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The reluctant math learner - Page 2

post #21 of 30
Thread Starter 

I'm trying to read through (while doing about 500 other things) but wanted to answer this before I forget.

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

Having said that, I don't think Savoir Faire is at all unschooly in style, so I'm guessing she won't be comfortable taking math off the table for a while.



We are the most back-to-basics you could get without being unschooly. (Though I like unschooly.) The kids basically have to do math and Explode the Code plus a little bit of a spelling worksheet each day.30--45 minutes tops. We don't really fall into any camps-- we aren't school at home though sometimes we will trail off into unschool for awhile and then go back to the other side. Our goals have always been to teach them the very basics (Three Rs) and the rest will go from there.


Now...off to continue reading....

post #22 of 30
Thread Starter 

To update and answer questions:


I don't think that my daughter does not KNOW the material...I think she's just really, really good at convincing herself she doesn't. Kids had same page today. She got about 2/3 through and started in on her song and dance. I can't DOOOOO this. Its too HARRRRRRRD. HELP ME HELP ME SHOW ME HELP ME. I show her. I explain a different way to do it. It could literally have been 1+1 (Actually, I think it was 9-8) and she would complain how in agony she is.


Finally, she finished the page. Missed just 3 (and 2 of those were because she did not understand something simple). Actually did better than her brother. So, I think she knows enough that we shouldn't have this every single day.


I'm willing to do games and other things, but I still want to see her writing down answers, too.


I'm honestly and truly getting tired of things not working for us. We tried Right Start but I had troubles understanding the material. (I have ADD and if my brain isn't in it-- forget it.) Singapore was okay until all of a sudden I felt on a 90 to nothing train. I just want stability...and I'm having trouble finding it.

post #23 of 30

Do you talk with them about the results?  Or do you keep that to yourself?  I think this can make a huge difference.  Some kids might dread the judgment at the of the task, and knowing that she missed 3 might be enough to make her feel that she isn't getting it, that it's hard, even when neither are true.  My daughter is like this with many things.  


I'm sorry I'm not suggesting a solution so much as wondering if this isn't causing some of the problems.

post #24 of 30

hmmm. Personally, if a child did that I would get out the manipulatives and show them, physically, what 9 buttons take away 8 buttons looked like. Regardless of what the underlying motive was. 


This is all conjecture without seeing your daughter of course but I do think that this is fairly common where kids have learnt "how to" do math but not "why". They memorize a lot of tricks and techniques, but the problem with that is that if they then forget, say, how to do long multiplication, even something relatively small like which side to start multiplying from, there is no way back and they are panicked. This is one   advantage IME of using multiple techniques for this stuff, appealing to as many senses as possible. Simply put, the more different ways something is encountered the more complete picture kids build up. Another thing I always do is to relate things back to life, eg by turning "9-8" into "your brother has baked 9 cakes. If you eat 8 of them, how many does he have left?". Sorry if these are obvious ideas, but its taken me a while to get into the swing of teaching math! 


Would you consider using a computer program? We've used mathswhizz with a lot of success. It does track kids, so you do get a sense of where they "are" if you are that way inclined, if it matters to you. Its very fun, it teaches as it goes. We've used it sporadically to get over math hills, to make math a bit fun again. But also, we've used it to separate out writing from math, which I think can be really important for kids who are still struggling with writing stuff down.

post #25 of 30
Originally Posted by Savoir Faire View Post

To update and answer questions:


I don't think that my daughter does not KNOW the material...I think she's just really, really good at convincing herself she doesn't. 


If you think she knows the material, then insisting on going over the same ground in the same pencil-and-paper way day after day is quite pointless, I think. It's just an exercise in whining and resistance, entrenching those behavioural patterns and negative associations. Your instincts that she knows the material and has the skills are likely correct, and I doubt she's really "convincing herself she doesn't." Instead I'm guessing that she's feeling something else about the math work that she doesn't know how to articulate, and it's coming out as a sort of indiscriminate whining. The real message beneath the resistance is likely something like "this isn't how I learn." I think I would really really start thinking outside the box for ways that aren't pencil-and-paper to carry her math learning forward. At least in the medium-term, to try to get a better handle on her learning style and to try to break the negative association with math.


I agree with SweetSilver that the approach of having a child do assigned work and then checking it for correctness can be very toxic to some children. They feel like it's all about judgement, and every error is a failure. For my kids it helped to do the work on a white-board, rather than on paper, and to have me help them with any problems they began to go astray with. With prompts and redirection they were always able to get the correct answer. Then we'd wipe the board and go onto the next problem. Using the white board got rid of a lot of that implication that they were creating a tangible record of their lack of perfection, and also the implication that doing math was about completing worksheets. I wanted them to know that doing math was about learning. At the end of a session, there was no record of work done, only the knowledge we both had that they were able to solve certain types of mathematical problems logically and accurately.


