“Everyone in Weston has a math tutor,” says my neighbor in Dorchester. “Kids in Weston do well in math because they all get help from their parents. And they all take math courses outside of school.”
Of course this is an exaggeration, but by how much? I figured I would collect a little data — not a scientific study, no randomness, no stratified sample, but data nonetheless. On an anonymous questionnaire filled out by all of my math students, I included several questions about tutors and parental help. These were sophomores and juniors in college-prep Algebra II and honors precalculus (our only math levels are honors and college-prep); I excluded my computer science class, and a couple of kids were absent, so the survey polled 65 students altogether.
The results were revealing:
- Only 29% had ever had a math tutor. Only 9% of the college-prep students and 17% of the honors have a math tutor this year.
- Only 4% of college-prep students and 19% of honors had ever taken a math course outside of school.
- 30% of college-prep students and 24% of honors ever get math help from their parents:
Get help from… College-prep Honors Just mother 13% 2% Just father 17% 14% Both 0% 7%
- On a separate note, 24% of the honors group rank themselves as being in the top 10% of Honors Math IV, and a whopping 52% of the college-prep students rank themselves as being in the top 10% of their Algebra II section. Similarly, not a single student in each group ranks herself or himself in the bottom 10% in algebra skills. And we are confirmed in the general impression that Weston is Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average: 92% of the college-prep group rank themselves in the top 50% of their group in algebra skills.
Self-confidence is a good thing, I guess. But realistic self-assessments might be even better.