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Please help! Can't think but all dumbed-down

  1. Nov 8, 2005 #1
    OK....I don't know why and I don't know how it is possible! But I don't want it!

    You see, I tutor people to pay for my AP tests. People who are somewhat unintelligent, you might say.

    Therefore, I must "dumb down" the curriculum/content for them. Unfortunately,
    My own comprehension and learning ability gets dumbed down in the process.
    Has this ever happened to you?

    HOW??? WHY?? I don't know, please help. :frown:

    I don't want this ill effect. Can you please help? How can I avoid/stop the dumbing-down that somehow gets transferred to me !??
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2005 #2
    Teaching should make you smarter. I've been tutoring for two months, I've only gotten smarter, and the people I tutor aren't the brightest students... D average maybe?
  4. Nov 8, 2005 #3

    Math Is Hard

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    Can you give an example of how dumbing-down was transferred back to you? This is hard to understand. If you know a subject area very well, then you shouldn't be able to confuse yourself with it.
  5. Nov 8, 2005 #4
    To break it down: I'm a HS senior, taking Calculus III, but am tutoring students in AlgebraII who don't know how to multiply fractions.

    You see, it seems to have an effect on how I absorb new material-->meaning that don't I feel I learn or understand unless the material is dumbed-down. Somehow their problem becomes mine! :frown: And I don't know how to fix it! (and the shorter attention that seems to follow)

    In a sense, perhaps the cause is a certain "hypocrisy"-->the difference in my learning perspective (judgments of how I learn), with my teaching perspective (judgments about how my tutees might learn). Not so confident anymore in how I learn or what I know...well, this lack of confidence translates into the previous paragraph:
    And lack of confidence => lack of learning.

    But now I do have this one solution:

    *I will NOT compromise (i.e., lower) my standards with theirs, as I have done once I began tutoring. I cannot keep them separate, as I have *recently* find out (you see, I do believe people should at least have standards higher/greater than or equal to mine).
    ((Otherwise, there again is that sentiment of hypocrisy)).

    Thus, I will not dumb down the curriculum; I will not lower my standards...for my sake. (Well, it was my sake for which this post was written!)
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  6. Nov 8, 2005 #5


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    It sounds to me like your brain is no longer satisfied with learning things by rote. It will be more work, but I suggest you indulge your brain and try to understand your classes from this "dumbed down" point of view. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
  7. Nov 8, 2005 #6
    I see what you mean, but that's no really a problem (it is really a good point, but its not relevant here).

    I do not learn things by rote; I always try to uncover the deeper meaning.
    *They may be covered in the class/school by "rote" :rolleyes:, but I always seek the derivatation and intuitive understanding whenever possible.

    You see, as a result of tutoring those students, I am not "pleasantly surprised" when I have to, out of a lack of mathematical confidence, to make sure I add/multiply fractions together or do other simple operations (out of a lack of mathematical confidence), to the point where it becomes very irritating (hopefully not "obsessive"). Read my previous post (which I edited recently).

    I will post much more later on, here
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  8. Nov 8, 2005 #7
    i haveny tread all the other posts ,but i think that u should not be dumbing down the material (wat ever that means ) but simplfiying it to such a basic level thjat u get a greater comprehension and so do they.....srry if i havnt answered ur question.
  9. Nov 8, 2005 #8


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    Sounds like you shouldn't be tutoring.
  10. Nov 8, 2005 #9


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    Not everyone is good at teaching and tutoring, and you might be one of them. One thing that's possible is that you're having difficulty explaining basic concepts because you never fully solidified your own understanding of how they work. Sure, you can do them, but if it came easy and you were able to just do everything the first try, you may have never had to think explicitly about the learning process involved.

    I attempted tutoring for a short time while in high school, and didn't last long at it because I had no idea how to help those students at the time. I never had any difficulty with subjects like algebra, it all seemed intuitive to me, so when it came to explaining it to someone for whom it was not intuitive, combined with youthful impatience (and maybe a dash of youthful arrogance too), I just could not think of any other way to explain it to them other than, "well, you just do it this way," and my thoughts were straying to me beating my head on the wall saying, "why can't you see that?" So, tutoring was not for me. I actually recommend that someone who is truly struggling with a basic subject not seek a high school student for tutoring. If they just have problems in a few areas where they could benefit from a study group situation that they don't have, then having help from peers is fine, but if they really missed fundamentals, I don't think many high school students have the perspective on the process of teaching to offer the help they need. It's not whether you know the subject and get straight A's yourself, it's whether you know how to take someone through all the baby steps of understanding a subject that you were able to skip over quickly.

