What if your child had no interest in math? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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And I don't mean just workbooks. What if he/she wasn't interested in board games that involved any kind of computation, even if it was roll to die at once or oral number games? What if he or she didn't like to bake? What if he or she wasn't interested in keeping track of the allowance or measuring anything, budgetting with the family, saving up for anything and so on?

Everything I read suggests that if a child is not interested in formal math,
the real world math will be unavoidable--board games and bakind being the favorites.

How comfortable are you with your child showing no interest in anything math related? Until what age?

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#2 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 10:44 AM
 
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I can't imagine a world where basic math would not appear in some facet or another... even if one hated cooking, board games and number games. My 4 yo's desire for chewing gum has got him sorting and counting from the change jar. And when he knows that with 2 of the "big" coins he would need for one of those motorised kiddie rides he can actually buy a playmobil pirate. And I was blown away by the basic calculations that were needed for an ordinary video game that my 7yo cousin was playing... it almost made want to run out and buy a gaming system NOW.

If nothing else, I think the desire to consume and/or make choices about consumption would win out over complete disinterest. And as the desire for more expensive things surfaces, the calculations become more complex. The truth is, that's the kind of math I use in my day-to-day life.

That being said, I know I've read great articles about the myriad of ways that a family can incorporate mathematical thought/language/reasoning into their daily life, but I can't remember where. They were enough to make me feel quite relaxed although math had previously been my big worry. And I began to wonder if my math phobia stems from being "taught" math (I've completed classes through calculus in university but can't attack even basic algebra now without hunting information).

Maybe someone else can post some good links?
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#3 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I can't imagine a world where basic math would not appear in some facet or another... even if one hated cooking, board games and number games.
How much of basic math is "enough"? If a child can do single digit addition and subtraction, on his fingers, is this enough of basic math? For a 6 year old? 9 year old? 14 year old?


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If nothing else, I think the desire to consume and/or make choices about consumption would win out over complete disinterest. And as the desire for more expensive things surfaces, the calculations become more complex.
If nothing of that sort has surfaced, at what age would you worry if at all?

I'm most interested to hear from parents whose children have / had no interest in math above very basic counting, single digit addition and subtraction until they were "behind" by grade standards, like age 9, 10, 11 or older. How did you feel about it?

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#4 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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Much of my son's hands on math is related to legos or video games, rather than baking or board games. He is interested in saving money for things but he'd be annoyed if I tried to make that into a lesson or tried guiding him to figuring it out. He might ask me how many weeks of allowance he needs to save to have enough for a $40 item. I'll answer "Let's see... $5 times 8 is $40. It'll take 8 weeks" rather than "Well, what is $40 divided by 5?" When he asks me a question, he either doesn't know or he thinks he knows but wants to confirm he is right. Sometimes he is cagey about why he is asking and he'll ask something like "what times 5 equals 40?" Hey, look he's asking me an algebra question!

Anyway, I'm not sure how you know if your dc isn't interested in anything math? If you are asking him direct questions or not answering his questions because you are trying to get him to figure it out, he may be acting resistant to that. My guy sure would. And then he'd stop asking me questions, too, because he'd loose faith that I would answer him. He's also very sensitive to other people's agendas. If he thinks I'm suggesting something because I want him to do it, it's a no go.

My answering his questions whenever he asks keeps that trust open and allows him to absorb math concepts and self check his theories in a comfortable way (my ds hates demonstrating any knowledge he isn't very sure about). It's just like how I read things whenever he asked (rather than guiding him to sound them out, a method not suited to his learning style) and he eventually stopped asking because he could read them himself.

I was a little surprised the other day when ds's friend, another unschooler, responded with "I don't do math" when I called a lego brick a 2X4. I didn't feel like I was talking math, lol, just calling the brick by size like we always do. I don't know why that was his first response to hearing numbers, maybe something to do with being previously schooled or having people quizzing him (his cousins do that while knocking homeschooling, I'm told). My ds gets quite a bit of math practice by building with legos.

The other big one for him is computer/video games. So many of them involve accruing points and then buying equipment/weapons, just like having an allowance and spending it. Ds learned place values (10s, 100s, 100s, etc) from these games as well.

I can see another child might make patterns by stringing beads into a necklace. That's math. A young child is doing math when he lines up blocks or toy cars. Even if he isn't counting them, he's seeing how far they stretch, a type of measuring. I really don't understand how anyone can not do math, even if they tried.

