The Privileged Poor, once the blog site of a now defunct clothing store, is now the site of the Alive Juice Bar tutoring service.   We’ll be posting daily lesson plans to help students get through indefinite school closures.

Why Drills are Important
They make a lot of work routine and effortless so you can focus on creative problem solving.  Is there an NFL player who doesn’t do drills, from weight training to yoga to sprints?  Do we let someone who is out of shape play an NFL game?

Then why do we let students who’ve rarely been drilled in fundamentals learn geometry and read Chaucer? And then educators complain that most hate geometry and few do their reading. Well, lack of drilling is like sending the football team out to play without helmets, it’s going to be a bloodbath.

Drilling also helps students develop patience (aka delay of gratification) and discipline, arguably the two most important traits to have to do well in life.

Math Drills
Today’s drill is subtraction, timed 80 seconds per worksheet. This link takes you to five subtraction worksheets:

It’s important to give yourself no more than 80 seconds to finish each worksheet. This will ultimately force you to look at each problem differently from how you were taught, and you might just look at numbers more intuitively. Time yourself, stop when time goes off.  Do all five.  Then grade.  Repeat process until you score 100 percent on all five.

Some of you are like, WTF, how is it possible to complete the 3 digit minus 3 digit worksheet in 60 seconds?  It’s possible if you stop trying to finish each problem with the process you learned in school and focus instead on the relationship between the two numbers you’re subtracting.  Example:


Many will break down this problem into parts, beginning with (1)0 – 2 = 8, followed by 9-1=8-8=0, etc.

No need to do that if you have an intuitive understanding of numbers.  The answer “8” will immediately jump out, less than a second.  Instead of focusing on the process, look at the numbers:


and  then


You can develop this intuition by first mastering the single digit minus single digit worksheet, then the double digit minus double digit worksheet, and so on and so forth.  You’ll actually start feeling the numbers instead of staring at them like the first time you saw your own shit. Again, the 80 second time limit is key to developing this intuition.

Verbal and Vocabulary Drill

Memorize a poem of your choice. Find a poem with words you’re not familiar with to turn this into a vocabulary drill.  For instance, I once worked with an employee to memorize Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee and she wasn’t familiar with the word “coveted,” from the lines:

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

I asked her what she thought it meant.  Her answer was “they’re happy for the love that the author has with his beloved Annabel Lee.”  A typical answer from a naive 12 year old. And one which she figured out is the wrong answer after she read the entire poem.

Memorizing poetry not only develops your memory muscles and perhaps your vocabulary, it’ll help you develop your intuition about other people and the world in general. You’ll begin to feel what the author feels and you’ll become more sensitive to the meaning of words so that the common misuse of a word like “impact” (instead of the more precise “affect” or “effect”) will bother you.  And finally, you’ll learn to understand the world from another perspective.  You’ll learn empathy.

Pay attention to the rhythm and intonation of your recitation.  It shouldn’t be monotone and rhythm-less.  Nor should it be over dramatic.  Use this as an opportunity to develop an intuition for what is and isn’t elegant and graceful.

This drill isn’t complete until the poem is memorized perfectly.