I am a first year teacher as well as a mid-year hire. I came into the classroom in mid-February. Aside from the chaos of the first few weeks everything has been going well..except for one class.

I love teaching math, but this class will not let me teach.

This class has 29 students, and is a remedial math class. I have tried every approach I can think of. I have tried group work, traditional lecture and notes, worksheets, and even hands on activities and projects. They won't do anything, and are constantly disrespectful toward me and each other. They are loud, violent, and destructive. When I was hired the principals and teachers warned me about this class, and they weren't kidding. I have asked other teachers for advice as well as administrators and they all say "Just try your best."
I have been using Khan Academy and Prodigy lately which has helped with some of the behavior issues (I have a class set of Chromebooks) but I feel like that is just the easy way out. I want to help these kids, but I can't get anything done with the current situation.

First of all, 29 remedial students sounds like way too much. How are you supposed to help all of them? Can you add some group work with a higher and slightly lower students helping each other? Start the class with a graded quiz? Then, have the students correct it for credit?

I don't have computers, but maybe if the class cooperates, give them the last five to ten minutes as computer time? Not the greatest idea, but it sounds like they need some motivation. You don't say what grade level and I don't teach math, so I'm not sure what else to tell you except the obvious:
*split the trouble makers into the four corners
*follow your discipline plan (Do you have one?)
*Is the class work low enough? Do they have basic skills?

I had some classes last year where everyday was touch and go. Sometimes you are just in survival mode. I find any REMEDIAL large class a problem. The kids have given up and feel dumb. They quit trying. They hate the subject. I've had low reading classes for years. For mine, I read lower level books that are high interest. Then, as the year moves on, I remove some supports. Some improve, some don't. Hang in there!

Sounds like you might need to do rotating stations of three groups. This way you get a smaller intimate group to teach (and be very explicit in what the daily outcomes are) as the others are rotating to practice basic skills through games or review materials through the computer.

It'll take some practicing, but once you have it down it's pretty neat. This works best for block schedules but can be done for regular class time.

I am so sorry about your situation. Really unfair how they always give the new teachers these types of challenging classes to see if they can sink or swim. I've definitely been through that and like what others say on here--it's all about survival mode.

Here are some ideas.

1. Is this a co-taught class? If so, utilize your coteacher and send half the class somewhere else with that coteacher to do pre-requisite math work they need.
2. Transparent "Come to Jesus" talk and have them reflect and come up with class agreement to finish these last two months strong. It's awesome you care about these students and I can really tell in your reflection that you care but you are at wit's end.
3. Structure: I like the stations suggestion that another teacher posted. Could you perhaps have 3 groups-- group 1- teacher time, group 2- chromebook work, group 3- independent practice
4. I am also wondering since these kiddos aren't comfortable in math, can you try "motivational math" activities that doesn't necessarily have number crunching or feel like math but they are problem solving in their group. Some challenges would be, build highest paper tower challenge, or given a notecard try to cut it so you can fit an entire body through. Those could be warm-ups or groupwork builders that can perhaps motivate them to do groupworthy math tasks together.

...I have tried group work, traditional lecture and notes, worksheets, and even hands on activities and projects. They won't do anything, and are constantly disrespectful toward me and each other. They are loud, violent, and destructive. When I was hired the principals and teachers warned me about this class, and they weren't kidding. I have asked other teachers for advice as well as administrators and they all say "Just try your best."...

You fix discipline problems with discipline techniques. Group work, notes, hands-on etc. are instruction techniques. Not much of any real importance is going to be learned no matter one's delivery method if students are not in the market to buy in the first place. Generally, when things are going south it can almost always be traced back to a lack of structure.

First part of structure is furniture arrangement. Although somewhat important where to put students, far more important is where to put the teacher. Whether groups, rows, circles or squares the ideal set-up is to arrange furniture to facilitate "working the crowd" or discipline by walking around. Goal is the fewest steps to get from one student to another. Avoid arrangements that block your movement or force you to take the circumpolar route to get around the room. Research confirms students tend to shape-up when the teacher is near and goof off when the teacher is far away. Research also showed teachers who move while teaching are able to prevent 80% of discipline problems. Interestingly, when these teachers were interviewed they couldn't explain why they realized so much time-on-task and cooperation. For them, moving around the room was a natural thing to do. It wasn't until researchers went into teachers' rooms who didn't move that the difference became apparent.

I have a remedial math group, as well, though only 15. But they are all severe behavior problems.
I have found that breaking them into small groups, and rotating through different activities.
One activity is a direct instruction activity, one is a review, one is a hands-on, and one is a computer activity.
This has completely changed my math group.

Those who suggested rotating groups, how do you manage behaviors of the other two groups while you work with your group?

I also have a large group of at-risk students for ELA. Must of our class is spent on whole group activities because I cannot trust the students to behave when given more responsibility.

That's my secret - a second body. Honestly, though, the computer group doesn't require much supervision. That leaves one unsupervised group. I try to give them something very engaging so that behavior is not really an issue. Games, puzzles, etc., that reinforce concepts. If you can use a computer program for one station (Lexia, etc.), some sort of fun reinforcing activity.

I take classes like this and win them over. Identify the leaders (one male, one female) and get them on your side. Find out what game they like and show them your scores, talk about playing it and maybe even have a little tournament in class... AFTER they do some work for you.

To get them to work you need to give them something ridiculously easy (by your standards) that they can all succeed at. These kids are probably frustrated, confused and feeling like failures. You need to build up their basic skills and confidence. Run the plan by your admin. If they are any good they'll green light it without hesitation.

...Those who suggested rotating groups, how do you manage behaviors of the other two groups while you work with your group?...

"The number one factor that determines whether students goof off is their physical distance from the teacher" - Fred Jones (Tools For Teaching). When Jones collected data observing in hundreds of classrooms he found the rate of disruption tripled as soon as the teacher sat down or became immobile. This shouldn't surprise anyone that students behave when the teacher is on top of them and gamble at not getting caught when the teacher is on the far side of the room.

Some go along with increased disruption as the price to pay for small-group instruction. It isn't until you observe in a classroom where the teacher is constantly moving that you realize the difference. In these classrooms off-task was average 20%. When teaching small groups these teachers would stand, give a short prompt or chunk of instruction to the group, then move out among the other groups to monitor. Then the teacher would return, another small chunk of instruction and back out among the other students. In other words, no student in the class was alone, away from the teacher for more than a minute or less. In terms of cost for the teacher to do discipline it was a few well-chosen steps.