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#5 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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[QUOTE=midnightwriter;15930127]
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I'm most interested to hear from parents whose children have / had no interest in math above very basic counting, single digit addition and subtraction until they were "behind" by grade standards, like age 9, 10, 11 or older. How did you feel about it?
Fine.

As long as my ds understands math on a conceptual level, I'm not concerned about arithmetic or having math facts memorized. Doing multi digit math problems is just knowing how to break it down into single digits and then putting it back together again.

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#6 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Much of my son's hands on math is related to legos or video games, rather than baking or board games. He is interested in saving money for things but he'd be annoyed if I tried to make that into a lesson or tried guiding him to figuring it out. He might ask me how many weeks of allowance he needs to save to have enough for a $40 item. I'll answer "Let's see... $5 times 8 is $40. It'll take 8 weeks" rather than "Well, what is $40 divided by 5?" When he asks me a question, he either doesn't know or he thinks he knows but wants to confirm he is right. Sometimes he is cagey about why he is asking and he'll ask something like "what times 5 equals 40?" Hey, look he's asking me an algebra question!

Anyway, I'm not sure how you know if your dc isn't interested in anything math? If you are asking him direct questions or not answering his questions because you are trying to get him to figure it out, he may be acting resistant to that. My guy sure would. And then he'd stop asking me questions, too, because he'd loose faith that I would answer him. He's also very sensitive to other people's agendas. If he thinks I'm suggesting something because I want him to do it, it's a no go.

My answering his questions whenever he asks keeps that trust open and allows him to absorb math concepts and self check his theories in a comfortable way (my ds hates demonstrating any knowledge he isn't very sure about). It's just like how I read things whenever he asked (rather than guiding him to sound them out, a method not suited to his learning style) and he eventually stopped asking because he could read them himself.

I was a little surprised the other day when ds's friend, another unschooler, responded with "I don't do math" when I called a lego brick a 2X4. I didn't feel like I was talking math, lol, just calling the brick by size like we always do. I don't know why that was his first response to hearing numbers, maybe something to do with being previously schooled or having people quizzing him (his cousins do that while knocking homeschooling, I'm told). My ds gets quite a bit of math practice by building with legos.

The other big one for him is computer/video games. So many of them involve accruing points and then buying equipment/weapons, just like having an allowance and spending it. Ds learned place values (10s, 100s, 100s, etc) from these games as well.

I can see another child might make patterns by stringing beads into a necklace. That's math. A young child is doing math when he lines up blocks or toy cars. Even if he isn't counting them, he's seeing how far they stretch, a type of measuring. I really don't understand how anyone can not do math, even if they tried.
This a very typical, very beautiful unschooling response. This is something that we hear all the time on unschooling forums, and something that I would usually say myself, if I were discussing unschooling math. Math is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Don't test or ask trick questions, answer questions, don't push your agenda, let them own the process, there's no such thing as 'behind', we all learn what is relevant to us at the moment and so on. Children do math without knowing it.

It is all true, for most children, maybe even for all children, to some extent.

But the question is, what if a child is of a certain age, and can't do basic math when he or she needs it? One can build with legos without needing to call them 2x4s. One can play video games with a basic idea of "bigger number" and "smaller number", without counting with more precision. What if you need to count your change, and you can't do? Because all you know is single digits addition on your fingers, and you have a fist full of coins, and you can't count to a 100?

At what age this becomes a problem? Or does this still fall into the category of not being relevant to a child? After all, I might think it is relevant to me to count a fistfull of change, but a child might think that it is just some coins, who cares. Not everyone is materialistic, after all. The real need would be if that child was starving, and needed to see if his coins were enough for a piece of bread. But this is not the reality of the vast majority of North American unschoolers.

