When math isn't challenging - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 8 Old 10-11-2013, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Dd7 loves math. She is using JUMP grade 2 workbook and will do 10 or 20 or even up to 40 pages in one sitting. She never seems to need my help, she just reads the directions and does the page. Does this mean it isn't challenging enough? Should it be about challenge at this stage, or just repetition of math facts so that she memorizes her addition, subtraction tables? Or are those exercises more than just busy work, can she be learning something (important patterns, confidence building or something?)even if it's too easy.

So, should I move her to grade three JUMP or to wherever seems to challenge her? We also have some old workbooks from other companies, like Miquon, Singapore etc. should I switch to another brand? Maybe JUMP isn't challenging enough. My older kids use JUMP and dd10 finds it very easy but ds12 finds his more time consuming if not challenging. I'm not sure my kids have ever really felt challenged by math, just a bit overwhelmed when it's time consuming, however, even if not challenged exactly, they are learning important algorithms...

Since she (dd7)is on a math kick right now, I'd like to take advantage and give her what she needs, I just don't know what that is. We do play math games too, for fun.

Wwyd?
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#2 of 8 Old 10-11-2013, 09:55 AM
 
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This is probably one of those "you know your kid best" situations. I don't think there's a pat answer. If she loves math, is full of enthusiasm and is keen to do lots of work in the JUMP program, I'd be really hesitant to mess with something that's working so well right now. There's a lovely feeling that comes from mastery, a strong self-concept, and a positive orientation to the subject matter that many kids just don't ever experience in math. What your dd is experiencing is precious. On the other hand, if she is even more delighted by new concepts and skills, if she is craving more complexity, if she loves puzzling through things that don't quite make sense and then, with some hard thinking they click, if she is expressing a desire for more challenge, then certainly it would be worth experimenting, mixing things up a little. 

 

Since on the whole JUMP seems to fit her pretty well, in that she enjoys it and is learning easily, I wouldn't necessarily switch programs. If she's doing 20+ pages in a sitting she's got to be moving pretty quickly through it, meaning she may complete two or three grade levels this year. That will increase the challenge naturally. If she's tiring of the repetition, rather than revelling in her sense of ease, sure, encourage her to skip to the last few problems in a section and then moving on if they feel easy. In the meantime you could look to enrichment type materials to create challenge and excitement. Primary Grade Challenge Math by Ed Zacarro and Hands-On Equations by Henry Borenson are two enrichment packages you might consider.

 

My kids have been quite capable with math and have generally had a fair bit of enthusiasm for a subject they found easy and sensible. While I think it's important for kids to have some experience with challenge and struggle so that they don't feel helpless and defeated the first time they meet up with something difficult, I don't think that elementary school math is a necessary place to get that experience. I think enthusiastic engagement with learning should always trump choice of subject matter or levels, schedules and goals. 

 

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#3 of 8 Old 10-11-2013, 03:15 PM
 
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My son (7 yrs) is the same way in that he progresses through his math workbooks really quickly and he enjoys feeling competent in the subject. He is currently finished with the first set of Singapore 2nd grade and has another set to go before he starts 3rd grade.  I am pretty sure he will finish 3rd grade and start 4th grade by the end of this school year if he goes at it at the same rate he does now (about 10 min - 15 min a day!)

 

However, he has low tolerance for the emotional aspect of frustration and is somewhat of a perfectionist.  He likes challenges but must be ones he can actually master.  Defeat is still devastating for him.  If something is beyond the realm of his grasp, he wrestles with it obsessively and doesn't stop.  If he doesn't get it, he tends to have meltdowns (though he won't ever quit pursuing whatever it is making him frustrated).  So, what I am considering doing is, once he finishes 3rd grade math, I will look ahead and see if the incline in challenge for the 4th grade stuff is something he can reasonably handle emotionally before I give it to him.  Otherwise, I will hold off on starting 4th grade and just do mathematical explorations in other ways.  

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#4 of 8 Old 10-11-2013, 04:50 PM
 
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he has low tolerance for the emotional aspect of frustration and is somewhat of a perfectionist.  He likes challenges but must be ones he can actually master.  Defeat is still devastating for him.  .... I will look ahead and see if the incline in challenge for the 4th grade stuff is something he can reasonably handle emotionally before I give it to him.  Otherwise, I will hold off on starting 4th grade and just do mathematical explorations in other ways.  

 

This is exactly the sort of parental finessing that I think is so wonderful about homeschooling. By knowing our children well, we can make good guesses about what they're ready for. 

 

Even better, though, is asking our kids what they're ready for. I've occasionally mis-read my children's needs and erred in one direction or the other, but I've found that they're actually remarkably good at self-assessing if they're included in the decision-making. If I say "I've been wondering if you might feel more motivated to learn math if we looked at some more advanced stuff, because you might find it more interesting" they'll consider the option and offer an opinion. Or, if they aren't sure how they'll feel, they're at least in on the fact that you're experimenting with what might work best, and they aren't forming the mistaken impression that you, or the curriculum writers, expect that they ought to be able to manage that next step. Likewise, I might say "Sometimes when things get easy they feel more fun, because you are confident that you can do a good job, and that's a nice feeling. So I wonder if it might be good to go back to some of the math skills you learned last year to get at that fun feeling of easy," and they'll offer their opinion as to whether that might help.

