Troubleshooting Difficulties

Reference: Course on Subject Clearing

In 2015, I worked with High School dropouts at a facility of the Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa in New Port Richie, Florida. Here are my notes from February, 25 and 26. 2015.

(Notes 2/25/2015)

Student 1 – Young man… he is proud to have taught himself basic arithmetic… wants to learn about measurement… did very poorly on assessment for GED requirements… was very upset at the results of assessment and somewhat lost his motivation… very impulsive in answering questions… mostly guesswork… computation skill needs to be built up… tried to explain the problems he got wrong… he pretty much closed up… need to find the right approach.

Student 2 – Young girl… she comes regularly and wants desperately to learn… she is practically illiterate in both English and Math… Found her to be struggling on fractions… Work with her on the numbering system using abacus… got her interest but it was a big struggle for her… She is motivated because she wants to pass GED… She was back on fractions the next day… wanted to know how to round up fractions… tried to explain but she got overwhelmed… checked what was before fraction… she was interested in learning division… made some progress with her on doing division by setting it up as a fraction and simplifying it… she now understands exact and inexact division… she understands how exact division leads to factors… she is having a rough time understanding how inexact division leads to mixed numbers… basically, she is having a hard time grasping the concept of fraction even when pizza examples are used… but she is not giving up… I admire her for that. The right approach here is to continue working with her on fractions until she gets it. She looks happier.

Student 3 – Young women and mother… she is very much into fitness… she wants to pass her GED to get a job or start a business in Fitness… she is practically illiterate in math… could not determine where her trouble was with math… Work with her on the numbering system using abacus… she responded to abacus but it was hard to say if she was interested and getting it… went over 2 hours with her… she appeared overwhelmed… she comes infrequently… she hasn’t returned since last session… after this experience, I decided to limit session with a person to maximum one hour… the approach may be to give her an assessment test and then take it from there.

Student 4 – Older Spanish lady… she is illiterate in English and Math but very motivated to learn… she comes regularly to the center… worked with her on the numbering system and then on writing checks… she was very happy and excited… next time she wanted help with writing English words with correct spelling… she can read English but writes hesitatingly with upper and lower case letters mixed and incorrect spellings… Show her how she can use dictionary on Internet to find correct words and spelling… Show here the upper and lower case of English alphabets… Explain to her when Upper case is used… Have her read a paragraph from a children’s book and explain the meaning of words she did not understand… then dictated that paragraph to her so that she could write by listening… Explain to her what a sentence is… After dictating each sentence have her check what she wrote against the sentence in the book… get her to spot the errors in her writing and to correct them… she was very happy. It is easy to work with this student because she tells you exactly what she wants to learn, and then she is very interested.

Student 5 – Polite young girl struggling with learning but upbeat and interested… she is practically illiterate in math… Used abacus to clarify the numbering system… Showed her how multiplication is repeated addition… Showed her how abacus could be used for repeated addition… Help her generate a multiplication table for numbers up to 13… She wanted to know how to write a check… Showed her what a signature is… Help her create her signature… Showed her how to write a check… She was happy.

Student 6 – Young man… quite alert but frustrated about the test he was taking… have him stop the test to discuss the questions he got wrong so far… he listened to the logic given for correct answers quite attentively… he wanted to know about areas and volumes… explain to him what a unit is… he understood and liked the explanation… showed him how the unit for area must be a like a square tile, and the unit for volume must be a cubic block… explained to him the logic underlying the formulas for area and perimeter of a rectangle… he was excited about this new understanding and very pleased.

(Notes 2/26/2015)

Student 6 – He wasn’t planning to come today, but he turned up. Start him on Short Form Division… practice some short form division… you can divide only as fast as you can multiply… multiplication is repeated addition… show him abacus and demonstrate place values on it… show that the numbers are written the same way as they appear on abacus… show the structure of large numbers… have him write the multiplication table from 1 to 20… Use repeated addition on abacus… He did very well. He was very happy.

Student 7 – Young women… she will be joining the course to learn to be a chef… She is quite motivated… Problem with multiplication, division, fractions, percents, and Algebra… Start with multiplication… show multiplication as repeated addition… have her start writing multiplication table… explain ones and tens on abacus, and show her how to add on abacus… finish table up to 13… explain all the place values on abacus… practice reading and writing large numbers… She was quite happy.

Student 8 – He was one of the students I met on the first day, but I didn’t get the opportunity to work with him until now… He has some welding experience… He wants to pass GED… Wants to learn geometric formulas for areas and volumes… Go over the basic concepts of Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry, point, line, surface, area, block, volume… He wanted to know the area of octagon… to teach this, first teach him the Pythagorean Theorem… practice the use of this theorem… He had great fun with it… he was quite happy.



My success in working with the people who come to the MM has been mixed. So far, this research has taught me the following:

  1. Keep the session very simple and do not go beyond an hour with a person.
  2. Every person is different, and the approach toward a person must be customized.
  3. Of course, their basics are missing, but the area of difficulty must not be assumed. 
  4. Spotting the right entrance point to their difficulty would elicit their interest and cooperation.
  5. It may take time with some people to spot the right entrance point. In difficult cases, an assessment test might help.
  6. GED assessment test may be too difficult and demotivating for some. A battery of assessment tests from simple to difficult is needed.
  7. All successful approaches to determine entrance point of a person needs to be documented.
  8. The immediate goal should be to get the person more interested in learning. 

Subsequent documents provide the current Subject Clearing approach to handling the difficulties of school dropouts.


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