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#7 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 12:48 PM
 
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At what age this becomes a problem?
Realistically, it may never be a problem. Unless they decide to do formal schooling at some point or pick a math heavy career. I never use that much math, myself. The concept of more and less, takes you far. The cashier always counts the money (so counting currency skills would be important if your dc becomes a cashier. I do think that skill could be picked up in a weekend, if not a couple hours, by most people old enough to work who are lacking the skill). Most people use credit cards, anyway. I don't balance my accounts to the penny. The IRS doesn't want me to fill out tax forms to the penny, either. And they let me know whenever I make a mistake. No doubt doing them by hand won't even be an option by the time our kids are grown. Everybody will have cell phones with internet access and calculators (most people already seem to!). I round up and round down and my ball park figures are close enough for my needs. I can always call the bank or check online for exact figures, if necessary. Fractions were useful when I was a picture framer. I got better at them quickly because I was motivated and it had meaning for me in that context. But even then, it was usually "easy" fractions like 2 1/2 plus 2 1/2 equalling 5. I don't even measure carefully when I bake.

That being said. I'm fine with doing math and took it in school through calculus. But I think I lack basic understanding and mostly learned how to memorize formulas, pick which one to use, and plug in numbers. Hence, I'm more concerned with ds understanding concepts than doing arithmetic. If civilization and technology fall apart, maybe it will be an issue, but we'll have bigger fish to fry and I'm not going to make him memorize the multiplication tables just in case that comes to pass.

I'd worry if I thought my ds's apparent inability to do math stemmed from a learning disability. If he was trying repeatedly to do age appropriate math, failing at it and frustrated. Or if he was working hard to avoid those situations. But I have seen nothing in my ds to indicate he has any sort of difficulty. So I'm not worried about him in the least and it is, of course, up to you to determine if you should be concerned about your own dc. Kids are so different and there are many different reasons for different kids to do the same thing. One child may be a late reader because he is dyslexic. Another child may simply be a late reader.

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#8 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 01:02 PM
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Is this a question about an actual kid, or a hypothetical kid? I think my answer would depend on a lot of things... does the kid seem uncomfortable with her lack of numerical skills? Has she had negative experiences with numbers in the past? How does she feel about not being able to do more complex arithmetic? Does she have math skills that aren't related to numeracy (the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, for example, is a great computer game with tons of math but no numbers, as far as I recall)?

In 8th grade, when my kid took the SAT, she was really behind most kids her age in arithmetic skills, I'm sure... but she was way ahead of them in SAT math, which allowed her to use a calculator. Since then she's "caught up", I guess... although to be fair, she did like to play with numbers when she was pretty small (mostly adding large numbers and figuring out what she could buy with her Chuck E Cheese tickets) so it wasn't like she was only counting on her fingers before that.

I guess I would also ask about how "mathy" the parents felt that they were... I think parents who are afraid of math or feel that they're not good at it can pass on those sorts of messages about math. What are parents modeling? Do they talk "math" - just naturally, I tend to comment about stuff like prices and gas mileage, and I'm a bargain hunter so I always talk about percentages off, and things like average come up a lot, and it's hard to explain to a kid what it means that a child it average height for his age without some sort of math, whether it's conceptual (without numbers) or arithmetic.

So, those would be my thoughts.

 
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#9 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 01:20 PM
 
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If by 10 years old they couldn't do most life math- money, basic fractions, area, circumference, percents, and tax/basic interest - I would probably be worried. I wouldn't care if they had to use a calculator for speed, but they should know how to compute those things without one.
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#10 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 03:17 PM
 
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Basic math skills needed for life:

add
subtract
multiply
divide
estimate
basic fractions
percentages
decimals
tell time

I would not be a happy camper if a young adult about to fly the nest did not know the above. I consider them life skills. As for when to introduce them if they have not acquired them - I am not so sure. 15 or 16 perhaps? It does not take long to learn the above if you are motivated.

Honestly, I think the question is almost moot. Adolescents have a strong natural desire to prepare for adulthood - they really will want to know these things. Once they hit a certain age there will be no resistance to learning these things - and if there is, you have bigger fish to fry (and perhaps counselling would be in order....not wanting to acquire basic adult life skills is not usual).

Now, many kids will feel the need to go beyond this. Once again, as they start to prepare for their adult life, and think about what they want to do in life, they may find a certain level of math is needed to get them there.

I will say this desire to do stuff as preparation for adult life did not hit my son until about 13. It has not hit my other kids yet...who very much live in the present. YMMV
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#11 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 03:29 PM
 
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My daughter is 9 and probably "behind" in terms of where she would be in school for math. She doesn't have a lot of natural interest in/attraction to math and mathematical thinking.

However, she did reach a point where her desire to understand and manipulate numbers in her daily life was beyond her arithmetic skills--so she asked if we could put some attention into "doing math." So now she is gradually working her way through Singapore math, which is beefing up her basic skills and also giving her some more confidence.

