From KERA News: Alex Gutierrez is a student at the International Leadership of Texas high school, a charter school in Garland. For Alex, math is a struggle. As junior year ends, a big geometry test looms.
Alex Gutierrez has dreams. She’d like to go to college and study criminal justice. She wants to become an FBI agent or a police detective.
First though, Alex has to get through junior year. And pass geometry.
She failed geometry last fall. And now, she’s scared about the final exam.
For Alex, who’s 16, junior year has been a big adjustment.
“It has been rough,” she said. “It just feels like there’s more work than there has been freshman and sophomore year.”
One recent morning, in math class, Alex and her classmates are reviewing math problems for their final.
“I want you to find the area for that shaded part. You see there’s a hexagon inside a circle,” teacher April Nguyen explains.
Alex needs to make sure she can calculate the volume and surface area of three-dimensional shapes. And figure out the properties and rules of polygons. And know everything she can about circles.
Nguyen approaches Alex’s desk and points at her worksheet.
“Now look, I like what you did, but I don’t need that angle there,” Nguyen says. “Because if you have two angles, you’ll get confused.”
Nguyen, who earned Teacher of the Year honors at the school, said Alex is working hard to raise her geometry grade. She asks for help outside of class. Alex even formed a study group with some of her classmates.
“With the algebra skills, she is great,” Nguyen said. “You can give her just any equation and ask her to isolate any variable, she can do it. But it’s just the concept, where she reads a word problem, she doesn’t know where to start. That’s what she struggles with.”
Nguyen said Alex needs to focus on the word problems, one sentence at a time, to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
“It’s not just Alex. It’s every student,” Nguyen said. “They read the long word problem. There’s a mouthful and then they’re like, ‘OK; now what?’”
Alex balances math with dual credit courses. So she’s earning college and high school credit.