know only how I think and I seem to be capable only of relaying concepts to others in the way that I understand them, which is usually not intuitive to other people. Teaching is at the top of my list of things I hate doing. Maybe I suck at it because I hate it, or maybe I hate it because I suck at it. Probably both; anyway the effect is the same.

    My daughter is struggling with math and I feel helpless to help her. I don't know of any helpful jingles or mnemonics because I don't use any. For me, math just "happens." When I sit down with her to tutor her, I start out frustrated because I already know what's coming (her hum-hawwing over a problem until I throw her a bone, and then another, and another, holding her hand through the entire process, and her not retaining even a single step to apply to the next problem), and then when it comes, the frustration intensifies. I end up being overly grouchy which turns her off to learning, which I pick up on, and frustrates me even more, and what's worse is that it gives me ammo to pin the problem on her: "Well I can't teach you if you don't even want to learn." With a clear head (like now) I know it's my fault, but in the heat of the moment I always see her attentiveness as the problem.

    Our tutoring sessions last hours and leave both of us exhausted and feeling like no forward progress was made. So, I rarely tutor her now. Maybe once every week or two, when she brings home bad grades. She's failing and I don't seem to be capable of improving her grades. Or maybe that's just something I tell myself. I've looked into getting a tutor for her; someone with a competency for teaching, and in this little town we live in, I haven't been able to find anyone. I have her grandfather tutoring her now via skype, but that seems less than effective. He is a very good teacher, and his grandkids who live with him are at the top of their classes because of his tutelage. But there is some disconnect I think, by not being in the same room.

    Bottom line is I feel like I'm not doing the best I can for her, and I want to do more. I want to be a better educator and a better father. I know we have a lot of educators on this site, so I'm hoping someone might have some tips for a begrudging beginner teacher. How do you force a concept into someone's mind that just doesn't want to take?

    I guess it would be helpful to describe the problems she's having; it seems to be comprehension in reading. It manifests itself of course in reading (she's failing that) and math, specifically word problems. She's in 4th grade. Math problems like "Suzie has $8,844 and wants to give it equally to all four of her children;" she doesn't know what operation to perform. She will just randomly pick an operation and go with it. Her answer might be $35,376 because she multiplied, and the fact that it's higher than $8,844 doesn't set off any alarms in her head. In reading, she can read the entire passage aloud, get all the words correct, and then you ask her something about what she read an she goes back to the passage to find the answer. If you don't ask her verbatim how it was written, she'll spend 30min reading it over and over until you stop her.
  2. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
    Hire a tutor that can empathize and teach the current "method" of math.

    Accept her limitations and yours.

    Be a good dad in other ways.
    JoeJester, #12, strantor and 2 others like this.
  3. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    As a math challenged person myself I can empathize with your daughter. An old girlfriend sent her son to Sylvan learning center and it turned him around in math.
    strantor likes this.
  4. camerart

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 25, 2013
    Hi S,

    Perhaps she's not going to do any job requiring maths, but tell her that she may change her mind one day, and it is a good idea to learn it anyway, for when she knows what she wants.

    In the 'Suzie' problem, make a pie cut out of paper with 12 cut slices for an example. Show her how to share equally between 1,2,3,4,6,and 12 people. Let her play with that till she's got the idea, then make a pie with 4x slices with $2211 written on them. You will be telling her the answer, but I bet she gets the idea, without tension. Can you do division i,e, 4 into 8844? Then show her how you would do it, (in no hurry). she will quicken up later.

    When she gets the answer $35,376, make another pie and put $35,376, on each of the children's portions. Then add them all up and ask if she will share your money out, and we'll have a new car. i,e, see if you can make light of it. It's that important tension that blocks a mind.

    Sorry if I'm obsessed with pies, I'm getting hungry:rolleyes:

    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
    strantor likes this.
  5. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I suck at teaching, too. I throw my hands up and say, "I can't even think at that level any more!":(
    The slow, laborious process of waiting for someone to make new connections with their neurons. I'm 65 years old. I don't have enough time left to wait for somebody else to have an original thought.:mad:
    Or, as I said in another post, "There is an endless supply of beginners. There is not an endless supply of me."
    And that's one of the two reasons I stay out of the Homework Forum.:rolleyes:

    So, I understand it's your child. It's worth the effort. But I couldn't do it. I know because I tried. I sent a 10 year old girl to school with a formula for the answer instead of, "The answer". Boy was that a fail! As they say in the hills of Appalachia, "You can't get there from here.":D Well, at least, I can't.:oops:
    strantor likes this.
  6. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    I showed my three year old grand daughter how a paper plate looked like a pizza pie. I folded to it half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, and told her 32nd was too tough to do with an 8 inch paper plate.