And although I am a self-described unschooler, I don't see anything wrong with having a conversation with my kids that goes something like, "I notice you're having trouble adding money to figure out how much you need to buy that toy. Would it be a good idea to spend some time practicing some of those math skills?" In our house, we spend a lot of time talking together about what we want to be learning and working on, and how to make that happen. I think one of my most important jobs as a parent is to be a resource and advisor, and to cultivate a relationship with my kids so that we can work together collaboratively.

I agree entirely that older kids want to be skilled and competent adults, and are very interested in acquiring what they need to get there. The path is just very different than in a traditional school curriculum.
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#12 of 130 Old 10-09-2010, 04:12 PM
 
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I can't imagine someone avoiding math so stringently unless they had some kind of negative experience with it like having a barbie that says "math is hard" or having their cousins quiz them repeatedly about what math they know. And even then it'd have to be in combination with their parent telling them "lets do X, it'll teach you math" to explain avoiding all math related activities.


: I have a friend who literally throws away his change. He'll shove it in his pocket and then pull it out and toss it into a trash can the next time he passes one.
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#13 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 01:17 AM
 
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Math is unavoidable. It's everywhere and we often do it without realizing what we are doing.

I personally cannot stand algebra. I get annoyed even THINKING about the algebra formulas I was forced to learn when I was a teenager...but I still DO algebra unknowingly when I sew, craft, or play a video game. Eventually every child is probably going to want to do something related to money so they'll pick it up. Or maybe they'll just pick it up from watching you.

If you really want to get some interest I'd look for some cool number tricks...you know, like the puzzles where you can guess the number a person is thinking of, that kinda stuff. Like..think of a number, add this, subtract that, multiply by so-and-so...is it such-and-such? Kids usually eat that stuff up, particularly boys in my experience because it's kinda like magic.

I LOVED this book as a child: http://www.amazon.com/Math-Smarty-Pa.../dp/0590489402 And I wasn't into math at all!
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#14 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 10:59 AM
 
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I LOVED this book as a child: http://www.amazon.com/Math-Smarty-Pa.../dp/0590489402 And I wasn't into math at all!
Oooh, that looks nice. I put it on my wishlist.

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#15 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 12:24 PM
 
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I have been thinking about the OP, and I am getting the sense that you really want an age at which people should begin to worry.

I have been on this forum for a while, and I have noticed a pattern. With young children (under 10) the advice is almost always:

as long as the children are happy with their level, and no LD seem at play - let it go. They will get it when they need to. From my experience this is sound advice and works most of the time.

From time to time we get an person with older teens (15 plus) whose child really does not know what they need to know to move forward in their life, and people always start talking about structured programs to help the child along (from tutors, to schools, etc.)

based on the above, plus what we know about child development (that children need to play; that teens want to know things that will help them along as adult), I would say the time to re-evaluate whether USing is the correct path is around 14 or 15.

I know that may seem shockingly late to people with younger kids or non-USer -but I really have seem kids blossom academically in early to mid teen - when they are ready for it. Patience, I think, is essential to USing younger kids, lol.

HTH

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#16 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 01:07 PM
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I know that may seem shockingly late to people with younger kids or non-USer -but I really have seem kids blossom academically in early to mid teen - when they are ready for it.
I'd even take this a step further and say that I've seen a whole *lot* of kids blossom academically during that period - it seems really, really common to me. That time period ties in nicely to Piaget's stuff, too, because he said that's when kids generally hit the formal operations stage.

 
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#17 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 02:12 PM
 
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Yes, I agree with Dar and kathymuggle. There are really three types of interest in math that a kid might develop.

There's a basic interest in math as a part of daily life, in how it crops up in the immediate sense, in board games or in measurement or finances, with its ready applicability. Most kids develop enough of this interest between the ages of 3 and 12 that they become proficient at chequebook math

Then there's that interest that many of us hope our kids will develop, the interest that springs from the beautiful tidy logic and intellectual challenge of math. The interest that has a kid bouncing up and down with excitement when she sees that simplifying an improper fraction is totally analogous to constructing or deconstructing a unit of higher place value, or drives another child to ask for algebraic type math problems in the car for fun. Some kids get that interest; some don't. I don't think it's a big deal if they don't, because there's a third type of interest that usually springs up eventually, typically in the teen years.