    This doesn't mean you have to toss away any aspirations to teach in the future though, if you have them. You can aquire these skills, but it takes time.

    So, you shouldn't be lowering standards for anyone, that's a very destructive approach. You should be raising standards, expecting that they fully understand the subject they are learning, even if it means reviewing old material with them and making up problems for them to do in addition to their regular homework, not just telling them how to solve today's problem without understanding it, or giving them just enough information to "get by."

    Of course, it is also entirely possible that your experience in Calc III and your tutoring are entirely coincidental. You may have finally hit a level of math that challenges you enough that you really need to stop and think about every step and process and you can no longer take shortcuts in your thinking process to use what you're being taught.
  11. Nov 8, 2005 #10
    No no no...you have misunderstood me! (as have many in this thread)

    I have solidified my OWN understanding! WHat I realize is that by "dumbing down" the material and teaching them (my tutees) just raw formulas without any DEEPER MEANING will dumb ME down as well! I can teach them the material and understanding at my own level, but that will be too detailed and too "deep" for them. Thus, I dumb it down and teach them basic formulas. Otherwise, they don't understand.

    One thing I try to avoid is pride in knowledge. I am only taking Calculus III, and I have no true understanding of what mathematics TRULY is. I am not a professor.

    TO teach them fraction multiplication will require me to have pride in my knowledge. BUt what knowledge?? I'm only a CalcIII student, and a HS senior. I do not know of elliptic integration!! Nor have I taken any analysis course.

    You see, I sort of thrive on a "positive insecurity"-->belief that I do not know anything truly of mathematics as a true whole, just a collection of skills. Yes, I understand certain things. But these things barely comprise a fundamental knowledge of mathematics! (as I said, I have not taken analysis!). But this positive insecurity constantly pushes me forward, pushes me to understand the material.... etc...etc. And I DO NOT want to spoil this "positive insecurity" with Foolish Pride.

    --And there's the thing. I have to assume a position of pride or superiority whenever I teach my tutees. I do not want to assume such a stance. I would rather have THEM push THEMSELVES ... and me acting as a "side guide" in case they have questions.

    Perhaps this is why I wouldn't make a good teacher... I always doubt and question my skills and knowledge. The ONLY time I would pass something onto the students is if I am COMPLETELY sure that it is true. ANd even then I will specifically define a context (e.g., what type of logic..etc) for which it is to be true. Like I said, I don't want to pass my opinions/biases onto my tutees.
    Then so...how can I learn and have this "positive insecurity" together? SImple. I know the material for the level which I am required to know it. Somewhat Better than what California public HS's may require. And possibly......only very very slightly....more advanced in that case. I am no genius, only a motivated student determined to advanced in mathematics...with power and understanding. (Hopefully also to contribute to the field as well!)

    Well, now this was a bit TOO personally revealing than I would wish for.

    --For me to be confident in my knowledge will require that I can sufficiently prove, define, both mathematically and philosophically, that knowledge.

    It is a bit TOo personally revealing---->But I need to quell that impression in this thread...that I do not know the material at all. (How did you guys come up with that?)

    I might some "skills," but I do NOT want to be FALSELY TRICKED into thinking "I know mathematics."

    California's public HS education is very poor and inadequate. When I do advance, I do it myself.
    -OUTSIDE the "curriculum." (Most of the time BEYOND the curriculum)

    Well, this has been too personally revealing for my liking. But I wish to dispel the notion that I do not have ANY understanding at all. I have a small amount "more" than what California Public Education may "require"...but not to the level of mathematics PhD insight. With no good standards other than what little trust I have in my own....well, you get the point.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  12. Nov 8, 2005 #11
    I'm not sure what you mean, but just don't tutor. Find another job if that's possible.
    Multiplication of fractions is easily proven with real life examples, you don't need to be a prof. to know that multiplying the numerator with the numerator and denominator with the denominator will yield the correct answer. eg 2/5 x 1/2 = 2/10 = 1/5. and 1/5 is really a half of 2/5.
    I'm not sure what you mean but are you saying you are afraid that what you have learnt maybe incorrect and that you don't want to pass on this false knowledge?

    If some people you tutor just don't understand what you are explaining because you are trying to give them a complicated proof, just don't give them the proof. Just tell them to memorise what to do in a given situation (e.g when you see a multiplication of fractions, just multiply the top bit with top bit and bottom bit with bottom bit) and don't tell them why. I know a lot of teachers do that to students when they themselves can't teach properly.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  13. Nov 8, 2005 #12


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    I disagree.

