Dear several students,

Even if you ever found this post, it is not about you.

The majority, however, did not even receive Bs or Cs, but failed. Spectacularly. And while there is a percentage who are definitely struggling with concepts like -9 * -9= 81, most are just far too flippant with negative signs. They'll get -6 * 7 = -42 and miss -5 * 3 by answering 15. Add in a longer string of numbers where you really need to keep track of how many negative signs you've got going and they're just guessing about the outcome's sign.

Add into the mix that we started solving for variables in the last chapter, and you have doubly spelled disaster. They can do 3x = 12, some can do 3x = -12, but you say that 3x + 1 = 7 and the multiple steps required to arrive at the answer KILLS them.

I'm sure I will come up with more tricks of the trade as I go, but for now, I am best one-on-one where I see exactly how they're tripping up. Some of you have already given me some great tips for teaching that a negative times a negative is a positive--and C's dad reminded me that these students would not have tested into developmental math (there is no college credit for the course; they have to pass it though to get to college algebra to get an A.A.) if they had learned any math from sixth grade on.

I did have two of my tutoring students ace their algebra tests. That was somewhat gratifying.