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Math coaching

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Ottawa, Ontario, Nov. 16, 2009

By

Haroon Patel

Mr. Haroon Patel is a retired electrical engineer, who is enjoying his fourth

year as a JUMP Math coach in Ottawa, Ontario. He shares his insights

into the question, “What makes a successful JUMP learning experience?”

I think that everyone has a framework for doing things. Sometimes you’re aware of

it and sometimes you’re not, but the framework you use really affects how you do

things. So if you have a framework, you can use it to assess your success or

improve on your success.

For me there are two components: One is what I call the Doing component and the

other what I call the Non-Doing component

DOING

The Doing involves the things I need to do to get the job done. And the job, from a

math perspective, is to develop Foundational skills and Specific skills

I know someone who is an absolutely terrific teacher and just passionate about

math. She teaches high school. The number one problem she encounters daily is

that most students just can’t do basic math, or foundational math, skills that they

should have mastered in the lower grades. So what do I mean when I say

foundational math?

1. means having numeracy skills: manipulating numbers using addition,

subtraction, multiplication etc, and having a feel for numbers -number sense,

and lots of mental math.

2. means knowing strategy and tactics – developing critical thinking.

3. means having focus and paying attention – developing a sense that math is

interesting, or important, or useful or fun stuff

4. means having confidence – saying “Yes, I can do that” or “No, I don’t get it”

5. means having a structured approach to solving problems

5.1. understanding the question

5.2. writing neatly and in an orderly fashion, especially equations

5.3. checking the answer, asking does it make sense

struggling with Specific skills I sometimes switch immediately to Foundational

skills – not only to re-enforce the underlying skill needed to do the Specific skill,

but also to keep the momentum going.

1

Foundational Skills Tools

For developing Foundational skills (numeracy, critical thinking, focus and interest

in the subject and a structured approach) I use:

3 GOFish

SPECIFIC SKILLS

For SPECIFIC skills I start off with the JUMP Fractions workbook of course. Every

now and then I would ask the student if he or she needs help with specific

schoolwork.

Sometimes, and this does not happen often, I ask teachers to identify topics which

require more focus, or give the teacher the JUMP workbook and ask which sections

require particular attention.

STRUCTURE

you to organize and execute the things you need to get done.

Session Structure

Session structure has to do with what tools in your toolkit you’re going to use for a

particular session. Have variety in your bag of tricks. Variety is good

Ask yourself. What worked last week? What didn’t? What are the gaps?

I want to start off and end off on a happy note. Normally I start and end with a

recreational math game

A typical session may be structured to start off with KenKen, followed by Mental

Math, then Specific skills, and ending with Go Fish. This is not a hard structure;

you can spend more or less time in any section , or skip a section. You can change

the games or the emphasis depending on what your student responds to.

Homework is an option. Every now and then I would give out homework when it

feels right. Sometimes I would give out KenKen as homework. Every student is

different. I had a grade 2 student who loved a point system I used. He got 5 points

every time just for showing up with his homework book, 5 points for actually doing

H. Patel; Ottawa, ON. November 16, 2009

his homework, and bonus points for excelling. When he reached 100 points he got a

prize.

Teaching Structure

Then there is the structural aspect of teaching Math using the JUMP ethos that

works well, which is

1 Go to a level the student gets and understands and establish confidence

2 Introduce a new small/incremental step, go as small as necessary

3 When the student gets it – make it a success event to be celebrated

Remember as you go along not only is the math skill set being incrementally

enhanced but, and this is important, you are consciously reinforcing the confidence

level. JUMP workbooks are specifically designed to facilitate this structure, which

is why they are so very effective.

Work Structure

This has to do with what structure you use when a student is working through a

problem

Understands the problem

If appropriate, has a plan of attack

Is writing neatly and in an orderly fashion

Validates the answer

NON-DOING

more about myself than about the student. It’s how I measure my success. Bottom

line is that if I succeed at Non-Doing, the Doing part becomes easier.

Some time ago, when my daughter was in grade eight, I went to a parent-teacher

meeting. I told the teacher, and my daughter was mortified when she heard this, I

told the teacher that it is not possible to TEACH someone some thing. However, I

said, if the student is receptive, and has an open mind, then anything is possible.

So what did I do when I first started with the JUMP program? I was eager to

TEACH math to a needy kid. I had the Fractions workbook, I would work through

that. I would give out homework every week to re-enforce the lessons learnt. I had

four months before the school year ended. I would get it done in that time, no

problem. I would review the test material thoroughly before the test. Make sure that

the student scored at least 80% in the test.