    Just don't think about pride of your knowedge. Simply devise an effective method to help the student understand the particular mathematical concept at hand, even if it seems trivial.
  14. Nov 8, 2005 #13
    i starting tutoring in highschool, and i never once had to dumb down material, even to my worst students. Sure, you don't go into number theory when you're doing algebra, but i don't dumb it down. i never taught my students to just memorize. Well, actually, if i had students with weak multiplication tables, i'd make them memorize those for convienience, (its hard to do much in math if you have to think about the product of two numbers all the time..)

    IF you understand the material, there's nothing to "dumb down" there's just bits you leave out. Its better if you understand the material fully to a higher level anyway, because then you can devise methods of teaching that hopefully won't be destructive in the future. It takes a lot of skill, however, to be able to simplify something as complex as math in an effective way.

    mostly, if you're teaching effectively, it should be a positive experience for everyone.

    i'd like to reitterate what moonbear said:
    if this is what you mean by dumbing down... then not only is apparently detrimental to you, but it will be for you pupils as well. no one really learns by being forced to memorize. sometimes it takes a lot of review and effort in order to get someone on the right track. If they don't fundementally understand what a fraction is, they won't be able to multiply them.

    i think possibly what you've done is you've convinced yourself that your teaching methods are satisfactory, therefore the learning method it impies is satisfactory as well. so you've somewhat adapted this new style of learnin that you teach, but since the learning method, (memorization without methodology) is apparently NOT-satisfactory, this reflects poorly in your own studies. eh?
  15. Nov 8, 2005 #14
    OOooh... you're WAY off on this one.

    The only reason I must give them a "formula to memorize" is because they will not pass the class otherwise.

    I abhor "memorization without methodology"--your term, not mine. The only reason I pursue this with my tutees is because "they will not pass the class otherwise".

    Also, if you're referring to my "school studies"---->I am the top of the class when it comes the academic knowledge.

    **But do you know why that means nothing?
    Because all those other students in my classes...or at least the way I see it....are somewhat slower (learning-span-wise) and the material is extremely easy.

    But you're right in the sense that I expect a consistency between learning and teaching methods. Therefore, I will TUTOR at my higher standard, and will not compromise with their lower standards. That's part of the solution I intend to implement. To teach at a lower standard will be hypocritical on my side.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  16. Nov 8, 2005 #15


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    :confused: Why not? They should do better if they understand where that formula came from than if they just memorize it. If all you're doing is giving them stuff to memorize, then you're not being a very effective tutor. As a tutor, you should be teaching them the stuff they missed in class or are having trouble learning on their own, not just pushing them along with only superficial understanding. That's how they got to the point of needing a tutor in the first place. You need to start by teaching them how to learn properly, and how to study properly, not just handing off formulas to memorize. If you don't have enough time to do that with them, recommend they get another tutor.
  17. Nov 8, 2005 #16
    that's all i was saying... and that because you've started teaching that way... you've now picked it up as a learning style too.

    well, i don't believe you should tutor at any other standard other than your highest. so, good i guess? just as long as you're still catering to their styles and levels of learning. the goal is to be an effective tutor.
  18. Nov 8, 2005 #17
    NOT true; I have not picked up "formula memorization" as a learning style. The problem does not go that far :rolleyes: ....

    The problem is that teaching others at a dumbed-down level seems to dumb me down as well for some reason. Not because I don't understand the material--->but that I try to keep my learning and teaching methods consistent with one another.

    In a free system, if I were a HS teacher/instructor, I would teach at whichever standard is higher-->that of public education or that of mine.
    -Whoever "fails" or "does not comprehend" will simply be told to study harder and investigate the subject in greater detail (since their failed approach would then be too broad). That is their individual responsibility as HS/college students and as HS/college learners. The teacher will not "baby" them.

    And so, here are my solutions:

    1) Do not baby them, and teach them at your higher standard. If they fail, too bad (ignore their failure). They are individually responsible for the material, and must push themselves (my current philosophy--->it is the individual responsibility of the HS/college STUDENT to learn, understand, and be work with the concepts at hand. The teacher...well....can act as a "side guide" and evaluator / "maintain-er" of standards)

    2) Well, accept the temporary hypocrisy and that irritating inside feeling of teaching them at that ridiculously low standard where they might understand. Keep your TRUE methods of teaching (&therefore learning)....Aside from those tutees. Remember, its unlikely that they'll actually learn something, and besides--->you are not *completely free* to teach them as you'd like and they're not really the most "motivated" bunch.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  19. Nov 8, 2005 #18


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    If that's your view of the people you're tutoring, you absolutely should not be tutoring. They are paying you because they are motivated and do want to learn and are trying to not fail. If your attitude is "too bad if they fail" or "they're not going to learn anything anyway," then just give it up and let them find a tutor who has a better attitude and is willing to really help them.
  20. Nov 8, 2005 #19


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    I do not see any teaching qualities in you. You're only hurting these kids and I would ask that you stop.

