Ho Math Chess Research and Articles > Characteristics of Math A Students

10 Dec 2009


Characteristics of Math A Students
Frank Ho
Ho Math and Chess Learning Centre
BC certified Teacher
Vancouver, BC, Canada
This article attempts to see if there are some characteristics difference between 2 group of students: those students who consistently getting A in math and those students who could not consistently getting A in math. The author believes understanding the characteristics difference between them is an effective way to raise each individual student’s math performance.
Let’s say there are 20 students in a regular math class and there is most likely a few who consistently reach over 90% performance in math tests, so why students studied from the same teacher and were asked to do the same amount of homework and listened the same lecture ended up with different test results? There are a lot of reasons, but can the non-A students learn something from the A students and see why the A students consistently get A? The trouble is most students cannot “see” how A-students study differently in comparison to non-A students. I personally tutor math from kindergarten to grade 12 students so I have had the opportunities to observe how A student perform differently from non-A students, the difference is apparent enough to conclude that some students cannot get A is because they themselves have not got the same characteristics of learning habits which most A-students have possessed to achieve the A status.
Some of my observations are as follows:
If the students already have the knack for math and they also study very hard then certainly it is easier for those students to consistently get A. On the other hand, students have the average intelligence but with good study habits and study hard can also achieve A but extra work is required. Some non-A students just do not work hard enough and are not willing to work on extra practices. It is difficult to get A for those students who somehow just can not get it despite tremendous efforts of teaching using models and manipulative. With that in mind, it seems to be unfair to use the statement that every one can learn math well and get A.
Math A students care and do not forget what have been taught. Recently, I have taught a grade-5 student on prime numbers by asking him to write all primes from 1 to 100 (after my explanation of prime number.) and he complained. Later I gave him 20 or so some prime number questions to practice and also reviewed with on his mistakes. Despite the efforts I prepared for him, He could not get perfect on the following 2 questions given by his schoolteacher:
List all the prime numbers between 36 and 46. List all the composite numbers between 36 and 46.
I was disappointed that he missed one number in each of these questions. I was wondering why he could not complete it with perfection since these 2 questions are not difficult? My feeling is my efforts of study with him on primes shall enable him to get the above questions totally correct, but he didn’t so what was the problem?
I noticed that this boy could not put in his energy 100% whenever I was tutoring him. He consistently had to get up his chair for some reasons and also asked me to give time to play chess; waiting at his seat without doing anything when not told to do specific work (i.e., no proactive attitude); complained when given work to do; chatting with neighbours whenever he could. So perhaps he was not even paying attention when he was asked to write all primes from 1 to 100 at the time I was teaching him or he was not paying attention when he was taking his test? All these are related to him personally, it really has nothing to do with math curriculum or teaching method since we are only look at one small problem and find out why he could not get it 100%.
I personally feel that some students could not get A is because they have not got the characteristics of A students’ good study habits.
Non-A students do not bother to retain anything related to concept teaching. If students do not bother to remember any concepts then how can they do well in math? I told students that learning math is not like a massage work, you cannot just sit there and let tutor does the work. Many non-A students treat learning math like it is only tutor’s job to do the work and perhaps understand at the moment when tutor was explaining, but next week, when they were asked again to do the same practice, they acted like they have never been taught.
Non- A students left all notes on the table after teaching and do not care if they can review it at home or later.
Math-A students will take the proactive attitude to tell me what they did at school and “guide” me to the area, which they do not understand, but non-A math student do not care.
Math-A students ask me something they do not understand in the class but non-A students have no questions to ask me.
Academic performance has lots to do with a student’s personal living habits too. One cannot be lazy and must be willing to and prepare to work harder. Math-A students must be willing to use their brains and can not be lazy; one small example is to see if students are willing to use their brains to arrange food on the refrigerator’s shelves in a very organized way. Open the refrigerator and see how some of students place the their food on the refrigerator’s shelves. Have they used their basic math knowledge to maximize the shelves space?
Non-A students do not consistently finish their homework completely and do not feel shamed at all is another reason that some students do not do well and even worse is some parents are making reasons to forgive their children.
The common reason given by young students for not doing some math is they complained to me that this is not what they do at school. Not willing to take on any challenges is another problem facing this kind of students and often they will use the same reason to complain to their own parents.
Have a goal, care about what you learned in class, help tutors by pointing out what you do not know, do all homework. Be organized on math notes and collect all notes left by tutor and be willing to review them at later date. These attitude seem to be all just common sense to be “good” math-A students but lack in some of these attitude is exactly the reasons why some non-A students are not getting A.

Frank Ho