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I am generally unmotivated to do what I'm not good at (like not ending a sentence with the word 'at'). I find that students who are unmotivated to do math usually struggle with math. Forgive the generalization, but one way to improve is to get better. One way to get better is to watch good instructional videos over and over again. 

One good site is www.brightstorm.com. Another good site is www.mathtv.com. A third site (with free practice!) is www.khanacademy.org

 

Truthfully, I rarely find students that cannot grasp big concepts. For example, most students understand that in order to keep equations equivalent, you need to do the same operation on both sides of the equation. What they struggle with is the arithmetic. When -7 - 10 is sometimes equal to -17, but other times it is -3 or perhaps even 3 or 17, algebra suddenly seems really hard...even unpredictable. If the student didn't have some of these basic number sense ideas ingrained during elementary school, families should do a lot to try to help that student. Practice needn't be punative, but it must be frequent. Flash cards actually do work. Investigating patterns (like the example below) really does help.

 

Why is a negative number times a negative number equal to a positive number?

 

4 times -4 really means -4 + -4 + -4 + -4 which is -16

 

3 times -4 really means -4 + -4 + -4 which is -12

 

2 times -4 really means -4 + -4 which is -8

 

1 times -4 really means -4 which is -4

 

The repeated sums are counting up by 4.

 

0 times -4 must be 0.

 

-1 times -4 must be 4.

 

-2 times -4 must be 8.

 

-3 times -4 must be 12.

 

-4 times -4 must be 16.

 

Notice that this is just an example, but it seems to demonstrate that a negative number times a negative number equal to a positive number.

 

Try stuff like that.

 

~David McMayer

Southwest Mathematics Teacher