What to do when your kid fails a high school course?

In Minnesota you are required to take and pass Algebra II (or have an IEP that exempts you) in order to graduate from high school. So you do need it here. You’ll also need it to get into any sort of decent four year college - if you don’t have it you’ll end up in community college (where you’ll need to take it as remedial math) or at an open enrollment school. It was even required for my son’s welding program.

(I don’t agree with this, but the advice that you don’t need it isn’t universal - you may never use it in real life, but around here, you need to pass that course).

what happened to me is that I was able to (relatively speaking) cruise through grade school, and never really had to develop any serious study habits. then I hit a wall with the more advanced math and struggled for a while.

So what we did…we bought his textbook and the teacher’s edition of his textbook. I relearned Algebra II and I retaught as we went. The teachers edition had the problems worked out (show your work style!) We’d work through it until he had rote memorization of the steps required (and in what order!) to solve that sort of problem.

I also spent a lot of time teaching him how to use his scientific calculator to check his work and get some of the answers. A lot of Algebra II problems can be solved by the technology most high schools allow - if you understand the more advanced functions on your TI-84. That was also really helpful when my kids took the ACT - they both did pretty well and part of the reason was they knew how to work quickly through the math via calculator.

With my daughter, her ADHD caught up with her with advanced math. As long as the math was easy enough for her not to have to pay attention through an ENTIRE problem, it was easy. When a math problem takes five minutes to solve, and you need the executive processing functions to get through all the steps and in the right order, all the ADHD issues come forward. Algebra II was when she finally got her diagnosis - because she had a good math teacher that noticed where her issue was.

Now its college and its academic texts that are challenging those same parts of her brain.

(My son’s issue was weed brain, you really can’t get good at Algebra when you are learning it stoned - or at least he couldn’t).

It also just plain old isn’t uncommon with kids this age. It can be indicative of other issues (ADHD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse), but its also sometimes just that adolescent brains can make some really strange choices. Having raised teenagers, all of us Moms of teenagers would get together and - except for the mothers of perfect children who we didn’t invite (and I suspect were less perfect than their mothers said they were) - wonder where their brains went. And its homework avoidance. Or more maddening, homework turning in avoidance. Or distractions like phones, boys, girls, friends, gossip, activities. That really driven kid who gets all their homework done and applies themselves to their classes and gets through without issue - they are the exception.

Wow! You hit it right on the nose. Yes he’s an introvert and all those things about needing direction - yes. Too much tv - yes. We will start working on that.

All of my kids knew that my wife and I would actively involved in their education and would be keeping close tabs on their grades. In the case of our son,when he began having problems with high school math, we reacted immediately. Through talking to him and his teacher we worked to figure out the underlying issue(s), helped him work through his homework, and got him outside tutoring or those things that just weren’t clicking. We also limited TV, non-school computer use and phone time until schoolwork was done. We made it clear that school was “job” and he was expected to take it seriously as such. It wasn’t easy for him or for us, but it worked because we started early and stayed involved. Not intervening until half way through the semester, while not impossible to overcome,makes the chances of success much lower. My son will never be a math enthusiast, by any stretch, but he passed the classes and graduated on time without summer school.

Of course, all of the above goes out the window if it is truly a lack of ability. That wasn’t the case with my son, it was more A) lack of interest, B)it didn’t come easy like he was used to with everything else, C) had little perceived value for one who aspired to be a musician and D) being a teenage boy. That’s why rooting out the base issues is the critical first step - it sets the agenda for all actions to follow.