Tutoring Math to N, a student from Somalia new to America The math problem was: A baseball player averages one hit in every three at-bats. If the player bats 480 times during a season, how many hits can the player be expected to get? That sounds easy enough. I was worried when I heard I’d be helping with math – it has never been my strong suit. But when I saw it was ratios we were working with I figured we could muddle our way through. After all, this particular type of math was still using the 1 is to 5 as 2 is to ‘n’. It even had tables to fill out 1 = 25n I can do this stuff! I was ready. N was ready. 1 is to 3 as ‘n’ is to 480. No problem. The first wrinkle – this is a story problem about baseball. When you are new to this country you naturally ask “what is baseball?” Well, it’s a game where one player hits a ball with a bat and this (pointing to the problem) player, every 3 times he tries to hit the ball he hits it once. What’s a bat? It’s a wooden thing, like a big stick, you hit a ball with. What’s an at-bat? That’s each time you try to hit the ball with the bat. How do you complete a table, how do you even begin a table when you have no idea what it is you are asked to solve a problem about? “Baseball” doesn’t fit in the table, but it is a least one thing N seems to comprehend about this game. Well, we muddle through, I even pretend to be swinging to hit a ball with a pencil, until I realize how utterly ridiculous that must look to someone who has no idea what it is I am doing. Once we have the table filled in, most of which I just did, she got it right away. She can do the math. But what in the h__l is an at-bat? It isn’t anything. Next math problem. On a basketball team, the ratio of players less than six feet tall to players six feet or taller is 2 to 5. If 10 players on the team are six feet or taller, how many players are less than six feet tall? Basketball – now we are getting somewhere. Even the newest Somali arrivals know what basketball is and so does N. Yeah, a word we can start with! But, alas, what is a “six feet or taller? What is a less than six feet tall? After trying to explain this we end up with 2 are short for every 5 who are taller. The way the sentence is written is hardly clear. In the table N wants to include six somehow. Six is to what as 5 is to what? Six isn’t any number in the ratio, but N is zeroed in on six. Once again, I fill in the table. Once the numbers are in place N does the math. She gets this stuff but…… Problem #3. Last year during league bowling, Jeremy averaged one strike for every five frames he bowled. If he bowled 84 strikes last season, how many frames did he bowl? N begins. How many leagues were there, she wants to know? Well, there weren’t any, a league is the same as year. (Oh really?) How many Jeremy’s were there? Well, Jeremy is a boy’s name. Oh. Ok, do you know what bowling is? No. It’s a game where you roll a ball down a long narrow lane, no, ‘’hall,’ and you try to knock down 10 pins, things at the end of it. Oh. So, every 5 times Jeremy tries to hit the things down with the ball he gets one strike. You mean like in baseball where after three of them you can’t try to hit the ball any more? Well, no, that’s…..that’s……that’s something entirely different. Oh. Once again, as soon as the table is laid out she does the math. And it’s right. But I’m getting nervous. Those who are real teachers at Trinity would strongly object to the fact that I am preparing and filling in the tables. They would say, “How can she learn if she doesn’t do it on her own? Well, I just don’t know. Problem #4. In a 72-hole golf tournament, Patricia scored under par every 2 out of 9 holes. For the tournament, how many times did Patricia score under par? Of course, N had no idea what golf is. How in the world do you explain par when the person doesn’t even know what a golf course is, what a golf club is, what a tournament is? At least now N is able to trust(?) me when I tell her what to write in the table. And once again, she does the math in her head and it is correct. Problem #5 In a gymnastics meet, a gymnast earned a perfect score of ten from one out of every four judges. If there were eight judges altogether at the meet, how many perfect scores did the gymnast earn? Can you see where this is going? 10 is to ? as ? is to what? Well, 10 really has nothing to do with the problem. Oh. We have to think about the number of judges and the number of perfect scores. Oh. Why is ten a perfect score? I don’t really know…It doesn’t really matter because they changed that this year….oh, wait, no, that was figure skating. Trust me, it doesn’t matter. This time we do somehow get the table figured out faster and her math is again correct. Next problem. On a football team, 7 out of every 9 players weigh 190 pounds or more. If 42 players weigh more than 190 pounds, how many players are on the team? It’s 5:30. Time to close up. Whew. N thanks me over and over. We each go home. It was a great way to spend 1 1/2 hours. Original journal entry date: 3.22.06 ©Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved
7 Comments
Mark Boeyink
3/13/2019 10:21:31 am
They could have at least thrown in one soccer question.
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Jane Buckley-Farlee
3/20/2019 01:10:19 pm
I know.
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Connie De Lorme
3/13/2019 11:02:33 am
I taught ESL for years. These kind of understanding the problem in universal. I had the most difficult tme with a tennis problem having to explain what "love" was...
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Jane Buckley-Farlee
3/20/2019 01:11:09 pm
That's even better than strikes or balls!
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Don Tubesing
3/13/2019 05:40:51 pm
fantastic, Jane, just wonderful...now if you were playing "kick the can down the road" what would be the likelihood that you would be a US politician? and how often would you be expected to try to kick, but miss the can and sprain your knee? And what kind of can was it anyway? And why were you trying to kick it, rather than just picking it up? and......
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Jane Buckley-Farlee
3/20/2019 01:08:33 pm
Thanks again Don. Your comments let me know someone is interested!
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Dana
3/20/2019 07:23:24 pm
Thanks Pr Jane! This brings back so many good memories (and some frustrating ones). One in particular was when a student, brand new to the US and who knew no English, was required to write a 5 page paper on the Land of Punt - modern day Somalia. Well, we went around for weeks because there was no way to help her. Besides issues of plagiarism or just plain cheating, we could only find 2 pages of information on the internet. I don't know how she got through that assignment, but she graduated in the end!
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