Mastery and Excellence

Math Word Problems 

Many, many students have difficulty with word problems.  They may be able to do the computation at a certain level, but word problems are frequently problematic at the same level.

Let’s assume that a child is having difficulty with word problems in multiplication. This student has just learned their multiplication facts.  I find that if I give them word problems in addition or subtraction, they are able to solve them just fine.  Now they can see that they are capable of doing word problems, just not word problems at the current multiplication level.

We changed the belief system that they “can’t do word problems” to one that is more specific –I can solve addition and subtraction word problems.  Just this little change in belief sets the stage for learning how to solve multiplication word problems.  They are no longer a failure with “all” word problems, just a specific type of word problem.  This opens the door for learning how to decode the multiplication word problems and gives confidence to approach this hurdle. 

Mastery and Excellence

The May/June, 2011, issue of Psychotherapy Networker talks about mastery and excellence.  Three tenants are given that are necessary for excellence to occur.  The first, establishing and knowing your baseline; second, deliberate practice; third, formal, ongoing feedback. 

How do these guidelines apply to what we do at the Enhancement Center?  First, we do find a baseline.  While this is done through testing, some formal and some informal, the purpose is to find out specifically, what skills a student has mastered.

Next we practice.  Mindfully practice.  We look at the patterns, whether it is in mathematics or reading.  We see what is easy, what trips them up.   Practice is spaced repetition, which results in the mastery of the skill. 

Finally, we provide the necessary feedback. The student “knows” what he knows and what is being learned.  We recommend a limit of 20 minutes per day in a subject.  This is not sufficient practice to be truly great in the country and the world, but it is enough practice to be extremely successful in school, in college and in life. 

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