Tuesday, October 7, 2014

From Despondence To A New Plan Of Action For Alex



Song:  Cello Ascends

Artists:  The Piano Guys



This is a daytime picture from near the apex of the hill of our nightly walk.
  I don't remember having put in a daytime shot from the hill from this perspective.

What does this have to do with this article?

Nothing.

Sorry for the distraction  :)



Now...
first of all...
as I had mentioned before...
Alex had taken a major exam last week in his Linear Algebra class
(remember, as he is taking this class at a University...
these grades are looked at very closely...and so...
are extremely important for his future).

He thought he had done very well in it.

As Alex was in his class...
and as I was lying on one of the main grassy areas of the campus and listening to music 
while waiting for Alex to finish his class...
I was happily anticipating seeing a joyous look on Alex's face
as he came to meet me where I usually wait for him on the second floor of the building.

What I had seen in his diverted gaze, slumped shoulders...
his down turned head, and in his hesitant stride...
made my heart drop.

I knew this was the day he was to get the results from last week's 
major exam in his Linear Algebra class.

As we walked out of the building...
and made our way across the campus back to the garage...
I simply said..."So...you hadn't done so well on the test huh?"

Even though Alex is still in the A category for the class as a whole (so far)...
Alex had gotten a B+ in the exam...
with the addition of extra credit received on another problem
(had he not been able to answer the extra credit problem...
his exam grade would have dropped even further).

I, of course...
became extremely concerned...
not only because this was a major exam
which constitutes a full 20% of his final grade in the class...
but it means he had not fully understood a concept (or its application)...
which further concerned me because...
in not having understood a concept...
there are but two major ways of seeing what had really gone wrong.

The first way...
which is understandable, and most often happens with those who really try...
a misunderstood concept or a misunderstanding of when or how to use it.

And the second way...
which is truly not having understood the concept.

Of the two...
the second way should ring alarm bells in the mind of the child...
and in that of the parents.

When something is not understood...
it is known to the child.

The real problem then presents itself as to why the child had not 
then researched deeper to achieve the understanding he needed.

During our talk on the way back to the campus garage...
I had to ask a series of probing questions to get to the crux of the true issue:

Whether or not he had not understood a concept...
or if he had merely misunderstood a concept.


This distinction is vital to understanding the root of the problem...
and so, to finding the real solution.

Do not misunderstand me...
I was, in no way, shape, or form... angry with Alex.

I did, however, go into immediate parental problem solving mode.

The first half of our walk back consisted of me trying to ascertain
the true root of the problem.

It had taken me several minutes of asking a series of questions
which had logically narrowed the possibilities to where the final answer 
could only be of the first or of the second of the two possible root reasons
(of course, had I had an understanding of advanced math...
the answer could have been ascertained in seconds).

Alex had merely misunderstood a concept.

However, he had initially said that he had not understood a concept...
and that is what had sent alarm bells ringing in my head.

He should have said that he had misunderstood a concept.

I then pointed back at our route from the building from where the whole 
conversation had initiated...and to where we were then standing...
and I had told him that all of that probing conversation would have 
been negated with but one correctly spoken word.

Had he intially said the word 'misunderstood'...
no further conversation on the matter, other than moving on to the next 
phase of problem solving, would have been necessary...
as the problem would have then been properly identified in the beginning.

And so began the conversation 
which would last for the last half of our walk back:
The great importance of precision in language  :)


When we get home...
Alex usually goes to his mother's room to give her a big hug and kiss
before dropping off his backpack...and he then tells her how his class went.

However...
this time, Alex just dropped off his backpack and sat at his study area.
His mother had to go to him and ask him how his class had gone.

After Alex explained about his day...
he began researching where he had misunderstood the application of the concept.

Alex had bitter tears of frustration and disappointment 
rolling down his face as he sat at his computer.

He was greatly disappointed in himself.

However, I went to speak to him.

Just as we had spoken some in the car on the solution 
to future problems of misunderstood concepts 
(of which he thinks he knows...but comes to find he hadn't)...
the solution becomes rather simple.

Just as in math...
the same applies to all other subjects.

Verification of understanding as measured through sample questions
with given answers.

He needs to do a verification run by test...
before an actual test at school.

Whatever he does not fully understand...
and especially that which he thinks he understands...
he has time to research and verify through examples 
given on YouTube or through Google.

I had also explained that like everything else...
it is the quantity of quality of study which will make dramatic differences
in the results.

I think Alex was getting too comfortable in his knowledge...
and too confident in his memory.

He hasn't been taking detailed notes in his class as of lately
(he has been relying on his memory once again)...
and he has been dividing his time too much
(he had falsely thought that he had understood everything in his class...
and so, he had become complacent).

