What's a Student to Do? (with a bad math teacher)

Guest Blog by Fredrick Koh

Today's blog addresses a problem we wish didn't exist: the bad math teacher.  Unfortunately, these people do exist and, to be honest, they make it harder on everyone, especially their students.  Mr. Koh offers advice for these students to take lemons and make lemonade (or at least not make that "sour face").  You CAN still salvage something good, even out of a bad situation (or teacher).

Bad-math-teacher.jpg from: http://webpages.scu.edu/ftp/kbobbin/whattodo.html

Life is never a bed of roses as the extremely old, boring saying goes, and this is especially true when it concerns learning in the classroom. No fun-loving teen in the right frame of mind would derive pleasure from hitting the books, least of all to even pause and adore Mathematics. That’s right, I am making explicit mention of the one and only subject which has succeeded in driving generations across the globe mental with its unrelenting devotion to all things Xs and Ys.  And it hasn’t stopped doing so, we know this much.

                Ever walked into a Calculus lecture only to start wondering if a Sanskrit lesson was in progress after 5 minutes? Ever wanted to raise your hand to clarify a doubt only to discover the spontaneously blabbering teacher never once turned his/her back away from the whiteboard to address the human audience?  Before you decide to join one of them “I totally spit at Math” solidarity clubs on Facebook  or fire off a blockbuster “ Math becomes the death of me” tweet destined for cyber-space greatness, how about considering one of the following damage-control suggestions which might allow you (the student) to breathe more easily during the academic school year? That’s right, calm down and read what comes up next with a wee bit of patience:

1. Consult another teacher in your school.             

I strongly subscribe to the belief for every basket filled with mostly dull, unpolished apples, there is always at least a shiny one resting somewhere in there. With a little prodding on your part, you can certainly discover who the ace teacher in your school is. Here is a hint: He/she is an eager learner’s wet dream; whenever he/she holds a class or lecture, you can be sure the teaching venue is as packed as an ACDC rock concert. Here is another: He/she is responsible for as many Eureka moments as there are top math performers. So grow a pair, knock on the door and put on your most sincere “I really need help pretty please” face.

2. The Web can be your best revision buddy.

One reason to love Google: online homework forums aplenty right before your eyes when you engage the search engine with appropriate keywords. The Student Room, MathForum@Drexl University, XtremePapers-the list goes on and on. Guidance to problem solving you will get, straight direct answers you probably won’t. The perfect recipe for building a resilient, ever curious mathematical mind. Did I forget to mention you can download webcasts and podcasts created by people who are total geniuses in making complicated theorems sound almost as easy as ABC, replaying them to your heart’s content anytime, anywhere?

3. There are “Einsteins” amongst us.

It’s hip to have a brainy friend, even more so when that person is exceptionally mathematically inclined. Same age group, peer frequencies resonate-stuff which could take one mumble fumble of a teacher endless hours to sort out, possibly becomes crystal clear in a matter of minutes under the eloquent guidance of your friend. Just remember to be a grateful mammal and return the favour sometime.

4. Seek help from a private math tutor.

Ok so my apple theory suggested earlier breaks down, you have no access to internet at home and you do not have the luxury of math whizz kids for pals. Definitely ain’t end of the world, because you can always hire an experienced, learned soul to help make everything more palatable. Tuition in general does cost quite a bit, so make sure you make an informed decision with regards to whoever you are employing. If there are no observable improvements in your math ability after the trial period, don’t be afraid to show him/her the door and commence the search for a more competent mentor.

I always try to tell kids this: while you may not love math, don’t hate it. Trust me, with a more neutral personal conviction, more likely than not, you will be on your way to securing better test scores. Peace. 

Frederick Koh is a teacher residing in Singapore who specialises in teaching the A level mathematics curriculum. He has accumulated more than a decade of tutoring experience and loves to share his passion for mathematics on his personal site: www.whitegroupmaths.com.

Just a further note to students who might be seeking more help that Dr. Perdue offers in-person and Skype tutoring as well as in-world help via SecondLife.  Email to schedule a help session.


The Solver Blog

Author: Fredrik Koh

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