    Now every time we use a paper plate at lunch, she wants to do that same math exercise. Try to make it fun. Grandma will do counting with coins.

    I've already did counting to 15 using pool balls with my grandson. I rolled one to him and asked him what the number was. He is five and the last time we played that game, he stated the number ball of the color I asked for and rolled it across the table to me.

    Make it fun, if you can. Sylvan learning center does sound like a good option.
  7. dannyf

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2015
    Teaching family / friends, or teaching as a job is one thing, and teaching strangers as a gesture of good will is another.

    The key to effective teaching friends / family is to bring it down to the level of your students and teach them principles behind what you are trying to teach.

    The key to effective teaching strangers is to respect their right to be stupid.
  8. justtrying

    Active Member

    Mar 9, 2011
    From what you described, you need to step aside and let someone else to take over.

    She seems to be missing the basic concepts of both reading comprehension and math. She needs a good tutor that will help her gain those skills and you simply do not have the patince. I went through an experience like that with my father, it is not pretty and the best thing you can do is let someone else take over.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  9. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    That and teaching is an inate skill, like any other. We can't all be good at everything. It is why we hope schools weed out those who don't have the skills.
  10. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    There needs to be a suitable "chemistry" between the teacher and the pupil. If it's really good, great things happen with ease. If it's just okay, then progress can be made with enough effort. If it really sucks then the more effort is put in the worse things seem to get. A willingness to be flexible -- on the part of both parties -- can swing the pendulum some distance toward the good, but it's not a guarantee that the mix will ever be really workable.

    Finding ways to either make the learning fun or make it rewarding (prizes or money for progress) helps in a lot of cases.

    The Sylvan, Mathnasium, Kumon, and other learning centers might be good alternative, if nothing else for a short period of time to see what they say about what might work with your daughter.

    You might also talk to her teachers to get their input.

    Always keep in mind that others, particularly her teachers, may be more interested in adhering to the latest fad in education than in really trying to identify what would work well. That's possible with the learning centers, too, but I suspect that their profit motive makes this a bit less likely.
  11. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    Reading comes down to 3 parts...
    1) It has to be important and valuable in her ecosystem. Kids who see their parents read, usually like reading. Kids who are read a bedtime story are even more likely to understand and enjoy reading.

    2) Make sure she gets her eyes checked - kids with astigmatism are more stressed/fatigued by reading. It takes practice to build up endurance.

    3) Make sure she is tested and, if needed, treated for dyslexia. It is common, it is real, it is not just an excuse.

    You, your wife, her grandmother, grandfather, whoever - has to talk out loud all day as you do your math (ask her to divide the grapes fairly, ask her to check if there are enough pieces of bread for sandwiches, ask her to calculate your gas milage when you fill up. Get her involved, show that math is important and have expectations of her. Never get angry - be a coach, be happy and tell her how smart she is when she is smart. Success is its own reward - no dollars or prizes required.

    Whether it is 45 minutes per day or 1.5 hours every other day, make a commitment. It take an investment of your time and your full attention. No cell phones, no tablets, no conversations with your spouse. It is daughter time. Make sure she knows her addition, subtraction and multiplication and divisions tables from 0/0 to 12/12. Make it fun, repeat as needed and

    The goal at the end of the line is not how much overtime I can work, how big of a vacation, how big of a house,... I see it all as that one last push of the two wheeler and they are peddling their little asses off to keep that thing moving. I felt the same way as I loaded their college apartments. Next step will be their apartment after graduation. That being said, the investment in my kids is where my time and effort goes - right after keeping my wife happy.

    If that is not working, look for a new school or tutoring program.

    Please do not let her become the girl who skates through school without learning the basic skills just because she is so cute, so verbal, so what ever. It doesn't help anyone.

    Finally, a kid has no idea what 8000 is, when have they ever seen 8000 of anything. Or 2000 or 32000. Get her hands on something (a scale, some BBs, or beads or Legos ) and get her and idea of what 100, 300, 1000 and 3000 might.
    Sinus23, strantor and shortbus like this.
  12. profbuxton


    Feb 21, 2014
    Sound like she does need some help with her reading skills as mentioned above. If she can understand the verbal problem doing the maths become much simpler.
    strantor likes this.
  13. gerty

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 30, 2007
    I don't know how I missed this post 'till today... I worked blue collar all my life, and loved most of it. 10 years ago the Carrier Air Conditioning plant in my area closed. We were touted as the largest in the world (at that time) 1 million square feet of manufacturing, 17 different assembly lines, each line dedicated to a certain series of A/C unit. All was well until they announced we were closing, I had 28 years invested in that place. I had it made, people (my peers) told me I had a "position" I wasn't "general maintenance "A" like the rest of them. I took on all the unusual jobs like computer networking, fiber optics, cctv, locksmithing, access control, etc..
    All of this brings me to the point of this post. when the local Electronics Instructor retired the school ( post secondary ) called me to see if I wanted the job.
    I agreed to give it a shot, that was 10 years ago, I'm still here. I enjoy it when I have good students, others don't want to be helped and are convinced someone will take care of them forever. I've had several thugs, a pair of brothers whose claim to fame is that they got their GED from the DOC. Another is proud to say he was one of the last 8 prisoners to leave Brushy Mountain Prison.( ..These usually re-offend and are back behind bars in a little while.