I could tell the extent of their mastery by how much help they needed to get to the correct answer. If they wanted to work entirely independently I'd give them an answer key. They could work the question, and check that their solution matched the answer. If they couldn't figure out how to arrive at the given solution, they could come to me for help. Again, we both knew that it was about learning, about understanding, not completing problems. 


If I could tell they were struggling with something, I would address that area at the beginning of the next session, not as a correction or remediation after the current session. The message was therefore "I have an idea that I think might help you move forward" rather than "You did this wrong today and we need to fix it." 


My whiteboard example is still very much about working problems with written symbols. For the time being I think it would be worth discarding that model with your daughter and taking a much more wide-ranging, playful, experimental approach to math. Play guessing games: Ask her "how old were you five years ago?" And "How long ago was 2008?" And "Here's a really tricky one: What's a number between twenty and thirty, and when you subtract the one digit from the other, the answer is six?" Or play Snakes and Ladders, but allow her to move forward or backwards (adding or subtracting) to get the most advantageous move. Teach her how to use an abacus counting frame to add and subtract. Play "store" with pennies and dimes, selling each other pencils for 5 cents each and pens for 7 cents. Make change for the dimes you pay each other with. Learn cribbage. Build a spinner from a paper plate and create a board game together with adding and subtracting along a number-line gameboard. Build a 20-minute "math lab" into your day in the same way that you currently have worksheets or whatever. Use those activities and experiences to build your understanding of what your dd understands about math, and of what grabs her interest and gets past her resistance most easily. 


Am I correct in understanding that she has a younger brother who is almost as adept, or perhaps more adept, at the worksheet type stuff? That can be very very difficult for an older siblings. Her resistance may be her way of saying "I am afraid I am stupid, and therefore unloveable, because my little brother learns better than me. If I finish this work, that provides more fodder for comparison, and I'm afraid I will be the loser." If you suspect any of that sort of emotional overlay, your main priority will need to be making her feel smart. Tell her that there are snatches of absolute brilliance that you see in her mathematical reasoning, and you haven't yet discovered how to really turn all that brilliance on, but you know it is possible because you've seen that it's there. So you're going to mix things up a bit and figure out how to help her learn math *her way*.


John Mighton, author of a fabulous book called "The Myth of Ability" and founder of the charitable tutoring organization called JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) has some amazing advice about unlocking belief in the sense of math, and belief in one's ability to understand that sense, and the absolutely transformative results on children. The secret is to give the child success, and encourage her to believe that she is brilliant because of that success. And by success, Mighton means steps as small as finger-counting. He starts out by moving ahead into new skills well ahead of where the child is, and teaches them the smallest step at a time. For instance, you could teach your dd division by showing her how to count up groups on her fingers. Divide 12 by 3? Every time you hold up a finger, count up three numbers. Stop when you get to twelve. "1-2-3 ... 4-5-6... 7-8-9.... 10-11-12." Four fingers standing, so 12 ÷ 3 = 4. Have her do this. Is she successful? Did she get four fingers standing up? She can do division! She's brilliant. Try 12 divided by 2. That means saying two numbers every time you hold up a finger. Whoa! Six fingers! 


I would do this independently with her, without her brother around. Let her feel smarter than him in that she is learning division, and he is not. Give her something that she can do mathematically that makes her feel brilliant, and then begin to build on that.


Good luck!


post #26 of 30

What about computer games?  That way she is still "writing down answers" without having to actually sit and write down answers.


Ds plays dreambox learning.  I really like the way a lot of the concepts are shown.You can get a free trial.  It tracks where the kid is and gives (albeit sometimes odd) suggestions of ways to work on the concepts in daily life.


One of the benefits of things like computer programs for math (and I'm a very hands-on, low screen time kinda person) is the immediate feedback (e.g. the question is 9-8 and you select 3 and it says something like "9-8 is less than 3 try again" or then moves immediately to an illustration of 9 things - 8 things etc).  


