Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.
In order to remediate students in a certain area, it's important first to understand the definition of remedial. Put simply, remedial instruction is the process of providing help to students who are experiencing difficulties so that they can understand and master the concept with which they are struggling. In math, each concept is the foundation for new learning, and when a student has not mastered one concept they are unable to move on to the next concept. In this case, remediation helps to get the student back on track so they can continue their learning on the math continuum.
Teaching remedial math means that you will be working with students who might be missing foundational skills that are required for learning higher level concepts. Whether because of a learning difficulty or another situation that impacted their learning, these are students, for example, who may not have mastered adding one digit numbers and are now being asked to add two-digit numbers with regrouping.
This lesson will provide methods and strategies that you can use to effectively teach students who need remediation in math.
Identify the Issue
Imagine someone walks up to you and hands you a cake and asks you to taste it. You taste it, and something is just off. They tell you that yes, there is something wrong, and you need to fix the recipe. Without knowing the issue or mistake that was made, you can't begin to fix the recipe. You don't have enough information yet to really diagnose how to fix the issue.
This is how you need to approach remedial teaching. You can't just throw a bunch of ideas or strategies at the problem and hope something works for the student. You must first identify the specific area in which the student is struggling so you can begin to create a plan and strategies for remediation.
Using the example of the student struggling with one digit addition - you need to figure out if he hasn't mastered one digit addition because he has spatial difficulties that are interfering with his ability to regroup. Or has he even mastered counting? You would first need to identify what is causing the difficulty before you can begin working to help the student learn.
Use a Variety of Approaches
Math education lends itself especially well to approaching concepts from a variety of different angles. Just think of the wide variety of ways students can solve a simple addition problem. They can draw a picture of objects and count them, use manipulatives, write a story, count on a number line, or count in their head. When teaching remedial math, it is important to explore as many approaches to learning as possible to help your students.
For example, you may have to teach a student who is struggling with comparing fractions. For some reason, this student may just not grasp this concept, no matter how hard they try. Sitting down with the student, you discover that the student is just staring at the fractions trying to will the answer into existence.
Trying different approaches and strategies with this student might help you find one that works. For example, you could have the student draw a picture of shapes that are divided into the fractions they are comparing. They could then see which shape is more filled in. A student who prefers to learn verbally might need to hear a clear explanation of how they can discover which fraction is lower and which is higher.
Every student and every situation will be different, so it's important that you try to pin down which strategy works with the student or group of students. Reframing the concept they are struggling with in a new way is often the key to helping them unlock their understanding of the concept.
Assess Their Mastery
It would be a shame if you did all of the work of figuring out where the student's difficulty was and which strategy worked best, and then you just moved on, and the student didn't actually learn the concept. This is where assessment comes in. In remedial math teaching, an assessment isn't given to determine a grade for the grade book. Instead, it is used to determine if the student has mastered the skill or concept.
Take, for example, a student who was struggling with telling time on an analog clock. No matter how many times you taught it to the class, this student could not grasp the concept. You spent some time over the course of several days to find out what the cause of the difficulty was and which strategies worked best for the student. After working together for a few days, the student was consistently telling time accurately.
However, you still don't know if the student has mastered the concept until they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their ability independently. This is where a short assessment will come in handy. You can set the score needed to be confident that the student has mastered the skill and then assess. If the student doesn't meet the standards, you may need to spend longer teaching the skill. If the student does pass the test, you can safely move on.
Teaching remedial math is the process of providing help for students who are struggling in specific math areas. By taking the time to identify the issue, using a variety of approaches to reteach the skill, and assessing to determine mastery, you can successfully remediate many difficulties students in your classroom might encounter.
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