My first encounter with M, was at his 2nd attempt at Math 121. I am very interested in the goals of students and where they plan to transfer after finishing their time at LCC. M was interested in animation and programming. There was a direct connection with mathematics as part of a tool kit of animation effects. I found much to talk about with M and because of this frequent interaction, I began to see some faults to his approach to learning.
I was invested in why M was very successful with assigned homework problems but unsuccessful with exams. Was it a memory problem? M had a lot of trouble speaking or writing the steps he would use to solve a problem. As I encourage all of my students to come to tutoring, I was able to get to the bottom of the problem quickly. M was using pictures of his old homework problems and the solutions to just write down the answers without thinking about the issues involved in problem solving. Obviously this had to stop and I admonished M as much.
Our proposed solution was to practice the steps to problem solving. I worked with M at the Learning Commons to guide him through the problem-solving process so he could get stronger at problem solving. But, it would take continually applying the same steps for him to be successful. M had issues with trusting the process and often fell back into old bad habits.
I asked M to write short essays of how to solve each week’s problems and post them to a discussion forum. This allowed M to see the reasons behind the algebraic steps and document his knowledge. I used group work so that M would see his peers solve various types of problems. My goal was to have M see that his peers were actively solving the questions following key steps: Defining variables, drawing pictures, using known relationships to write down equations, using unit analysis, then applying algebraic rules to isolate the unknown variable. M did well here but his exams still showed a panic and guessing structure. Unfortunately, M had other issues which resulted in him not passing the class, but he remains positive and active in attending the Learning Commons and studying in groups.