If some of the emotional stuff that Miranda was talking about is in play then she can play a math game with headphones on so it is "private" and no one can hear where she is struggling.

post #27 of 30

Interesting article which reminded me of this thread:




The following excerpt seemed particularly interesting, given that the OP stated that she herself wasn't "a natural at math" and so was sympathetic to her daughter's situation:


"The study, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education, also stated that the math phobia can begin as early as first grade. Additionally, female elementary school teachers can transmit their math anxiety to their female students, influencing them to hate math just as much as they do. The research concludes that since the problem lies to the fear of doing math, an integral school subject, more must be done to help student feel more comfortable about math rather than piling on homework to make them theoretically better at it."

post #28 of 30

Jumping in a bit late here (haven't been on MDC for a while) but I wanted to share a program that has been working for my kids. We were very unschooly but lately have switched to a more eclectic approach. I got a subscription to the online Math program DreamBox and it is going really really well. The first thing I love about it is that it is very visual and my kids are definitely visual learners. They teach addition and subtraction using various "tools" that show different ways to visualize numbers. So if you think your kid isn't into worksheets and might prefer manipulatives this is a great program. The second thing I love about it is that it breaks math down into different categories and keeps track of where your kid is for each one and adjusts for that level. So they may be great at getting place numbers but not so good at addition: they will move forward with one and not the other. The program sends me a report each time the kids use it (although I sit and watch them - they prefer that!) which is great for reporting for our homeschool program. 


Anyways, my 10 year old DD had gotten quite Math phobic, and as a result had been deliberately avoiding math until it became apparent that she was years behind in some basic areas and I think this was contributing to her phobia. She seems to quite like this program (though she won't admit it, but often asks to work on it, lol) and I'm thrilled with the results so far. They offer a free 14-day trial and you can pay for your subscription monthly which helps with the cost (I think it's about $12/kid per month). 

post #29 of 30

Also jumping in late...


We keep a few "coffee table" math books out, and also read one on occasion before bed. They're fun enough that it makes the math fun. They don't constitute a curriculum by any means, but anything that makes math part of everyday life and always available is a good idea, in my opinion.


From http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/top-ten-fun-math-books-by-sue-vanhattum/




You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz

(any age)

Each number from 1 to 100 is a monster, and each one gets its picture on its own page. All of the numbers (except poor 1) are made up from their prime parts. The pictures are colorful, full of intriguing detail, and amusing. The pages in the front and back that explain prime factorization are unassuming, waiting for the reader to decide it’s time to find out more. This and Powers of Ten would both make great coffee table books, to peruse over and over.


Euclid in the Rainforest, by Joseph Mazur

(12 to adult)
Logic, infinity and probability are the topics. Adventures in Venezuela, Greece, and New York furnish the background. Mazur has wide-ranging interests, and skillfully brings the math to life.


Powers of Ten, by Philip and Phylis Morrison

(ages 6 to adult)
The first photo shows a couple having a picnic. It’s shot from one meter above them. The next is from 10 meters, then 100. After we’ve traveled to the edge of the universe, we come back to the couple, and zoom in. Each page has one large photo, and explanatory text about what can be seen at that level.


The Number Devil, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

(ages 7 to adult)
The Number Devil visits Robert in his dreams, and gets him thinking about the strangest things! Rutabaga numbers and prima donnas (roots and primes) are just the beginning. Anyone who’d like a gentle introduction to lots of interesting math topics will enjoy this one.


The Man Who Counted, by Malba Tahan

(ages 6 to adult)
Written in Brazil, set in the Middle East, these stories follow the adventures of Beremiz, an accomplished mathematical problem-solver. He uses math to settle disputes, solve riddles and mysteries, and entertain his hosts. The series of 34 adventures, each with a math puzzle, is reminiscent of the Arabian Nights. If you read one chapter a night, your audience will be begging for more – and isn’t that the way it should be?


Cat in Numberland, by Ivar Ekeland

(ages 5 to adult)
The story starts when Zero knocks on the door of the Hotel Infinity. He’d like a room, but they’re all full (with the number One in Room One, and so on). Turns out that’s no problem. The cat who lives in the lobby gets confused – if the hotel is full, how can the numbers make room for zero just by all moving up one room? Things get worse when the fractions come to visit. This story is charming enough to entertain young children, and deep enough to intrigue anyone. Are you ready to learn about infinity with your 5 year-old?

post #30 of 30
This is a fantastic conversation. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions and for sharing your experiences. We've had many similar ones with DD1, now 10. We've also liked Dreambox and Time4learning for different reasons, and use many manipulatives. And as many of you have said, framing mathematical thinking as logic and puzzling skills and stuff that she IS "good at." As an aside - sort of - I teach adult GED classes also, and am plagued daily by the outcomes of children... esp girls... growing up believing they are "bad at math." It is truly hard to erase as an adult!
I agree about keeping the focus positive.

(But mostly I am responding just to say: Piglet68, what a treat to see you on here! orngbiggrin.gif My first vivid MDC memory was the days of waiting for your daughter to be born... back when there were, like, 40 of us on MDC per day, lol! And here we are homeschooling nearly adolescent daughters. Wowza. Hope you and the family are all doing well. hug2.gif)
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