I asked him what time of the day he is most energetic.
 I told him that it is precisely the time when he should be studying 
his most difficult classes.

I told Alex that as his other classes
 really don't take much in way of his deep thinking skills...
that he should arrange his life around his most difficult classes...
and to prioritize his time with those same classes in mind.

As I will show in the below pictures...
although Alex had done well on problem 3...
he had made a calculative mistake on the another problem...
and on another problem...he hadn't arrived at the mathematical conclusion
using the correct method to arrive at that conclusion 
(he had solved it using a different method).
On yet another, he had forgotten which procedure to use at a certain point...
and had used an incorrect one...
and so, had points deducted from that particular problem.



In problem 4...
he had only gotten 8 of 10 possible points precisely because he hadn't fully understood
 the concept of his material.

In problem 5...
he had made a calculative error (5 - 18 was the correction).


I had reemphasized to Alex that...
although he is still only 13 years old...
he is in a class for University students...
and as such, no quarter shall be given to him by the system or by the instructor
(nor should there be).

He must perform at a University student's level in all regards.
He must be able to research and verify his understanding on his own.

A successful University student must know how to not only problem solve...
he must know how to devise ways to ensure he has an understanding of his material.

I went on to say that as a person progresses in academics...
he must know how to research to do just this...in everything he does.

A person who gets his PhD is highly respected because 
he had become an expert on becoming an expert.

Besides demonstrating his specific knowledge and ingenuity in his field of study... 
he had to find a way to research and learn how to achieve and verify his understanding...
before a problem had arisen.

A person who becomes a Professor must have mastered
all concepts if he is to be able to give that understanding to others...
and he must know the path to achieving an efficient and effective way of learning...
so he may then be able to pass that on to his students as well.

A University Professor must think of himself as a Yoda to his Jedi Knights.

As Alex wishes to become a University Professor one day...
100% understanding of all of his material is a necessity.

(I know...a good Yoda like saying would have been funny here.
Sorry...I just don't do Yoda well  :)



After our talk...
Alex got back his old look of determination...
and he once again...
had become cheerful.

He sat at his computer studying the results of his exam...
researching ways of understanding to find where he had gone wrong.
He is still waiting for the professor to upload the correct solutions
for all of the problems so he could then deduce his missteps.

With the problem correctly identified...
and a plausible solution to preventing future problems from arising rendered...
Alex and I looked forward to a very satisfying meal.

Alex had eaten his Crispy Baked Salmon bites with green onions 
and some kind of Japanese sauce (Alex loves all of the ingredients used)...
and I had eaten my Lobster Ravioli in Seafood Bisque...
with great relish (Alex was feeling much better by this point).
(Momma had put in extra effort on this meal...
no doubt to assuage Alex's initial despondency).

During dinner...
I had merely recapped the precepts of a successful University student...
and we then discussed our plan to see the Autumn colors of the Sierra Nevadas tomorrow.

We will be driving approximately 3 hours to the June Lake Loop.

It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in all of California for Autumn colors.


With our nightly walk and showers completed...
we are looking forward to a restful night's sleep...
and to having a nice breakfast on the way...
with the promise of a very beautiful day ahead of us.






6 comments:

  1. Ahhh, I give my brother too little credit although I have always thought you two are wonderful parents. You encourage Ah chan in the way he needs to succeed and that is so important.
    Ah chan, I am so glad you are resilient and handle disappointment in such a powerful way. I am so proud of your efforts every day. Love always, Aunt Mary

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your comment.

    I agree on how important resilience is in life. It has definitely helped me succeed in school so far, and will continue to benefit me throughout my life.

    Also, for this week's Linear Algebra online quiz, I got 100% (3 out of 3). I am understanding everything being taught up to this point and beyond.

    I will continue to persevere, and accomplish great things.

    Love,
    Ahchan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ahchan what we have called Alex since he was a baby (Ah for the phonetic sound of A for Alex....and chan is what you add to mean child in Japanese).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Although setbacks can be hard to take, it can often serve as a needed wakeup call. It seems like you helped Alex through this experience well, and he will be better off for having learned from it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alex is now paying more attention to his work. He knows how important it is to his future...and that to take something for granted is to allow for sloppy habits.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent Ah chan (excellent is a word I apply to you most often). Now you have a greater and more thorough understanding than you would have had otherwise. I am glad for this stumble you took. It taught you much at relatively little cost. Your effort makes everything possible. Knowledge without effort means nothing, it is the application of that knowledge with effort required that gives life meaning. You are always a joy to me and I love watching you grow. I also agree with your assessment, you will be a great man who accomplishes great things.
    Love always, Aunt Mary

    ReplyDelete

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