Kevin is a 10th grade high school student. Generally Kevin has done a solid job in school, averaging Bs in most classes, although he has begun to have difficulty keeping up with assignments and getting projects done in certain classes. He has fallen far behind in his Algebra II class, averaging about a 55% based on test scores and homework grades. Kevin’s teacher says that he frequently makes ‘careless errors’, and that while he seems to understand the concepts when they are presented in class, he doesn’t apply them appropriately on tests and homework. Kevin has expressed his dislike for math, and has begun to exhibit avoidance behaviors related to math assignments, such as not turning in homework, even when he’s completed it.
Kevin is enrolled in an advanced placement English class focused on Contemporary Literature. He enjoys the class, maintains a 90% average, and particularly likes reading biographies and autobiographies of famous people. Recently, Kevin received an “A” for an oral report on the first person to climb Mount Everest.
On the most recent standardized testing, Kevin came out about 1 grade level above in reading and 2.5 grade levels below in mathematics. Based on Kevin’s standing on standardized math assessments and his current grades in Algebra II, the school has recommended that he take the Technical Math II course next year, rather than advancing to Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus.
Kevin has many friends at school. He looks most forward to weekends when he and his friends climb the rock wall at the sports center, or spend the weekend camping out, rock climbing, and canoeing in the national forest nearby. Kevin has expressed interest in becoming a Park Ranger, though he has not explored how he might be able to get into the field.
Kevin’s mom is a financial consultant at a bank. She is worried about his plummeting grades in math class, and the increasing difficulties he has been having meeting the demands of school, and fears they may greatly lessen his college opportunities. She would like to see Kevin get some math tutoring on the weekends, and get “his act together” in math class before it’s too late.
- Has maintained a B average up to this point
- Performs above grade level in reading
- Has many friends at school
- Is doing well in Literature class
- Has good speaking skills
- Outdoor recreation – rock climbing, canoeing, camping
- Reading biographies and learning about famous people
Areas in need of improvement:
- Has difficulty keeping up with homework and completing projects
- Has a failing average in Algebra II class
- Makes careless errors in math
- Has difficulty applying math concepts independently
- Performs two to three years behind grade level on mathematics testing
Possible Management Plan:
Help Kevin develop an awareness of the reasons for his difficulties in math, as well as a sense of hope for improvement. Develop a management plan with a balance of accommodations and interventions, as well as an integration of Kevin’s strengths and affinities.
Taking Advantage of Strengths and Affinities:
- Leverage Kevin’s strength in reading and his interest in famous people by having him read and talk about a person for whom math was important, e.g., Pythagoras and his extension of the Pythagorean theorem, or Florence Nightingale and her innovative use of statistics. Kevin may also investigate the fields of exploration, conservation, etc., to find people who used math techniques and math concepts in their lives and work.
- Kevin’s affinity for the outdoors may be used as a context for building his math skills. Embed problem-solving activities in the context of camping, rock climbing, canoeing, etc.. Have Kevin apply math procedures and solve real life math problems when in these environments. For example, ask Kevin to calculate a precise rowing guide for a river, based on rock placement and the speed of the current, or have him determine the best hiking route through the forest using a topographical map, or calculate the angles of foot and hand holds on the rock climbing wall.
Accommodations and Interventions:
- Provide Kevin with the basic accommodations he needs to progress in the class and experience some success in math activities. For example, give him checklists of procedures to use when doing homework or taking tests; give him an advanced outline of topics that will be required in each day’s homework, and on the next test. Allow Kevin to use a calculator or computer for computations; make tests open-book or allow Kevin to use study notes that he has created with teacher guidance, etc.
- Grade Kevin’s math assignments in stages. Long-term assignments may need to be monitored and evaluated along the way. Stress a balance between effort and accuracy on tasks such as completing all math homework for the week. Reduce the number of homework problems, and instead have Kevin concentrate on increasing the percentage answered correctly. Encourage Kevin to reflect upon his work. Give him credit for going over incorrect answers and determining how and where he made errors.
- Involve Kevin in individualized tutoring to get him up to grade level in math. Determine which background skills Kevin has and has not mastered. Focus upon strengthening Kevin’s points of breakdown, and building his management of time and materials. For example, focus on attention to detail in math assignments by rewarding Kevin for self-monitoring, for proofing homework assignments, for developing a technique for checking his work on tests, etc. Focus on management skills by having Kevin develop an assignment book in which he keeps track of math assignments and organizes the time needed to get math projects done.
- Have Kevin use computer software programs to practice applying math concepts, as well as to reinforce math sub-skills. Incorporate tutorial programs that are interactive and dynamic.
- Provide ongoing opportunities for Kevin to review math concepts. For example, hold a weekly review session where Kevin jots down a description of concepts he is working on that week, with examples of how those concepts are applied in math problem solving, how they are related to previously learned math concepts, practical uses of the concepts, etc.
- Set up a ‘math mentor’ for Kevin. This person may be a professional in the community who uses math in his/her work. Based on Kevin’s interest in the outdoors, a surveyor, environmental scientist, or even a park ranger may serve as a good choice for a mentor.