    On the other side of the coin, my last graduate (12/18/15) took the electronics course that I teach, and also took the NEC course that I also teach.
    He passed the CETa exam from ETA,( ) and he also passed his LLE test( ) from the state. right now he's still in the testing phase of landing a job at AEDC ( ) it's a wind tunnel test facility run by the Air Force.
    I guess my whole point for all this rambling on is that I try my best to help them all, some aren't the least bit interested , they're only here because Momma said get a job or go to school. These usually fail first/second trimester.

    Some try just enough to get passing grades which allows them to stay in school. Those students after graduation usually turn down good jobs, and wouldn't work in a pie factory..

    Some do really well and are a pleasure to work with and I can usually place them in a decent job.
    All students are different when it comes to aptitude, desire, motivation. And as far as I know there is no set technique that works for all, you just have to try different things and see what works for that individual. And yes.... I'm still learning how to teach @ 64 years old !!
    Sinus23, JoeJester and strantor like this.
  14. dannyf

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2015
    2nd that.

    I said this earlier and I will say it again: being stupid is part of one's human rights. and we all have got to respect that.
  15. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
    My daughter is in 3rd grade. She was excellent in math (her best subject) until this year.

    Then, she started making silly forgetting to carry a 1 or not reading the problem well enough to choose the correct operation.

    I found that helping her only made her lazy...she would rely on me to check her work or explain the problems to her.

    I resorted to my capitalistic instincts: I told her, "this may be not be fun, but it's a job. And jobs done right get paid for."

    So, in lieu of an allowance, I pay her cash for 100% correct homework and tests -- nothing else. The amount is contingent upon the difficulty. The money is hers to do whatever she wants with it -- no need for permission from mom or dad.

    You'd be surprised how positive incentives focus the mind. She gets nothing but 100s now. And I rarely have to help her.
    Sinus23, gerty and strantor like this.
  16. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005

    Most will do all they can for those that put forth a good effort. Those that "coast" rarely get the "extra" assistance when it comes to perks like a good recommendation.

    I know you didn't have to help "place" your graduate, but it's a good move. I asked the good technicians that worked for me where they wanted to go next. The last one want to try the engineering center, so I called the division officer over there to find out if there were an opening and if he wanted this technician. There wasn't an opening, but he said he would make sure the technician worked in his division. He jumped at the offer to have someone who worked and trained at my unit. I made sure he got that unit.
    strantor likes this.
  17. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    Sounds like a good plan. I'll have to remember that when the grandkids start doing homework and tests in the future.
  18. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    I definitely agree with the basic point here -- that incentives really matter. What I would add is that the trick if finding the right incentive for each situation. Sometimes it needs to be a carrot and sometimes it needs to be a stick. A financial incentive might work with one child while be worthless on another. Similarly, a financial incentive might work great with a child in a given area (math homework) but not work at all in another (eating right or cleaning their room). Worse, a given incentive might work great today but not work at all a year from now, either because it has gotten "old" or just because the child is a year older and is no longer the same child they were a year earlier.

    I also agree that we have to watch out for signs that we are inadvertently enabling poor behavior, such as relying on us to check work that they should be completely capable of checking themselves.
    Sinus23 and strantor like this.
  19. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
    Agree 100%. I learned this years ago training dogs -- you need to find the right buttons to push. I also learned that positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative, though some dogs require more of the latter.

    FYI, the quantity of cash concerned is basically pocket change to me. I am sure she will get more expensive as she gets older! Hopefully, she will not threaten to unionize at some point.
  20. gerty

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 30, 2007
    edit: The graduation rate is monitored closely also. If it get's lower than what they like
    ( and I don't know what that number/% is) I'll get a visit by someone wanting to know why.
    I got such a visit a few years ago, we looked up which students didn't finish. Turns out that was a bad year for thugs in my class and I invited him to call the jail and ask to see if those individuals were currently vacationing there. At the end of every trimester all students must fill out an anonymous Instructor evaluation form. ( funniest one was for me to be "less intimidating")
    So in my job my feet are held fairly close to the fire..

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016