Finally there's interest in math as a means to an end. The end might be the GED or SATs, or studying mechanical engineering, or earning the pre-requisite to get into a computer programming course. Or it might be even more abstract: to develop the academic and intellectual competence that the teen deems appropriate for self-sufficient adult life.

My 14-year-old ds had a lot of the first type of interest and mastered pretty much all the K-7 math by the time he was 10. Unlike my dd's, he's had little of the second type of interest. But he's just hit his stride with the third type of interest. He is now, by his own choice, working through high school math courses at home despite having zero interest in formal academics up until the past couple of months. My eldest had a similar renewed interest in math at about the same age.

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#18 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 04:29 PM
 
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Yes, I agree with Dar and kathymuggle. There are really three types of interest in math that a kid might develop.

There's a basic interest in math as a part of daily life, in how it crops up in the immediate sense, in board games or in measurement or finances, with its ready applicability. Most kids develop enough of this interest between the ages of 3 and 12 that they become proficient at chequebook math

Then there's that interest that many of us hope our kids will develop, the interest that springs from the beautiful tidy logic and intellectual challenge of math. The interest that has a kid bouncing up and down with excitement when she sees that simplifying an improper fraction is totally analogous to constructing or deconstructing a unit of higher place value, or drives another child to ask for algebraic type math problems in the car for fun. Some kids get that interest; some don't. I don't think it's a big deal if they don't, because there's a third type of interest that usually springs up eventually, typically in the teen years.

Finally there's interest in math as a means to an end. The end might be the GED or SATs, or studying mechanical engineering, or earning the pre-requisite to get into a computer programming course. Or it might be even more abstract: to develop the academic and intellectual competence that the teen deems appropriate for self-sufficient adult life.
I found this post really helpful. I'm not at any of these points yet, but I like how you've separated it and it makes a lot of sense...I'm filing it away for future reference.

I think one tool parents also need to remember is modeling. How often do kids really see us use math skills? Recently a friend and I were taking measurements of a doll so we could make clothing for it...and our toddlers insisted on getting involved. They copied our movements and measured the different parts of the dolls themselves. Were they older, I'm sure we could have talked a bit more about numbers and what they meant in that context.

So next time you need to balance the checkbook....plop right down beside them at the table and work on it. Bonus points for talking to yourself as you work "hmmm...$12.50...plus $27.32 is....." Next time you need to rearrange the furniture, don't just eyeball it as many of us do, get out the measuring tape! Ask your kids for help. "Hey sweetie, can you hold this against that wall for me? Thanks!" They may ask you what on earth you're doing and want to help more. Kids like tape measures in general, by the way. If you've never done math puzzles or math games...now is the time to start playing them YOURSELF...they might just get interested in it because you're interested in it also.
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#19 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 05:11 PM
 
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Realistically, it may never be a problem. Unless they decide to do formal schooling at some point or pick a math heavy career. I never use that much math, myself. The concept of more and less, takes you far. The cashier always counts the money (so counting currency skills would be important if your dc becomes a cashier. I do think that skill could be picked up in a weekend, if not a couple hours, by most people old enough to work who are lacking the skill).
.
I really disagree. I teach and tutor at a community college and I see a lot of adults struggle with even the lowest level remedial math. It takes a LOT of practice for them to catch up. Most are not becoming engineers, they are trying to get into 2 year degree programs that lead to better paying jobs.

There are a few exceptions, but most people do not pick it up in a couple of hours.
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#20 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 05:42 PM
 
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I really disagree. I teach and tutor at a community college and I see a lot of adults struggle with even the lowest level remedial math. It takes a LOT of practice for them to catch up. Most are not becoming engineers, they are trying to get into 2 year degree programs that lead to better paying jobs.

There are a few exceptions, but most people do not pick it up in a couple of hours.
Are you talking about people who were unschooled?

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#21 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 06:02 PM
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4evermom, I'm not sure what you mean by your question. By the time a person is working on cc to get a better paying job, they're highly self-motivated. I don't see what difference their educational background would make in the amount of effort it takes to acquire basic math skills as an adult.
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#22 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 06:47 PM
 
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4evermom, I'm not sure what you mean by your question. By the time a person is working on cc to get a better paying job, they're highly self-motivated. I don't see what difference their educational background would make in the amount of effort it takes to acquire basic math skills as an adult.
This discussion is about unschooled kids and when/if parents should worry if they express no interest in math. That was what I was talking about. With that premise, I meant most people who were never taught math unwillingly. Sorry that wasn't clear. If people want to discuss whether people who have gone to 12 years of school can or can't learn something because they are motivated, that's fine but rather OT. I wanted to know if marybethorama was talking about experiences with previously unschooled people because that would be relevant.

