College preparation starts in middle school 3




“The place you are to occupy in the universe is the space where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest pain.”

Rachel Crosby

Is there anything more painful than giving up on your goals in life?

Too many times, I have seen students drop out of college or change majors because they did not have the math skills to succeed. Too often, I see students who in middle school who say they want to be an architect or pediatrician change to “I don’t know” or “maybe a truck driver” by the time they are ready to apply to college. The job market for truck drivers is grim, in case you were wondering.

The numbers add up to a lack of college preparation = lack of college graduation

  • 75% of high school graduates are not proficient in math
  • 75% of students who take remedial classes in college will drop out
  • 67% of college students will not get a degree within four years
  • 42% of college students will not get a degree within six years (and remember, this is of the select group of students who went to college in the first place)

You can ruin your life in a big way or in a lot of small ways

Maybe it sounds harsh to talk about a middle school student ruining his or her life, but this is the talk I had with my kids at that age. I told them you can ruin your chances at college graduation by getting addicted to meth or driving while drunk, killing a pedestrian and going to prison. You can also mess up your life in a bunch of small ways every day, by not doing your homework, not paying attention in class, not asking for extra help when you are unsure.

Perseverance, not giving up when it’s hard, is part of Dakota culture

Spirit Lake, a math game based on Native American culture, is one option to start college preparation in middle school or earlier
Perseverance, a strong value in Dakota culture, is needed to succeed math

You might think I just veered off to a different subject there, but I didn’t. When I had the idea for 7 Generation Games, I thought I would do remedial online math courses for tribal colleges. I approached a few members from a couple of tribal councils and they said,

We need intervention sooner than that. Can you do something in elementary school?

That’s why we started with Spirit Lake: The Game. However, since I track users, I will tell you a little secret. Even though the standards taught are supposed to be covered third- through fifth-grade because so many students nationwide are below grade level, we have far more users in middle school than we do third-graders.

It would be cool if I was a physician and could help in Doctors without Borders or had a pile of money to start my own foundation like Bill and Melinda Gates. I can’t do either of those things. This is what I can do, helping those kids in middle school learn a little more, try a little harder and show up at college ready to achieve their goals.

I’m trying to follow this advice

“Do small things with great love.”

– Mother Teresa

As the new school year starts, it seems very appropriate to focus on all of the small things necessary for getting kids college preparation in middle school.

I’ll be speaking on this topic at the Higher Education Resource Organization for Students (HEROS) conference in Bismarck on Friday, September 6, 2019. Hope to see you there.


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