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Day 1|April 3rd, 2012|2:30 pm to 4:30 pm Today was my first day.

I caught the 48 bus going north on 15th and 45th, but, in my fit of anxiety, I caught it far too early. I arrived at Roosevelt around 2:15 pm--Frederica asked me to come at 2:45 pm. I figured I could kill that time by actually finding the classroom, room 303, but those plans were foiled when it took me no more than 5 minutes to find the class. I spent the next 25 minutes doing whatever I could to not look like a student there. Despite it not being a big deal at all, the thought of having to explain myself to a hall monitor made me nervous and uncomfortable. My clean shaven face and backpack were not helping, but something about the way I alternated between ruffling through my folder and checking the time must have convinced the hall sentinels that I was not trying to sneak out of class. The first thing I noticed about Roosevelt High School was how beautiful its interior was, specifically the library. With the advantage of Southern Californian weather, most of the high schools I am familiar with were built in a way that most of the main veins of transportation were outside. Virtually none of the different facets of my high school were connected by structures. Roosevelt had the more traditional high school design--the type I had seen so often in 1980's high school movies and television shows like Freaks and Geeks. My high school was both new (built in 2001) and wealthy (based in Orange County), and yet the Roosevelt library is unlike anything I've ever seen before in a public high school. Anyways, after the bell rung, I waited another 5 minutes for students to talk with Ms. Merrell and clear out...or maybe it was the anxiety giving me a little extra time to settle down. It was fine. In fact, it was more than fine. I can't wait to go back on Thursday. Ms. Merrell told me what section she anticipated most of the students would be having issues with, so I quickly read over the chapter for 5 minutes. Most of the students were struggling with transformations, dilations, and rational equations in their Algebra 2 class. Initially I wasn't sure if I'd struggle any less--I hadn't taken Algebra 2 in 5 years...my freshman year of high school. Ms. Merrell announced to the class that I would likely need some time to review the material, but if any of the students (about 10) needed help and she or the other tutor were busy, that they should feel free to ask me. I kept reviewing, and became increasingly insecure about my own ability to recall the material quickly enough and with enough depth to be able to help other students. "I need help; what does it mean by the asymptote's equation?" a girl interrupted my reading. Hey, I know how to do that. For about an hour and a half I guided this student through both an in-class worksheet, and then her assigned homework. It went surprisingly well. I wasn't stumped by any of the problems, and she was both engaged and responsive to what I was teaching her. If I taught her a method in one problem, she used it in the next without reminder or nudging. The last 30 minutes proved to be more of a challenge. I moved on to another student. She was working on the same problem set, so I assumed my tutoring process would go unchanged. That was naive. While the last girl simply didn't understand Algebra 2, this girl also had trouble with fundamental mathematics. The fact that I drastically had to adjust my approach to this student became rather quickly apparent when I recognized that she did not fully grasp the concept of x,y coordinate points. I could also tell that English was not her first language, and thus much of my explanation had to avoid mathematical vocabulary and rely on drawings. This proved more challenging than I anticipated. I've been bashed over the head with so much jargon over my academic career that finding ways to explain things entirely in simple times proved difficult. In my attempt to explain concepts, I found myself using jargon, recognizing this, attempting to explain that jargon, then accidentally using different jargon within that explanation.

It was a bit of a mess, and I was fortunate that the student was patient and truly had a desire to fully understand. We moved through the problems more slowly and meticulously, but we made progress nonetheless. Teaching is beautiful.

Day 2 | April 5, 2012 |2:30 -5:00 pm Today, I spent the entire two hours with a single student. She comes every day to the tutoring, and has been all year according to Ms. Merrell. The student moved her from west Africa two years ago. The district didn't have a translator for her, so she spent her first year here learning Algebra I in a language she didn't understand. I'm actually surprised that her move here was so recent; her grasp of the English language is really impressive. While her accent is still fairly thick, her vocabulary was fairly advanced. Beyond mathematical jargon, I never needed to reword or define any words I was using. That being said, she is now an Algebra II student. This subject is difficult in itself, but any complications that one might have with its fundamentals makes it exponentially harder. These fundamentals are rooted in basic algebra, and many Algebra II problems assume you understand these fundamentals and simply educate you on new concepts. This student's year in Algebra I was virtually negligible due to the language barrier, and thus much of my tutoring involves both instruction of whatever topic the class is on, as well as the basic algebraic steps used along the way. This proved challenging as things that had grown to be so automatic in my own mind were entirely foreign to her. For example, when solving for x in "x+4=2x5", it is common to say "now move the 5 to the other side, then subtract x from both sides so that it is on its own". The isolation of a variable, and the steps to do so are arguably the foundation of all algebra. My student does not understand this concept though, and struggles in determining which terms can be combined during this isolation.

