The habit most students lack

Thinking it through

thinking it through modus ponens

Thinking it through with modus ponens

The habit I most often see when tutoring math is a penchant for guessing at the answer, without thinking it through for even a minute. Not test-pressurized guessing, but an unwillingness to engage with the concept and problem and an instinct to please that rests on agreement rather than working independently.

Much of my job, especially at the early stages when there’s still time (hint, parents) is to force the issue; encourage them not to guess and just sit through the discomfort as they work it out. It’s indeed a rather uncomfortable silence, but crucial in developing the main quality math teaches those who will not use it in their profession: logical reasoning or critical thought.

It’s disconcerting to get a 0 for effort, but exactly what the math teacher must do if there’s no evidence of quality of thought. Students have a habit from other subjects to throw every possible term, word, or answer at the wall to see what sticks, and can scrape by with this as valid test strategy. Math can be jarring because it seems to play by different rules, when really it is developing the habits that should maximize results in other subjects too.

It’s okay to reason it wrongly (at the beginning) we need to first instill the habit and willingness to reason at all.

Thinking it through will also help in future standardized testing as it builds the willingness to throw out the comfortable answer they know is wrong but often select over more foreign, but possibly correct choices.

Contact me to learn more about how I can help you or your child achieve the true goals and results of math education.

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