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From Fractions to Felonies (Part 1)




This post is the first in a series, where we will explore this connection of repeated math failures and juvenile delinquency. The intention is to create awareness and to open discussion of this topic.

Juvenile detention may seem like an odd topic for a math blog, but from my perspective, there is a direct correlation. To illustrate this, let's trace the path for a typical juvenile offender backwards.

Now, I would agree that there should probably be many steps added below "Failure in School." What would you add?

  • Learning disabilities?
  • Poverty?
  • Language barriers?
  • Trouble-making behavior?
  • Poor parenting?
  • Cultural differences?

No doubt there are a variety of factors that contribute to students' failures in schools, but that is far beyond the scope of this blog. There is little (outside of early intervention advocacy) that teachers can do to prevent students from reaching that stage of "failure in school." Even 1st and 2nd grade teachers will receive students with multiple failures in school and academics.

For some students, this failure repeats year after year. They will try all sorts of tactics to avoid the resulting embarrassment and humiliation. Feigning ill, "forgetting" homework, distracting themselves, distracting others, withdrawing......

The list goes on.....

Teachers know (realistically), these issues are handed into our loving arms, so that we can somehow magically fix this. We know the public expects us to perform some sort of Jaime Escalante, Dangerous Minds miracle. As if rapping the Pythagorean Theorem along to Tupac will somehow fix this. We are jaded, and we know that this kid's failure is not our fault. And we know the insane heroic measures it will take to turn this kid around. It is so easy to pass the blame. On the parents. On last year's teacher. On society. On technology. On the kid......

But here is what I am suggesting.....

What if?
What if we use this step "Failure in School" as our filter?
What if we decide that we will not allow a single student to continue on this path?
What if we, as math teachers, decide to be life teachers?

Tell me your thoughts. Leave a comment or Tweet me @VenegasKeller.
Is this possible? Am I a dreamer?


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Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

Easing Parent Anxiety Last year, as our state test approached, my parents' level of anxiety increased tremendously. The closer the date came, the more emails and phone calls I received.

How (and Why) to Level Assignments One of the most important practices I keep is "leveling assignments." I do this with nearly every concept I teach.

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with Difficult Students Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them!