I remained patient, though, and did whatever I could to not take any step for granted. I made no assumptions, and explained what many would consider to be obvious. This student is by no means unintelligent--in fact, I have reason to believe that she's incredibly bright. It's a shame that something like language is holding back the translation of that intelligence into success in traditional academics. I talked to Ms. Merrell about her for quite some time after my session was over. Ms. Merrell was also her Algebra I teacher. Ms. Merrell spoke endlessly about her work ethic (coming to every class and every tutoring session), her overcoming of the language barrier, and the struggles she's having. Ms. Merrell mentioned that the student has difficulty grasping the concept of coordinate points. Supposedly, the emphasis on teaching coordinate points and the x-y plane is a very American approach. How to plot points on grids is something that is embedded in us early on, and each new math class adds more complications and manipulations to this system. Thus, plotting (2, 3) is an incredibly easy task for an American student, and asking that student to plot the same point translated up 5 more units in the ydirection is easy--they would not hesitate to say (2,8). This kind of automatic visualization, understanding, and computation does not come easily to my student however.

She is absolutely wonderful. It's a challenge to teach her, but her willingness to learn keeps me patient...keeps me creative. The student asked if I wouldn't mind helping her at each session from now on, and I'm excited to do so. I hope that I can help in some way.

Day 3 | April 10, 2012 | 2:30 to 4:30 pm I was the only tutor today, so I ran the entire Algebra 2 table. I worked primarily with three students at this table, and then worked with another student from the Algebra I table for the last 20 minutes or so of the session. Two of the three Algebra 2 students I had not worked with before, while the third was the African student of the last entry. The two new students actually comprehended the new material quite well. They knew how to do most of the problems, and the only thing that was truly holding them back was a lack of confidence in their own intelligence. I think they were overcome with a bit of a crippling initial panic upon seeing a fresh problem--their instinct actually did know the correct way, but they had convinced themselves that they were wrong. It got to the point where my entire role with these students was simply asking "how were you thinking of starting?", they'd hesitantly give me an idea (presented as a question), and I would respond with a nod. From that point on, they did really well, and I simply checked their arithmetic after they found a solution. Even upon reaching the fairly complicated problems, after I reminded them that the fundamental process and concepts remained constant, these students succeeded--their struggles were rooted in confidence issues rather than a lack of conceptual understanding. All the problems tested students ability to recognize and create least common denominators for two fractions. Some of these problems were complicated by difficult factorization or by seemingly complicated arithmetic. Many students had no trouble multiplying two polynomial based fractions, but felt lost when division was introduced. It was cool to watch the clarity when I explained that they can make any division problem a multiplication one by simply multiplying the numerator fraction by the reciprocal of the denominator fraction. There are still obstacles to overcome with the student from Africa, but there is certainly visible progress. I noticed that she has begun to use some techniques that I've taught her in previous sessions without any help on my part. There have been a few problems in which she has used techniques inappropriately or unnecessarily. I think new sections and concepts are coming at her too quickly, and thus she has difficulty discerning which techniques and steps are applied to which types of problems. I think I need to teach her how to develop a strategy before jumping into a problem. I sense that she simply starts the problem and figures out what to do at each step, rather than understanding the big picture and direction of each problem.

Day 4 | April 12, 2012 | 2:30-4:45 pm The entire classroom was chock-full of kids making up tests or quizzes. Two tutors, including myself, showed today--I took the Algebra 2 table, while the other tutor handled the Algebra 1 table. Most of the normal students I tutor were busy taking tests, so there were only two students at the Algebra 2 table-- a new student and the African student. This session was fairly similar to the last one in terms of

