In this math education type post, I go over the topic of some math students being really far behind in their math skills compared to their current grade.
The observations shared in this post is from my experiences as a mathematics tutor and my current (side) gig at a Mathnasium centre.
Weak Math Fundamentals In Some Students
Working with different math students from tutoring and at Mathnasium has opened my eyes a bit over the years. You get to see the different levels of math skill in different students and how they learn.
The one math student group that concerns me as a math tutor is the one where the students lack mathematics skills from previous grades. These prerequisite fundamental skills may not be necessarily missing, it could just be at a slow speed or the accuracy is not consistently high. Reasons for the lack of strong fundamental math skills could be from barely passing the math course, cramming, not enough homework practice, lack of effort and possibly depression.
Fall Behind, Stay Behind
Mathematics is a subject hated and despised by many as there is a lot of work involved, a fair bit of things to remember, the type of precision needed to do well and some abstract concepts here and there. One big feature in learning mathematics is that later concepts really build on the previous topics. If you do not understand the previous concept, it is most likely you may not understand the next concept on top of it. If you fall behind, you stay behind until you catch up.
A young student who has weak multiplication skills would not do well with finding the area of rectangles and squares. Finding the area of rectangles and squares does require multiplication skills.
If a student is not great at multiplication and division, then that student will struggle with dealing with order of operations algebra (BEDMAS). Order of operations involves a mixture of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents and brackets (parantheses).
This fall behind, stay behind concept can apply also to other (technical) subjects such as computer science, economics, sports such as soccer, brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and the like.
The Importance Of Algebra & Computational Skills In Math
A large part of mathematics involves the not so fun stuff that requires a lot of homework and grinding. These are necessary evils. It is like learning to do food preparation before getting into the cooking. Necessary evils in mathematics include:
- Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division
- Order Of Operations
- Data Management (Mean, Median, Mode)
- Negative Numbers
- Scientific Notation
- Calculus (maybe)
There are more to the list that a math/engineering type student should learn before getting into the big application type problems. The application of mathematics is like the cooking part after the food prep.