# How can I teach someone high school math in 6 months?

April 3, 2008 5:31 PM Subscribe

There's a smart freshman who's going to be in my school's Academic Decathlon team next year. However, Academic Decathlon tests over all of high school math, so I ask: How can I teach a fast learner an overview of high school math in around 7 months?

There's a smart freshman who's going to be in my school's Academic Decathlon team next year. However, Academic Decathlon tests over all of high school math, so I ask: How can I teach a fast learner an overview of high school math in around 7 months?

He already knows a bit of algebra. I don't know what he was taught in elementary school. I think that he'll be able to pick up the forumlae of geometry quickly - perhaps not its elegance, but certainly its formulas. I think that trig'll be a bit of a stumbling block, but the derivative will be straightforwards.

The testing material is, according to Academic Decathlon:

- 10% "general math", including permutations and probability of equally likely events

- 30% algebra, including polynomial equations, inequalities, functions, complex numbers, graphs, and sequences/series.

- 30% geometry, including right triangles, coordinates, plane figures, and congruency.

- 20% trig, including right triangle relationships, trig functions, inverse trig functions, graphs, identities, and trig equations.

- 10% calculus, including limits, derivatives, antiderivatives, tangent lines, rates of change, maxima/minima, and inflection points/concavity.

There's a smart freshman who's going to be in my school's Academic Decathlon team next year. However, Academic Decathlon tests over all of high school math, so I ask: How can I teach a fast learner an overview of high school math in around 7 months?

He already knows a bit of algebra. I don't know what he was taught in elementary school. I think that he'll be able to pick up the forumlae of geometry quickly - perhaps not its elegance, but certainly its formulas. I think that trig'll be a bit of a stumbling block, but the derivative will be straightforwards.

The testing material is, according to Academic Decathlon:

- 10% "general math", including permutations and probability of equally likely events

- 30% algebra, including polynomial equations, inequalities, functions, complex numbers, graphs, and sequences/series.

- 30% geometry, including right triangles, coordinates, plane figures, and congruency.

- 20% trig, including right triangle relationships, trig functions, inverse trig functions, graphs, identities, and trig equations.

- 10% calculus, including limits, derivatives, antiderivatives, tangent lines, rates of change, maxima/minima, and inflection points/concavity.

It's no speed competition. Certainly, time is of the essence, but it's more important that he learn to do the problems. The biggest issue is teaching all the procedures without making it feel like a grind. He's more than willing to learn.

Regarding the calculus - I think that this will actually be the easiest portion to teach, because the limit as Acadec wants one to learn is simple substitution and the derivative is a simple process. I want to teach those two first because freshmen at my school are inexplicably put into physics.

posted by LSK at 6:06 PM on April 3, 2008

Regarding the calculus - I think that this will actually be the easiest portion to teach, because the limit as Acadec wants one to learn is simple substitution and the derivative is a simple process. I want to teach those two first because freshmen at my school are inexplicably put into physics.

posted by LSK at 6:06 PM on April 3, 2008

I don't know what kind of resources you have, but we used DemiDec and Acalon. Our team preferred DemiDec, they were both funny and helpful. Their math resource was geared towards whatever the focus was for that year, but they also did have some basic primers on learning math.

We did very well, but we also put in 40 hours a week on top of a normal AP load from September to March.

(Full disclosure: I interned for DemiDec after I did my time in Acadec, post-high school.)

posted by msamye at 6:07 PM on April 3, 2008

We did very well, but we also put in 40 hours a week on top of a normal AP load from September to March.

(Full disclosure: I interned for DemiDec after I did my time in Acadec, post-high school.)

posted by msamye at 6:07 PM on April 3, 2008

We've used DemiDec, but found that the greatest success came through independent research. Our biggest problem this year is that almost all of the students this year and last year who had taken Calculus by junior year are leaving, so they need to be replaced, and most of this year's Calculus crop is either unwilling or not skilled enough to be on the team.

posted by LSK at 6:11 PM on April 3, 2008

posted by LSK at 6:11 PM on April 3, 2008

Good on you for taking on teaching this person. I was drafted onto my high school's math team when I was a freshman -- total disaster. I had some algebra, but that's it, and nobody tutored me or even gave me anything to read. Needless to say, I was pretty lost. Honored, but lost. Fortunately, the team was never that great (we were a semi-rural high school that did well for itself considering its location, but we never even approached the level of the local private schools), so I didn't feel a lot of pressure or like I was letting the team down.

OK, enough about me. Clearly I need to get out more. OK, really enough about me.

My advice would be to consider asking several members of the team to tutor the person in particular areas, perhaps the member's particular strength or favorite area. Especially if these tutoring members aren't mostly graduating seniors, it could help make the team more bonded, and help the freshman seem less of a threat to anyone who may have a [probably secret] jealous/threatened streak. I know that "team spirit" isn't as important in math team as, say, basketball, but it always helps. And not just with winning math meets.

posted by amtho at 7:14 PM on April 3, 2008

OK, enough about me. Clearly I need to get out more. OK, really enough about me.

My advice would be to consider asking several members of the team to tutor the person in particular areas, perhaps the member's particular strength or favorite area. Especially if these tutoring members aren't mostly graduating seniors, it could help make the team more bonded, and help the freshman seem less of a threat to anyone who may have a [probably secret] jealous/threatened streak. I know that "team spirit" isn't as important in math team as, say, basketball, but it always helps. And not just with winning math meets.

posted by amtho at 7:14 PM on April 3, 2008

My teacher would just have older students break down problems from a practice test on the chalkboard one by one and we'd take notes. It was fun and easier to understand than reading the packet. I guess it kind of helped build team unity as well.

I was in acadec for 3 years and math was always a problem for younger students. They'll catch up eventually. I guess that's how it is for all subjects though because older students become so familiar with the basic packets they're guaranteed to get at least 25% of the test right.

I was in acadec for 3 years and I was always terrible at math. I just winged it and concentrated on other subjects.

I still got plenty of medals all three years and my team went to states so I guess it didn't hurt my team too much.

posted by ad4pt at 1:47 AM on April 4, 2008

I was in acadec for 3 years and math was always a problem for younger students. They'll catch up eventually. I guess that's how it is for all subjects though because older students become so familiar with the basic packets they're guaranteed to get at least 25% of the test right.

I was in acadec for 3 years and I was always terrible at math. I just winged it and concentrated on other subjects.

I still got plenty of medals all three years and my team went to states so I guess it didn't hurt my team too much.

posted by ad4pt at 1:47 AM on April 4, 2008

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Is the math mostly conceptual or is it more of a speed competition? I kind of doubt a freshman who hasn't finished algebra is going to be able to wrap his brain around the finer points of calculus but there are a lot of formulas he can memorize and apply.

posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:53 PM on April 3, 2008