 

Sometimes I'm surprised, but I've learned not to second-guess their self-assessment. My 10-year-old told me last year that although she enjoyed exploring math ideas for fun, she wanted to get busy on a structured school-style math program. I thought she was likely still too young to deal with the abstract nature of the upcoming concepts and skills, but she has moved quickly and with full mastery. She was right that she was ready; I was wrong to be skeptical.

 

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#5 of 8 Old 10-12-2013, 05:16 AM
 
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Being able to move quickly through doesn't necessarily mean ready to move on. How has she done with math in the past? I have one son who struggles desperately with math, but once he masters a skill, he can do it with ease. I usually leave him at that point for a while, to help him build his confidence before we move on to the next challenge.

 

I'd also ask her what she wants to do. She may be perfectly happy doing what she's doing right now, and if that's the case, leaving her as is may be the best thing to do. Or maybe, if she's bored with what she's doing but not really ready to move on yet, maybe incorporating math into other things would work better - maybe find science activities that would make her use her math skills, so that she is still doing math, but isn't bored by what she's doing.

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#6 of 8 Old 10-12-2013, 06:58 AM
 
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really agree with smartmama here-I'd have a conversation with her

 

I think at 7, this is a good age for her to be becoming aware of how best she learns, of what she needs, becoming aware that she can be in control of this. I think that's more important than how her math is progressing, because there is an extent to which math is not something you learn and then its done but something you have to revisit and revisit over and over again. There's an extent that I'd say math is more about knowing where to look up how to do it than spending hours trying to etch it permanently into your brain. 

 

I think, fundamentally, if she is enjoying what she's doing then she will be learning, more importantly than math, how she best and most efficiently learns math. She'll also be learning that she likes math and is competent at it. 

 

As an aside, until I was 11, most of the math I did was on a Speak n Maths (my school didn't really teach things like math, only music and creative writing. It was the 80s, one of those British schools broadly approved of by John Holt where we did projects on things that interested us or the musician/writer teachers). Anyway, although my math was definitely a lot worse than what I see my kids friends doing nowadays (regrouping? Seriously? Who knew that trick had a name?), it was also absolutely good enough for me to get up to speed quickly on secondary transfer. I actually got scholarships to several prestigious private schools, mainly I suspect on my language arts and music but my maths needed to be very good for that too. I'm not convinced about the value of formal primary math, I think what kids need is a lot of casual exposure to numbers, a general sense of how they all fit together, and that's it. So that's a roundabout way of saying, I wouldn't worry overmuch at 7 because I think these things always come out in the wash anyway.


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#7 of 8 Old 10-12-2013, 08:14 AM
 
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So that's a roundabout way of saying, I wouldn't worry overmuch at 7 because I think these things always come out in the wash anyway.

 

I would agree, with the proviso that there can be long-term problems if math anxiety develops ... which is of course astronomically more likely in a traditional schooling situation, if the child is unable to learn up to expectations, perhaps because of a mismatch of learning styles or developmental readiness. But that's really just an aside that doesn't apply on this board.

 

On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the worries Indian Summer has are along the lines of how to ensure mastery, but more along the lines of giving her dd enough of what she seems ready for and enthusiastic for.

 

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#8 of 8 Old 10-12-2013, 09:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

Even better, though, is asking our kids what they're ready for. I've occasionally mis-read my children's needs and erred in one direction or the other, but I've found that they're actually remarkably good at self-assessing if they're included in the decision-making. If I say "I've been wondering if you might feel more motivated to learn math if we looked at some more advanced stuff, because you might find it more interesting" they'll consider the option and offer an opinion. Or, if they aren't sure how they'll feel, they're at least in on the fact that you're experimenting with what might work best, and they aren't forming the mistaken impression that you, or the curriculum writers, expect that they ought to be able to manage that next step. Likewise, I might say "Sometimes when things get easy they feel more fun, because you are confident that you can do a good job, and that's a nice feeling. So I wonder if it might be good to go back to some of the math skills you learned last year to get at that fun feeling of easy," and they'll offer their opinion as to whether that might help.

 

Sometimes I'm surprised, but I've learned not to second-guess their self-assessment. My 10-year-old told me last year that although she enjoyed exploring math ideas for fun, she wanted to get busy on a structured school-style math program. I thought she was likely still too young to deal with the abstract nature of the upcoming concepts and skills, but she has moved quickly and with full mastery. She was right that she was ready; I was wrong to be skeptical.

 

Miranda

 

So very true.  Over the last year, I have gradually shifted to this way of thinking but we (mostly I) am not fully there yet.  Just over a month ago, my daughter asked me to teach her to read.  I didn't feel she was ready to learn or that she could do it.  I kept on doing pre-reading activities and working on letter recognition but she insisted she wanted to "read" and not learn about the letters!  And so we went to straight reading.  Weird to say, but it seems to have worked out fine.  She is reading and she loves it.  It seems like an out of step way of learning to read (instead of letters to phonics to blending ... ) but I can't believe how well it has worked out for her and how hard she is working on each little book. She is now pretty much on her way.  So yeah, not only did she tell me what she wanted to learn, but she also dictated how she wanted to go about learning it.  My kids' homeschooling journey continues to surprise me!

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