I love to see a person light up when they finally understand that concept that has been a stumbling block for them. In my years of teaching in public and private schools (K-8), in my years at home as a mom, and through all the rest of the time I've spent working, it has given me great joy to be able to explain the "why" to people so they can "get it", whether I'm teaching kids or adults. I've spent about 5 years teaching in the classroom: several years as a substitute covering everything i... [more]
Algebra is like solving a puzzle: Use the rules to help you figure out the the answer. Whether you're dealing with equations, functions, graphs, or the nuts and bolts of operations with proportions, exponents, polynomials, or more, it's always about finding the rule that applies to your situation and following the steps. Showing your steps is always a good idea, too!
One of the classes I had the most fun with in college was Vocabulary Improvement. A friend and I both decided to take the class because we thought it would be fun to learn the history behind the words, how and why they have come to mean what they do. We learned not only word roots from other languages such Greek and Latin, but the history of how words came to be, such as "carnival", from "carne" (meat) + "vale" (farewell), the festival that took place before the start of the Lenten fast when meat was not served for religious reasons.
Pre-algebra is focused on making sure students understand the foundational pieces they'll need to succeed with algebra. Much of the work is with concepts, and has practical, real-world application. The rest of it -- the part that is more abstract -- can be viewed as a puzzle one must solve using certain rules. Thorough, careful work usually helps in finding the correct answers.
Elementary math can start with using numbers to correlate with things in the real world, and progress to the abstract, where some students really learn to love playing with numbers. Whether they learn best by emphasizing rules that will come out the same each and every time, or by discovering how the patterns fit together to make a coherent picture, there is usually a way to explain it that makes sense. Once students have figured out the basics, then they can build to higher concepts.
I worked as a substitute teacher for 2 1/2 years in grades 1-8 in Ohio, including 2 long-term assignments (1-2 months) while teachers were out recovering from surgery. I worked for 2 1/2 years teaching a combined 5th/6th classroom in a Christian school in Oregon, including computer skills and science classes for the 7th/8th combined classroom. Elementary (K-6th) skills often come down to the basics: Reading for understanding, Writing (including grammar and spelling) and Mathematics. Science, Health, Social Studies are specific content areas that can all be better grasped if the student is able to read the material for him- or herself. For Reading: It starts, of course, with the alphabet and letter sounds, and from there to letter groups and the sounds they make (phonics), and from there to strategies for understanding the words, their parts, and the meanings, and from there to sentences and paragraphs and how they are arranged to give clues to what is most important. Above all the mechanics, though, is the idea that reading itself can be fun and open the doors of imagination. For Writing, Grammar, and Spelling: There are some basic rules for grammar and spelling as well as some perhaps-irritating exceptions, and success often comes down to repetition and practice for the mechanics. However, the written expression that flows from the student can be fostered even before the mechanics are fully understood, and, while kids' ideas need to be valued no matter whether they've followed all the grammar and spelling conventions, showing kids how their communications improve within that framework of the conventions can help their lifelong communication skills. For Mathematics: It's about what is real and describing the world around us. From the simple beginnings of addition and subtraction through multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, estimating, rounding, measurement, geometry, time, money, and all the rest, kids can be shown how discovering numbers and the way they fit together is fun and useful. In this calculator and computer age it may seem outdated to memorize math facts, but the freedom that comes with being able to "run the numbers" on one's own is something no child should be denied. Math can be presented in ways that are fun, and provides an invaluable life tool.
Phonics is a great approach to learning or improving one's reading skills. As a kid, I loved to play with syllables and sounds, and as a teacher I enjoy seeing students catch on to the system and read with greater and greater ease. I have used phonics to aid my 5th/6th graders with spelling, and in tutoring a 2nd grader who was having trouble with reading (decoding words). I have used phonics with my own children in teaching them reading skills, as well.
The very first college class I took was a Study Skills class. In it I learned some of the basic strategies I was already using: note-taking, reading for understanding using paragraph structure to determine the important points, mnemonic tricks for memorization, engaging multiple senses for greater retention, and more. Probably the best study skill I keep coming back to is frequent review of the material -- by keeping the subject active in my brain, letting my mind "perk" on it, it becomes more familiar and easier to recall. In my years of teaching I have used many of these tenets in presenting materials for greater understanding and retention (including teaching paragraph structure and etymology), but I've also taught study skills to my 5th/6th class directly, encouraging them to study often in smaller chunks of time, to write, read aloud, draw diagrams, and use body movements to go over the material.