How to Use a Student’s Experiences to Teach Math – The Story of a Former Drug Dealer

Four ounces of low-grade marijuana, usually re...
A quarter pound of drugs is 1/4 of a pound!
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Do you have an especially difficult student? Does one kid stand out as just not getting it?

The answer lies not in your approach, but in their perception of their own capabilities.

My Former Drug Dealer Student

I was teaching Oilfield Math at a large oilfield services company to a group of new hires. One guy had particular difficulty.

Because I set myself up as approachable, he came to me to explain his plight. He was an ex-con and had spent 10 years in prison for drug dealing.

As soon as I heard this, I knew my way in. I watch much more drug-related TV that I should, so I knew that fractions were involved in drug dealing.

I asked him to explain some of the prices and measurements. Since he would have to work against time calculating cost, weights and prices, he was exceptionally good at fractions.

When I pointed out how good he was in math he was upset. “I’ve left part of my life behind me” he told me. “Yes,” I said, “but it shows that you could be just as good at legal fractions.” This Oilfield Math’s got nothing on drugs-on-the-street math.

His life turned around that day.

If you have a struggling student, find out where they already do math. Show them that they have the talent already. Let them see their abilities.

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