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I don't have any other specific strategies to offer to this
particular dilemma, but I do have a personal experience which may
help you, or Joe.

I am currently at Niagara University, but for 10 years before coming
here, I worked as a Learning Specialist at a community college.  I
saw my position as one working with students with disabilities,
primarily learning disabilities, offering them strategies that would
work with their strengths to get them through "the basics" -- the
required writing, reading, and math courses.  All students had to
pass the algebra (non-credit) in order to get their Associate's
degree.  Many curriculums required more math.  My guess is that well
over 50% of my time was spent working with math reluctant and math
anxious students.   There was one woman in particular who was a human
service major, and a non-traditional student (she had grandchildren)
who also had newly been diagnosed as having a learning disability.
She was one of those who would attempt the algebra course, get into
graphing and solving equations, and would withdraw from the course
out of frustration.  This happened four times.  Finally, it was "do
or die" time -- she was in her last semester, and needed to pass the
course.  We wouldn't even consider a waiver in the algebra since we
felt that she had never put forth an honest attempt, (working with
me, getting tutoring, sticking out the course)  but also because it
truly was not warranted by the documentation which we had on her.

Anyway, she signed up for a course for which I did study groups
before and after the class, and during one of the study groups (right
around the time we had started graphing) she told me she didn't feel
well -- then she fainted!  I got her up and sitting in a chair, sent
another student for the nurse, and she was literally wheeled out of
the classroom.  ("OH OH -- here we go again" is what I must admit to
thinking about her).  Turns out that she had a brain tumor (benign,
thank goodness) and had to have surgery to have it removed!  This
was her fifth time now not finishing the math, and she now had pretty
good medical documentation -- but we still did not waive the course.
She came back the next semester, worked with me, worked with tutors,
and this time completed the course, but did not pass it.   At this
point, I did start to discuss a math waiver with her, but SHE
declined it -- she said that if this was part of getting a college
degree, she had to do it!   The SEVENTH time she attempted the
algebra course, I am very happy to say, she passed it!   She
graduated with a "real" degree (as she liked to call it!).

 There's more to this story, however!  About a year later, she called
me to tell me that she had applied for an LPN program offered through
a local BOCES.  It was a nine-month training program, and there were
placement tests you had to take to get in to the program.  She had
scored THE HIGHEST score on the math section of all the people that
had taken the test that day.  She was just beaming with pride when
she told me that.

I don't know if this will help Joe to persevere.  It was a learning
experience for me and for all that were involved in this situation.
A lot had to do with the support we offered and she was willing to
take advantage of, but a lot had to do with the attitude.  As soon as
she stopped looking at the math as a barrier to her degree, but
rather as an important part of  having a college education, she was
able to find a way through it.

Good luck.
Julie Jackson-Coe
Academic Skills Specialist
Niagara University, NY 14109
Ph. 716-286-8077
Fax 716-286-8063
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