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#23 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 09:05 PM
 
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My 18 yo unschooled son is struggling w/remedial math at the cc. He grew up playing legos, video games, encountering all kinds of real life math, but does not have the skills necessary to get easily through the classes he needs to get to the one class that will count toward the degree. He is not happy about being so far behind. I wish I had spent more time working with him when he was younger.

OTOH, he aced the English placement test and went straight into college level writing. He really took to that but math is just not his thing.
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#24 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 09:18 PM
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I don't think that having at one point been taught math against their will is really a substantial obstacle for adults who need to learn basic math skills in order to get a degree that will improve their job options, their pay-scales, and therefore their lives.

By the time adults trek into community colleges to try to learn basic math skills, they are both developmentally ready for learning and deeply intrinsically motivated. A history of learning experiences in which neither condition applied isn't the problem that's stopping them.

My concern with age and learning isn't about methodology, it's about neurological critical periods. At a certain point, certain things become much harder to learn. If you feel confident that learners can learn whatever they want, whenever they want, as fast as they need to, as long as they haven't been damaged by institutional teaching methods, then I can see how the difficulties adult learners have in acquiring basic math and literacy skills wouldn't concern you. Personally, I think that's impractical. I think there is a point at which, regardless of a family's educational practice and/or philosophy, a child's failure to pick up basic academic skills is a sign of a serious problem, and marybethorama's experience illustrates the seriousness of the consequences of that problem.

Out of curiosity, let me turn the question around: What skills do you expect an unschooled child to have learned by age 10? What skills would have to be absent in a child that age for you to be concerned about the child's educational progress?

I think the answer to midnightwriter's question is highly individual up to a point informed by the child's interests and priorities, and deeply concerning as a potential developmental issue after another point that has yet to be well-defined by the available research. I would be worried about 3yos who aren't reciting numbers and who can't handle basic concepts of equality and inequality. I'd be concerned about 10 yos who can't estimate or can't make change. I'd be concerned about an 8yo who doesn't know the multiplication tables through 12s, if that child was primarily interested in science, technology, math, and engineering, but I wouldn't worry about another 8yo who was primarily interested in literature.
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#25 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 10:13 PM
 
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Are you talking about people who were unschooled?
I think this is a very relevant point. The biggest obstacle to math mastery is, I believe, math anxiety -- borne of years of not getting what seems to make sense to everyone else. John Mighton wrote about this in great depth in "The Myth of Ability." (As an aside: If you're tutoring struggling adults in very basic math, I think you'd find it an incredibly helpful book. It was mind-blowing for me.)

Unschooled kids would be unlikely to have the emotional baggage which interferes with clear, step-wise logical thinking. Coming to math later in life they'll come to it with much more optimism and confidence and none of the crazy-making confusion of thoughts that come from math anxiety. I've personally known a number of unschooled teens who have mastered K-8 math in the space of a few weeks or less.

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#26 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 10:42 PM
 
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I don't think that having at one point been taught math against their will is really a substantial obstacle for adults who need to learn basic math skills in order to get a degree that will improve their job options, their pay-scales, and therefore their lives.

By the time adults trek into community colleges to try to learn basic math skills, they are both developmentally ready for learning and deeply intrinsically motivated. A history of learning experiences in which neither condition applied isn't the problem that's stopping them.
Are you saying nothing is stopping schooled adults from learning and they learn just fine or they can't learn but it isn't because of school, lack of motivation, or lack of being developmentally ready?


