I am a first-year teacher -- currently teaching third grade in a small Catholic school. We started school about 3 weeks ago (Aug 13) and my students' math grades are already not looking good. I have one girl whose average is a 56! She has no number sense or knowledge of basic math concepts at all. Progress reports already go out next week, and I have absolutely no idea what to do. I only have 13 kids in my class, so I figured it wouldn't really be a problem giving individualized attention. But even offering an hour of tutoring before school one-on-one with her is hardly enough to catch her up.

Besides the one failing, I find that my kids' grades are just kind of blah and very scattered. Some C's, a few B's and then (just a few) high A's. I feel like we're doing basic things that they should already know, and they seem to "get it" in class, then some completely bomb tests. I don't really grade homework because I know most of what they do for homework is with parent help, and they've stressed to us not to give "fluff grades" or to inflate grades, so I've only been counting quizzes that I know they do completely on their own.

I feel completely in over my head right now. This job seemed like a dream -- a small private school with only 13 kids. But we have no resources at our disposal -- no way to get RTI help, no specialists or resource teachers. I have wanted to be a teacher my entire life, but feel like I'm terrible and that I'm failing my kids. What can I do?

I'm a first year teacher too and I felt like that last year during my student teaching. (It's only the first week of school here, so I am not at that point yet this year.) What do you do during your tutoring sessions? It seems like a good amount of time.

Do your quizzes and tests have enough problems on them? Do you give any partial credit?

Have you talked to her last year's teacher or looked at last year's report card to see if what you're seeing is consistent?

Could you set her up with an older student as a tutor? Can you make accommodations such as giving her fewer problems for homework, letting her use manipulatives to help her solve a problem.

Do you use pair/share at all? Have the students each solve a problem in class then they teach their strategy to their partner.

Last edited by vttraveler; 09-08-2012 at 09:10 AM..

The way I view it is if a majority of my students are failing....it is something I am doing wrong.. I would look at my lessons, assessments, etc...I feel it is my job to teach, if they aren't successful,I am not teaching

The majority of my students are not failing--she is the only one. Lowest I have besides her is around an 80.

The second grade teacher isn't much help --she seems to have something negative to say about every student. I have, however, looked at past standardized test scores, and she did score a 7% on mathematical concepts last year. She seems to have serious trouble with place value -- for instance, we are doing money right now and if I ask her what 10 more than 25 is (a quarter plus a dime) she has no clue. I have only had one tutoring session with her, and I tried working on what we were doing in class (rounding) but realized she didn't have a good enough concept of place value to be able to do much of it. We will have to start at the very basics and work on solely place value during tutoring. I guess I just don't know what to do during class knowing she is confused about the concept at hand, but that I still have to move on.

Are you allowed to do small group intervention within your class? I realize that there is no RTI, resource or pull out intervention support, however, just knowing what is best for your children, are you allowed to take 10-15 minutes a day to work with her on the concepts she is struggling in while the other students are independently working, or working in groups? I am a special education teacher in a public school and was out reading interventionist for 5 years, but I also understand how Catholic schools work because my family is Catholic and my daughter will be attending school at one next year!

Many children need the tactile use of manipulatives to understand math concepts. I would do some hundred chart activities stressing patterns like "up and down are ten more and ten less". Ten-frame activities and sorting objects into groups of tens and ones are great visuals. Base ten blocks, and connecting cubes may help, also. If you do not have class manipulatives at your school, individual sets can be purchased fairly inexpensively at a teacher supply store or online. Also, there are many tools available on the internet that you can print and cut out of paper to help students who are in a more "concrete" learning stage. Stress concrete as long as necessary, then move to pictorial models. The more abstract thought process will develop naturally.

Excellent response from Coopsgrammy! My daughter fell into this category too. Place values were a nightmare for her until we began using manipulatives.
Some kids take longer for math to become more conceptual so use whatever visuals you can! My daughter still struggles with math but she can enjoy success with it if given the right tools. Good luck!

Thanks everyone. I was feeling very overwhelmed when I posted that a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, I can already see improvement! I took coopsgrammy's advice and am using hundreds charts and base ten blocks like crazy, and am just spending as much time as possible working one on one with her. Her average is now in the mid to high 80s (the 56 average was at the very beginning and was based on a couple quizzes with only a few questions on them). Anyway, I'm happy to say that I'm feeling so much better. She is struggling and I will continue to have to work very closely with her on her conceptual understanding. BUT I think she's going to be ok

Side note, we had our first math test and my kids totally rocked it. My little struggler had only the second lowest grade - and she got an 88! 85 was the lowest, the rest A's! I made up my own test with 50+ questions --the test for the book had only about 20. I felt giving them assessments with so few questions just wasn't doing it for me or them -- I couldn't get a good enough picture of what they knew and didn't know, and they would get too many points off for missing just a question or 2. So anyway, I think I'm getting the hang of testing and grading and differentiating and I think I'm going to be ok...and more importantly, I think my littles are going to be ok. Thanks again!

I felt giving them assessments with so few questions just wasn't doing it for me or them -- I couldn't get a good enough picture of what they knew and didn't know, and they would get too many points off for missing just a question or 2.

I'm so glad to hear that things are going so much better. I thought that the above was part of the problem.

I taught in Catholic Schools for the beginning of my career. The manipulatives in my first school were very sparse. I'm so pleased that using them is giving your student a better understanding.