After another difficult session trying to teach math to the French-speaking African kids, I've realized there's a very basic problem. They don't get the concept that math is supposed to make sense. For them, it's like memorizing the Koran in Arabic if you don't speak Arabic. It's completely rote. Their goal is to memorize what the teacher did and try to spit it back to the teacher's satisfaction.
How do I get them to the point where they see it all fit together? I'm still trying to teach them about fractions. I've told them several times that any number divided by itself is 1, but I'm not at all confident that they can apply that consistently. I tried to explain to them that 1/2 is the same as 2/4, and I don't think they got that either.
Since they don't expect anything to make sense, I can't use the teaching technique that I'm used to, namely getting them solid on one concept and then helping them to tease out the next step. They don't know what it feels like to figure something out for themselves.
Next class, I'll bring a bunch of unifix cubes. That way, I can walk them through 1/2 versus 2/4, and if they can hold and see the cubes, maybe some light will dawn.