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My concern with age and learning isn't about methodology, it's about neurological critical periods. At a certain point, certain things become much harder to learn. If you feel confident that learners can learn whatever they want, whenever they want, as fast as they need to, as long as they haven't been damaged by institutional teaching methods, then I can see how the difficulties adult learners have in acquiring basic math and literacy skills wouldn't concern you. Personally, I think that's impractical. I think there is a point at which, regardless of a family's educational practice and/or philosophy, a child's failure to pick up basic academic skills is a sign of a serious problem, and marybethorama's experience illustrates the seriousness of the consequences of that problem.
My understanding of critical periods for learning is that they are very hypothetical with the exception of acquiring language in the first place. People theorize that it extends to reading and other things but there doesn't seem to be much proof. The modern consensus seems to be that it's a myth. I'm not finding much googling that indicates there is a critical period for learning specific subjects. I'd think math would have to include a good couple decades since most people (schooled or unschooled) learn math progressively over such a long period.

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Out of curiosity, let me turn the question around: What skills do you expect an unschooled child to have learned by age 10? What skills would have to be absent in a child that age for you to be concerned about the child's educational progress?
That's highly dependent on the young person. What might worry me about one wouldn't worry me about another. I don't have a list that can be applied to unschooled children across the board. Mostly, I just concern myself with my child. I share my experiences regarding him with other unschoolers because it can be helpful to know of differing experiences and time tables for learning.

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I think the answer to midnightwriter's question is highly individual up to a point informed by the child's interests and priorities, and deeply concerning as a potential developmental issue after another point that has yet to be well-defined by the available research.
Yup. Like I said, I'm not worried about my ds not doing much math but I feel confident he is a bright kid who learns things easily when he wants and I've seen nothing to indicate any learning disabilities. The OP's dc are people I know nothing about so I couldn't hazard a guess as to whether she should be concerned. There can be different causes for the apparently same thing.

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I would be worried about 3yos who aren't reciting numbers and who can't handle basic concepts of equality and inequality. I'd be concerned about 10 yos who can't estimate or can't make change. I'd be concerned about an 8yo who doesn't know the multiplication tables through 12s, if that child was primarily interested in science, technology, math, and engineering, but I wouldn't worry about another 8yo who was primarily interested in literature.
I haven't personally come across any math inclined 8 yos who spontaneously memorized the multiplication tables but I'm sure there must be some...

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#27 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 10:47 PM
 
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I think this is a very relevant point. The biggest obstacle to math mastery is, I believe, math anxiety -- borne of years of not getting what seems to make sense to everyone else. John Mighton wrote about this in great depth in "The Myth of Ability." (As an aside: If you're tutoring struggling adults in very basic math, I think you'd find it an incredibly helpful book. It was mind-blowing for me.)

Unschooled kids would be unlikely to have the emotional baggage which interferes with clear, step-wise logical thinking. Coming to math later in life they'll come to it with much more optimism and confidence and none of the crazy-making confusion of thoughts that come from math anxiety. I've personally known a number of unschooled teens who have mastered K-8 math in the space of a few weeks or less.

Miranda
Exactly. And my gifted husband would be a lovely example of one of those adults. There is no reason he shouldn't understand math. But he glazes over and can't do it. Strangely, I think he understands more conceptually than I do. But arithmetic...

So we're a fine pair of parents for ds. I like arithmetic and dh likes talking about mathematical concepts without numbers.

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#28 of 130 Old 10-10-2010, 10:54 PM
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Unschooled kids would be unlikely to have the emotional baggage which interferes with clear, step-wise logical thinking. Coming to math later in life they'll come to it with much more optimism and confidence and none of the crazy-making confusion of thoughts that come from math anxiety. I've personally known a number of unschooled teens who have mastered K-8 math in the space of a few weeks or less.
Yes! I've also worked with adults and older kids who are trying to master basic math, and so much of the problem seems to be that they have been so confused by math that they really can't just think logically about it. They ask questions about the steps they're supposed to take, and what to do next - it's like they see math as a huge collection of rule sets to memorize, and they see math success as knowing what memorized list of steps to apply to a given problem.... and that's crazy-making, really, to try to memorize all of that stuff.

I would worry about logical thinking skills much more than arithmetic skills. If a kid can see a puzzle - a math problem or word problem or logic problem or whatever - and come up with some good ideas about how to take it, than I think he's doing pretty good.

The Marilyn Burns books (someone mentioned one of her books for kids, but she also wrote for teachers) are very good at this. So, for example,one of her problems for 4th graders is something like, "If you had 3 chocolate bars and you had 4 friends at your house, how could you divide them up so that each kid (including you) gets the same amount? I would worry about the kid who got deer in the headlights eyes and said, "Do I plus or minus here?" I would feel fine about the kid who got out some paper and started cutting out and dividing candy bars into various sized pieces. I would also feel fine about the kid who said, "Well, 3 divided by 5, 3/5... everyone gets 3/5 of a bar" but I suspect that they would be the minority... I also suspect that many adults wouldn't do it that way.