H. Patel; Ottawa, ON. November 16, 2009

Big mistake! The objectives I was working on had very little to do with the kid.

These were meeting MY objectives. If I succeeded I would feel good and pat

myself on the back.

Clearly I was pushing the agenda. If the student is not receptive you can’t push your

agenda. The harder you push the greater the resistance you will encounter

non-verbal non-action oriented level. If you succeed then you are creating the space

where good things can happen. How?

Be present and in the moment – pay full attention to your student, listen carefully,

be patient, be accepting, and be without prejudice. Now, you will NOT be in the

moment when you have negative thoughts or feelings from the situation you think

you are in. This may arise because your expectations are not being met perhaps

because your student is not interested, not paying attention, still does not get it, is

fooling around, being disrespectful, is bored, suddenly forgotten everything you

ever taught her etc.

The key is to become aware of your own thoughts and feelings. Allow them to

subside. Then assess the situation. If the student is not responding you have to step

back (become aware) and decide whether it’s a concept problem, a confidence

problem, a foundational skill problem or an attention related problem, or even an

“am-I-the-problem” problem.

Remember, don’t focus on outcomes. It does not matter a hoot if the student has

not learnt something in the timeframe you set out for this to happen. This is the

trick. This may sound contradictory because in the Doing you are focused on

outcomes but in the Non-Doing you don’t care about outcomes. If you do focus on

outcomes you will first raise your expectations and then your frustrations. When

you don’t care about outcomes you can more easily create the atmosphere where

good things can happen, where outcomes are possible.

practice my Non-Doing abilities. And when it works it can be richly satisfying. You

know that you have succeeded when you’re enjoying the moment and especially

when your student is enjoying the moment.

H. Patel; Ottawa, ON. November 16, 2009

Appendix 1: Tools to Develop Foundational Skills

a. Multiplication 1 to 4, 5, 6 (from 5), 9 (fingers trick),10,11, 7 (memorize 7x7,

7x8, 7x12:already have learned 7x [1 through 6] and 7 x [9 through 11] ),

8(memorize 8 x8, 8x12), 12 (memorize 12 x12)

b. Trick for multiplying by 11 for larger numbers: Add pairs of numbers next to

each other, except for the numbers on the edges. Example: 3254×11. The

answer comes from these sums and edge numbers:

(3)(3+2)(2+5)(5+4)(4) = 35794.

c. For addition and subtraction I would sometimes ask for how to solve the

problem rather than the answer to promote analytical skills.

1. E.g. 45 + 18 = Add 20 to 45 then subtract 2.

2. E.g. 43 – 25 = Add 5 (take you 30), add 10’s (take you to 40), add 3

take you to 43. Answer: 43 -25 = 5+10+3 = 18.

3. You can use much higher numbers to develop number sense

e. g. 1023 +129. Remember you can get there by moving in small steps.

2 KenKen

As in sudoku, the goal of each KenKen puzzle is to fill a grid with digits ––e.g. 1

through 4 for a 4×4 grid––so that no digit appears more than once in any row or

column. Additionally, KenKen grids are divided into heavily outlined groups of

cells and the numbers in the cells of each group must produce a certain “target”

number when combined using a specified mathematical operation (addition,

subtraction, multiplication or division).

• Recreational math, have fun – do math without realizing it

• Teaches mental math, strategy, algorithm, trial and error

• You can progress to a higher level

• You can do it together, struggle together.

3 GOFish

• The dealer gives each player six cards (--four cards if skills are very weak). If a

player has any pairs of cards that add to 10, these pairs are placed on the table

before play begins. Player One asks Player Two for a card that adds to 10 when

combined with a card pre-selected from Player One’s hand. For instance, if Player

One has a 3, he may ask Player Two for a 7. If Player Two has the requested card,

the first player takes it and lays it down along with the 3 from his hand. Player

One may then ask for another card. If Player Two doesn’t have the requested card

she says, “Go fish,” and Player One must pick up a card from the top of the deck.

If this card adds to 10 with any card in his hand the pair is placed on the table. It

is then Player Two’s turn to ask for a card. Play ends when one player lays down

the last of his or her cards. Players receive four points for laying down all of their

cards first and one point for each pair they have laid down.

• You can choose a target number higher than 10 by assigning J =11 Q =12 K=13

or J = 21 or 31 etc

• You use points to keep tally of who’s winning/losing over the weeks

An Approach to JUMP Math Coaching

H. Patel; Ottawa, ON. November 16, 2009 A1-1

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