My Son Is Failing Math
What can I do to help him?
ADVICE BY MATTHEW DICKS, CASSY SARNELL, AND AMY SCOTT
Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. In addition to our traditional advice, every Thursday we feature an assortment of teachers from across the country answering your education questions. Have a question for our teachers? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.
My freshman son has an IEP—you can’t really tell when you first meet him, but he is autistic. Since middle school (he’s now in Algebra), he’s struggled in math. He needs clear instructions and a classroom environment that’s not too distracting (no kids yelling, water bottles flying, etc.). He is in general education for all his classes.
His current math teacher is a little out there—she uses dreams to explain functions, talks a lot about Star Wars and her nephew, and— according to my son—just vomits out occasional instructions. He currently has a 22 percent in this class. He does the worksheets she sends home, but some things he just doesn’t understand. He does not want a tutor to come to our house. I’ve been in touch with his IEP case carrier who seems to really care about his success, and we talked to his case carrier about the option of moving him to the special day math class. (My friend’s son is in it, and it really seems to help him). The case carrier agreed, but then told my son he wants to wait until the end of the year. I feel like the move should be made ASAP, while my son still has a chance to reach the learning targets and get a passing grade for this quarter. Your thoughts?
Dear Math Move,
My answer depends on your school calendar. It’s now May 5. I’m going to assume your son still has more than a month left of school, in which case you should push to move him. A student can learn a lot in a month.
If he has a month or less, I would ask how many school days are going to be disrupted with state testing, field trips, and other end-of-year activities, then make your decision about whether it’s worth it. (It might still be, depending on how quickly your son responds to specialized instruction.)
My question is, how does he have a 22? What accommodations are on his IEP? Has the teacher been following them? For example, does he have extra time for assignments? If so, double-check that the teacher has not taken off points for late work. Does he have access to teacher notes? Ask him to procure them. Is the case manager supposed to push in to your son’s class or pull him out to support him? Make sure he’s had that small-group or one-on-one time.
If he’s receiving all his accommodations… they’re not working. Whether or not he stays in the mainstream class, it seems like his IEP needs to be amended.
—Ms. Scott (high school teacher, North Carolina)