 
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#29 of 130 Old 10-11-2010, 12:17 AM
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Are you saying nothing is stopping schooled adults from learning and they learn just fine or they can't learn but it isn't because of school, lack of motivation, or lack of being developmentally ready?
I'm arguing that it is more difficult to acquire certain skills once a person passes a certain age. Not hopeless, just harder. I'm suggesting that something may be stopping adults from easily acquiring certain skills regardless of their educational background, and that it's easier to build up neurological pathways for certain skills when a person is younger. Obviously, many skills are acquired over time, but I think people benefit from an early introduction to certain concepts. I think Tigresse's experience with her ds points out that traditional-schooling-induced math anxiety is not the only possible source of difficulty.

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That's highly dependent on the young person. What might worry me about one wouldn't worry me about another. I don't have a list that can be applied to unschooled children across the board. Mostly, I just concern myself with my child. I share my experiences regarding him with other unschoolers because it can be helpful to know of differing experiences and time tables for learning.

Yup. Like I said, I'm not worried about my ds not doing much math but I feel confident he is a bright kid who learns things easily when he wants and I've seen nothing to indicate any learning disabilities. The OP's dc are people I know nothing about so I couldn't hazard a guess as to whether she should be concerned. There can be different causes for the apparently same thing.
But in general, what do you think all 10 yo should know? What things does your ds do that reassure you that he is progressing well and is completely capable of learning anything he wants?


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I haven't personally come across any math inclined 8 yos who spontaneously memorized the multiplication tables but I'm sure there must be some...
It's really hard to deal with long division, factoring, and fractions if you don't know your multiplication tables. It's a handy basis for algebra. I don't really care that much about spontaneity. My concern is that my child is developing the skills she needs to pursue her passions, even if that development isn't spontaneous. And that's really why I'm interested in this question. I'm interested in the implications of this question beyond unschooling - how do you decide that a child is progressing well and when they aren't progressing well and intervention is needed?
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#30 of 130 Old 10-11-2010, 12:24 AM
 
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This has been quite an excellent thread. Most of what I thought of saying has been articulated in a more interesting way by others already. I think of myself as pretty relaxed already, but reading all this makes me relax even more.

Maybe because I cannot imagine the complete lack of interest that the OP describes, I have no answer to the main question, when would you worry.

Re: picking up math as a teen / adult: I wanted to share this talk by Salman Khan, a math teacher or rather maker of math instructional videos. See just before the end of the video, where he reads letters from students and parents: http://vimeo.com/11731351
He also mentions that for some students learning from a video is easier than learning from a live person. This perhaps stems from the "math anxiety" that some ppl carry.

Just for fun let me throw this in - Lessons in physics, starting wtih basic arithmetic all the way to string theory, that you can get free online: http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html

Back to the OP,
Quote:
What if you need to count your change, and you can't do?
I guess this means that you need to go along with someone who can. But this could be awkward after a certain age. (And, yes, it is OT but I would be alarmed if if one started throwing away the change.) And I would not rely on the cashier to get it right every time either - how many times I have had to correct a cashier - either because sale price was not rung up, coupon not applied, something counted twice, or some other error. If I could not estimate the total how would I know it was off and think of looking at the details? I am not examining every entry - but still, I can get an idea when the total is more than what I think it should be.
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The real need would be if that child was starving, and needed to see if his coins were enough for a piece of bread.
When I try to imagine this scenario, I can't help feeling that it would arise in the context of a life in which other problems would have generated that much math skill or other street smarts already. The Boxcar Children opens with such a scene. And not only the starving have to cross check bank statements and credit card bills. Errors / fraud are unfortunately common.

though of possible interest to others reading this thread, some articles I like to share on math learning:

A Mathematician's Lament- Mathematical Association of America. Paul Lockhart argues against " the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education."

When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools by Peter Gray, March 18, 2010, Child Development Peter Gray suggests that delaying the formal instruction in math would allow kids "to learn it with far less effort and greater understanding."

Kids Learn Math Easily When They Control Their Own Learning, April 15, 2010, Child Development

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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