    These kids need patience and understanding. They don't need "dumbing down", they need someone with enough intuition and understanding that can see where they aren't getting it and fill in the missing pieces for them. My daughter takes AP classes. She tutors (for free) kids that are struggling in English, grammar, whatever it's called now. Funny, most of the kids she tutors are math wizzes.
  21. Nov 9, 2005 #20
    Actually I tutor people in English grammar and style and I have no problem there :smile:
    (indeed, grammar and style I are things I value, and like somewhat as well)

    Actually, they're NOT paying for the tutoring. You see, I tutor people as a part of this school program-->the school gives me a free AP test for a completed 8-hours of tutoring.

    The students don't pay ---> the school does. If the students did pay....well, then I would indeed take a more individualized approach; really, the only time I have with them is an hour per week :rolleyes:

    Oh how I wish the students were motivated! :approve: as you say they are.
    Even when I try to explain a simple concept to them, and the NOD IN AGREEMENT--->later I give them a simple problem related to the concept and they just phase out. Smiling...as if NOT KNOWING and not having skill is a good thing!

    I ask one of them, do they have any problem for the material they're currently working on? Well, they say no--->yeah right. Just look at their test grades. You see, I would GLADLY tutor a motivated student. I would GLADLY and more actively participate in their education. Unfortunately, the people I tutor don't do their homework....or doing right before class starts...sometimes BS on their assignments....etc..etc.

    It's almost as though they were relunctantly forced by their parents/teachers to get a tutor!

    I'd wish they would be motivated! Then I could engage them with deeper understanding of the concepts...and move on beyond that blasted public HS curriculum (which is quite "watered down")!
    If only it was that simple.
    Some kids might be misunderstood, whereas others are just lazy and slack off for no apparently good reason.

    Unfortunately, one of the reasons that California public schools have extremely low standards, grade inflation, and social promotion is because of that belief that "most students who under-perform are misunderstood and/or are unfairly discriminated against...etc..etc."
    Which fails to acknowledge the individual's responsibility in the learning process. You would have students blaming teachers for giving bad grades when all the student does is just sit home or play videogames, or just open the book and look at the text without taking time to actually understand it.

    Yes...some HS students may need understanding & patience. But by FAR not all under-performering HS students! Especially those that just sleep in class or do nothing but find a new name to call the teacher when they receive a low test grade. What most students need is a sense of individual responsibility towards the learning process.

    The teacher will not "learn" you the material. The teacher can only help the student help THEMSELVES to learning the material. Many times, it comes down to a sincere individual effort by the student to learn and succeed in the material or course content.

    *Just one last quantification-->What's before HS and then during HS and beyond.
    ----Obviously, we cannot expect a concentrated individual effort by a 3- or 9- or 12- year old when it comes to academics. Obviously :rolleyes:

    But by the time people are in high school, they should be aware of their skills, of their knowledge, and of their abilities. Student learning is no longer a big responsibility of the teacher. That doesn't mean that the teacher can just sit around and do nothing..........but High schoolers are expected to take individual and personal responsibility towards their academics, just as we take personal responsibility for chores, housework..etc. If need be, they must be "patient and understanding" towards themselves. By HS level, they take responsibility for their own academic work and effort, rather than acting immature and not doing their work, not even trying, or just calling the teacher names every time they receive a low test score.

    If I tutored middle schoolers...ok, I might try to get involved to motivate them in academics. Also, be a bit more interactive. When you're in middle school, you're only a child. But you are not a child throughout your life. You must grow up and accept responsibility for your current academic capabilities. If this means studying 2-3 hours more, then so be it. If this means studying 2-3 hours less b/c the material is easy, congratulations! Simply put, academics is primarily an individual responsibility. A teacher can help "guide" one through material, evaluate skills and set standards, but ultimately it is the STUDENT'S OWN effort and determination/"motivation" that pushes him/herself through.
    ANd in rare cases, you might get a bad algebra teacher. TOO BAD! YOu still have to learn how to multiply fractions, and not having so good a teacher simply means that you'll have to rely on yourself a bit more! Just that, nothing more. A HS student should be able to rely on him/herself in such a case, rather than give up and watch TV all night, and call the teacher names.

    Not all teachers are going to be extremely nice and lenient towards their course content. What determines whether a student ends up slacking off or actually learning the material is truly a sense of academic responsibility. Parents do not have to push students through college-->e.g., as "Johnny! If you don't start on your term paper, you're grounded!"

    A sense of academic responsibility is required. And it begins in HIGH SCHOOL.
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