mathematical content: it dealt with more rational fractions but added some complications: graphing, finding zeroes, etc. Ms. Merrell had to leave around 3:30 for a meeting, asking me to be in charge of the room. This grew complicated due to the large amount of students that were taking tests. I had to simultaneously continue to tutor the Algebra 2 students, while periodically sneaking glances across the room to ensure that academic integrity was being maintained. It was not easy, and the test-takers picked up on this. One student specifically tried to milk some answers out of me. She called me over, pointed to her current question, and said "I don't get this one." At first, it seemed as though she was hoping I would mistake her for a student working on homework, and simply guide her through the problem. I asked if she was working on a test, and she restated her question : "Oh, yeah...I just think the question is worded strangely." I did my best to reword the question without supplying any additional information. She understood, but attempted to get more details out of me by admitting that she understood the question, but was convinced that the problem must be printed incorrectly because she didn't recognize the equation (the question asked to transform a polynomial from its basic form, in this case the absolute value of x). The question had heavily altered the standard form in order to test students' understanding of transformation, reflection, and dilation. I held my ground, and eventually she realized that I wasn't as malleable as she had hoped. Due to the school's spring break and sessions missed by class meeting, I am currently in the process of working out additional opportunities for involvement. Ms. Merrell has agreed to help with this set up during the next session.

Day 5 | May 15th, 2012 | 2:30-4:45 pm I worked with Estera today. The topic was probability distributions and graphs of data sets. I recognized a fundamental hole in her understanding of mathematics that was likely a result of her year of learning Algebra 1 in a foreign language. The problem was measuring backpack weights for a student population and was being represented in a bar graph. Because weight is not quantized in discrete values, but rather continuously (i.e. a backpack can weigh 3.4 pounds), the bars were in between numbers (i.e. between 3 and 4). The final part of the problem asked Estera to come up with her own data set of measurements that would produce the exact same bar graph.

Now, I had seen Estera work with decimals before, and she had very little trouble with them arithmetically. When a decimal was given as her calculator's output, she never hesitated. However, it quickly became apparent that she did not understand them conceptually--in terms of their absolute value, in terms of their relationship to other numbers, and in terms of their place on the number line. For that final part of the backpack problem, I said, "So it looks like their graph had 5 students with backpacks between 3 and 4 pounds, so all you have to do for that bar is pick any 5 values that are between 3 and 4, right?" No acknowledgment or action was given. I tried again, "Can you think of any numbers between 3 and 4? Don't forget about decimals." She was confused, "Between 3 and 4? There are none." I once more reminded her of decimals, fractions, and halves, but it still wasn't clicking. So I

wrote down 3.5, and asked her if it was larger or smaller than 3. She didn't know. I then asked her if it was smaller or larger than 4. She didn't know. I thought my task would be easy enough from there; it appeared she simply never knew what decimals represented, and that a quick explanation would solve this problem. I tried to explain using four different approaches: drawing out number lines, dividing 7 by 2 and then explaining why we get 3.5, using books as visuals, using a drawing of pizza. It simply wasn't working. A small break through came when I told her that "3" and "3.0" are the exact same thing. Suddenly, she began to see that "3.1" was larger than "3.0", and "3.5" was larger than "3.1". However, she lost understanding as we approached 4: How did "3.9" go to "4.0" instead of "3.10"? And why are "3.1", "3.10", "3.100" the same thing? This proved to be my most challenging lesson with Estera, and even after a full two hours with her I'm not convinced that I succeeded in teaching her the concept of decimals. She knew enough to do the problem (by sticking to 3.4, 3.5, etc.), but that's not my goal for her, and I hope I can bring her to complete understanding.

Day 5 | May 17, 2012 | 2:30-4:45 pm Today was my second day working with Ms. Merrell's third period Algebra 1 class. Today was better in terms of student behavior, but I noticed no improvement in the student's willingness to work. I was placed at a new table table today. One student actually flew through the worksheet after I arrived, and understood the content fairly well. The girl next to him simply complained about Ms. Merrell and her supposed evilness, almost as if she was imprisoned and I was the only chance she had of giving word to the outside world. I am not entirely sure what she was looking for out of me, but whatever it was, she was convinced I had a lot of it. I did my best to ignore it by changing the subject to the worksheet. Meanwhile, the boy on the my right was struggling to get through his worksheet. Not struggling with the math really--he understood that--but struggling with actually doing it. He spent about 5 to 10 minutes arguing with a student across the room that the FunDip candy currently in that student's possession belonged to him. After some off topic warm-up conversation, I finally managed to get 3 out of the 4 students at the table to finish their worksheets with a record 10 minutes left in the class. The girl was not having it--Ms. Merrell was evil and this assignment was stupid. When I asked the others if they wanted to use the extra time to get their homework out of the way, they looked at me like I was insane. Fair enough.