7th grade math, sweaty nights and Oprah

At what age does basic Math become . . . basic? I continue to be amazed by 7th graders' lack of ability to make simple calculations. Almost every quiz we have is worth 20 or 25 points. After I grade them, I don't take the time to write a percentage along with the score. When I return them to the students, I inevitably get 15 kids asking me what their percentage would be. I refuse to tell them. After the first quiz, I wasted 5 precious minutes of class time explaining the whole "relationship to 100" idea. Now, I usually go with, "If it's out of 20, multiply your score by 5. If its out of 25, multiply your score by 4." They usually respond with, "huh?" or, "yeah, but what's my percentage?"

Today I returned a test to them. It was worth 60 points. In order to avoid confusion, I wrote the percentage on each test. Not an easy task when you're using a cell phone calculator. As we were going over it, I realized that I had misnumbered some parts and that the test should have been worth 65 points. Not the end of the world. I told the students to give the test back, and I would fix them. I should have stopped right there. I didn't. I made two mistakes. The first one was to tell them that their percentages would actually be higher when I fixed the scores. Some of them were thinking their scores would jump by 15% because of 5 little points. The second mistake began with the phrase, "If you want to know what your new percentage is, you can do this . . . " I proceded to explain that they had to subtract the number of incorrect answers from 65 instead of 60 and then divide. Chaos. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get them to understand. Would I have understood in 7th grade? Would you?

On the other hand, the 7th graders must think I am a Mathmatical wizard. I often get questions like this:

Mr. Kandel, What grade do I need to get on the next test in order to raise my overall grade to 80%?

My usual response:

Really? Really? Do you realize what factors go into being able to answer that question? Your current grade (Believe it or not, I don't have them all memorized), the differing weights of assignments, the several possible scores you could get on the test, and the relationship between all that information. Just do the best that you can.

I should mention that this "expression of frustration" is not directed at any current or previous Math teachers. I'm sure they are doing fine. Nor do I think that my 7th grade students are not intelligent. Its just that telling 7th graders to find a percentage is like telling 3rd graders to sit boys on one side of the room and girls on the other . . . I'll have to recount that experience in a later post.

For now, I promised you sweaty Oprah . . . uh I mean . . .

It has been hot and sticky lately. There has been little wind or rain to cool us down. I have mentioned on a few occasions that our fan is out of service. This is the worst time of year to be without it. I haven't been sleeping well, mostly because of the heat. The other night after I came home from basketball, I took a shower. After getting out of the shower, I was still sweating. Don't you hate that? We go back and forth about buying a new fan. On one hand, it's hard to sleep without one. On the other hand, it should start raining more soon, which will cool us down. Plus we only have a couple months left, and fans are pretty expensive here. If we do buy a fan, I want one like this: