basic math learning problem--seriously, help!? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 03-08-2012, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sorry if this is in the wrong place...I haven't been following the schooling forums and I haven't been posting in a while, but I always turn here when I have a problem I just can't work around myself because you mamas know so much.

 

So the problem is that my otherwise intelligent 4 1/2 year old daughter, who has no problem correctly using words like paleontology and irritating and colors as well as children three years her senior, also has some serious delays, most notably in numeracy.  In short, she can't count past four, and until her grandmother hammered away at her for a week straight visit last week, she couldn't get past three.  She would and generally still does count, "One, two, three, my age."  And yet, as much as half a year ago, when I showed her that we had five sausages for dinner she promptly told me that that was one for her, one for her brother, one for Papa, and two for me (she also obviously knows who the chowhounds are around here).  She couldn't have said that there were five sausages, but she could divide them up just fine.  She also doesn't know her alphabet at all and basically only recognizes the letter O and sort of the letter E, which is the first letter of her name, but which she usually calls "three".  She doesn't seem able to distinguish between numbers and letters, either.  It also took her a LOOONG time to even vaguely grasp the concept of patterns, and she's still not so sure about it.  Mind you, she sometimes asks for us to help her write things, and all you need to do is show her the letter/word in question and she can copy it very clearly.  So baffling!

 

I'm pretty unschooling oriented, and we don't do "lessons" or push things she's not actively seeking information on, but I am starting to be really concerned that the intelligent, capable little girl who has been having me count EVERYTHING for three straight years now, and who even sometimes randomly quizzes me on "What is two and two and two?" and such things, seems to be completely blocked on something as basic as learning her numbers.  Plus, I'm sick to death of reviewing them and not being able to do more complex stuff with her.  I have no idea what to even call this.  I have no idea what to do, or where to look for help.

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#2 of 14 Old 03-08-2012, 03:19 PM
 
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Hmm, that is perplexing. I hope you do find answers from someone who might be able to put a label on what is happening with your daughter. I'm not a person who likes to go around labeling kids, but sometimes having a name for something helps us to learn more about it. You'd at least know what words to Google or look for books about.

 

I've heard of dysgraphia, but I don't know much about it to know whether this is the right fit for your child.

 

Just to throw out an idea, I'm a homeschooler, too (not an unschooler, but pretty loose), but I adopted two boys through foster care with special needs and part of going through "the system" is being fairly immersed in the system. The boys get services through the public school even though they are very young. Where I live, it is possible to get evaluated by the school without using school services. Maybe it's a legal requirement everywhere; I really don't know.

 

I've also heard of independent educational evaluators, but I wouldn't know how to go about finding one. I might not be much help, but wish you the best.


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#3 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 08:16 AM
 
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Me?  I wouldn't worry about it.  she is 4.5?  Yeah- wouldn't be a concern for me at this point.  My DD who is 6 is very sharp on numbers.  My DS1 is almost 5 and doesn't care at all about numbers and letters.  Different kids and both super sharp in their own ways. (Although your DD using such a large and extended vocal is amazing!) DS1 can rhyme anything.  DD can't rhyme to save her life.  I think we all pick up different things at our own pace.  We have had to hammer away at DS1 on counting too.  It was miserable for all of us and I am not sure if it was worth it at this stage.  I think if we would have let it go one day it would have clicked.  


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#4 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 01:13 PM
 
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She's 4.5, I wouldn't worry about it.

 

Perhaps this article will help put your mind to rest: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201003/when-less-is-more-the-case-teaching-less-math-in-schools


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#5 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 01:48 PM
 
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I wouldn't worry about it at 4.5 either.  I think it is because your DD is so verbal that you are expecting more in the # department.  I mean, it isn't odd to be able to count higher or do more math, but it sounds like it just isn't clicking for your DD and that isn't odd either.

 

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#6 of 14 Old 03-09-2012, 03:38 PM
 
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Counting songs can help you so much, and there are many:

 

"Over in the Meadow" can go up to 20 in some versions, and many picture book variations

 

"Five Little Ducks", also a picture book

 

"Five Little Pumpkins" teaches kids about "5th" and "4th" etcetera (my brain is drawing a blank on the proper term for these

 

"Five Little Monkies"--of course

 

Even "500 Miles" (Lord I'm one/ Lord I'm 2/ Lord I'm 3/ Lord I'm 4.....)

 

I remember my then 4yo having that "aha" moment when she realized that you count one thing at a time for each number.  My now-5yo had trouble counting past 4 not too long ago.  She's better at remembering numbers now, but not as precocious as my oldest, now 7.  

 

I might also skip trying to "read" the numbers, at least until she starts to get a grip on recognizing letters.  Keep the math/counting in her head.  I say this because I've seen a lot of struggles with the physical representation of numbers with both my girls.  It's like this is an entirely separate subject and I would not be surprised at all if they used different parts of the brain.  It is possible that she can understand the concept of counting but not be able to access the words (like my brain fart a ways back.  Moms should really relate to this!)  Dyslexia, all these things can get in the way, not of "math" but of *communicating* it.  

 

In the end, keep introducing the concepts, just with patience and without judgment.  At 4.5 there are so many good stories based around alphabets and numbers, like "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and Dr. Seuss's ABC and onward.  The nice think about "Chicka Chicka" and books like it is that it embeds what is being learned into an easy-to remember form: "A told B and B told C, I'll see you at the top of the coconut tree./ Whee! Said D to E F G....." etc.  She might love "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" with all the extra cats that The Cat has under his tall hat.  This is the idea.  I think it uses a different part of the brain to absorb this kind of thing.  Not only that, but it is easy to repeat over and over again.  

 

In your expectations, separate out her ability to do math in her head, and her ability to memorize written numbers and letters-- even her ability to say them is separate from her ability to recognize them.  These are all, in the end, very different concepts that we expect kids to pull together.

 

She is 4.5.  Treat it like it is normal, but be watchful for any signs of dyslexia, dysgraphia-- whatever-- that could possibly presenting obstacles.  Be careful, though, because like pp's have pointed out this is often ("most often", probably) perfectly age appropriate.


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#7 of 14 Old 03-10-2012, 07:13 AM
 
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No idea, but I agree it does seem a bit young to worry. 

 

Teach Your Kid to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a book that teaches the letters with reading and writing -- no previous "letter identification" skills are required.  Maybe you guys could start that book.  Perhaps it's not relevant to her but when reading it will be more relevant.

 

I think it's common to flip numbers like E into 3 and vice versa at that age and does not indicate dyslexia.

 

I think it's possible that she doesn't count because she doesn't want to. 

 

My  kids could recite the numbers quite high early on because I used counting all the time for "sharing" and such.  So if my kids were taking turns on the trampoline, we would count to 30 and then switch kids.  And count to 30 and switch back.  I also used counting to announce the end of something they were enjoying, like, I'm going to count to 60 and then you're all done.  I wasn't doing it on purpose for education, but I was reciting numbers all the time.

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#8 of 14 Old 03-10-2012, 09:39 AM
 
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Really do not worry. Really. Neither of my older two showed much math awareness at this age and neither is now behind at all. (haven't started homeschooling with my middle child yet, and we tend not to use a specific program for math, but I am absolutely certain, because of the topics I am working on with my 8 year old, that he is not behind). Take it from someone who has been there, this does not sound like a problem. I did count a fair bit for things like turns (I have 3 kids, have to do it), plus, my partner has a math degree, three of them in fact, so really, its unlikely that my kids didn't show early math interest or ability because of us not providing a math-rich environment. Academically my kids are just late bloomers-but they do bloom, eventually.

 

The reason I believe that my ds has now more than caught up (and I'm confident about the same from my daughters) is that they had this time playing instead. Proper, outdoors play with sticks and things sliding down planks and so on. I think this play gives them a really great reference point for later science and math work.


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#9 of 14 Old 03-10-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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Joining the "Don't worry" chorus.  She's still very young.  Also, I wonder if she's overthinking counting, since she's "stuck" at 3, which is the biggest number people intuitively understand (you, me and another).  Many 4 year olds seem like they're counting when they're actually copying what they've seen other people do-- you can tell because they don't actually move their finger at the right time as they "count".  If your daughter wants to understand counting when she counts, that would slow her down from getting to the point where she can rattle off numbers.  

 

If it seems like that's what's going on, I would probably back off counting objects, unless I could group them as I counted-- so pull 1 away from the main pile and say "one", then pull a second away making a smaller group of 2 and say "two", etc... I think the concept of being the third object you've touched is significantly more abstract than seeing a group of 3 objects.

 

 

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#10 of 14 Old 03-10-2012, 12:26 PM
 
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I would maybe try doing some of the early Montessori math activities, if you feel the need to 'do something'.  They do start with just 3 first, then gradually build up quantities.  I also wouldn't 'worry' at this point, there could be so many things going on which are well within the scope of 'normal'.  But it is "unusual" to not be able to count past 3 at this age so it's something I'd keep an eye on.  It could just be that her math development is later than the average, and that's fine.  "Keep an eye on" does not equal "worry", it just means "be aware of so that your expectations are appropriate", etc etc, and then maybe down the line something "wrong" will be diagnosed, or maybe not, but you can deal with that then.

 

It can be helpful to look at Waldorf materials as well.  Grade 1 Waldorf -- which is aimed at 7-year-olds (or 6-year-olds turning 7 in that year) -- has math lessons which focus very prominently on the "twoness" of two, the "fourness" or 4, etc.  It's a very holistic and gentle approach to numeracy.  A kid who is precocious in math might be bored by the pacing (or be fascinated, depending on the kid of course) -- but it could be the perfect approach especially for a kid who is not a 'natural' in math.  The number activities feature a lot of drawing, and hands-on activities, and stories about the numbers personified.  Realizing that this very gentle and quite basic (to our adult perception) number curriculum is aimed at the average 6-7 year old, it should be reassuring that a 4.5yo isn't yet at that level - they would not at all be expected to be, in the Waldorf school of thought.  

 

(In the long term, Waldorf kids do great with math -- it's a much slower start, but they still get just as far in the end!)

 

 

 

Quote:
I might also skip trying to "read" the numbers, at least until she starts to get a grip on recognizing letters.  Keep the math/counting in her head.  I say this because I've seen a lot of struggles with the physical representation of numbers with both my girls.  It's like this is an entirely separate subject and I would not be surprised at all if they used different parts of the brain.  It is possible that she can understand the concept of counting but not be able to access the words

 

Yes it is different parts of the brain!  Recognizing written symbols, realizing that they are representative of an abstract concept, is a specific brain development 'thing' that happens at different times for different kids.  And I don't just mean "recognizing that the symbol T stands for the sound 'tuh'" -- I mean "recognizing that written marks CAN BE SYMBOLS for something else."  Symbolic abstraction is a very specific development thing.  It's not taught, it can't be exercised or accelerated.  It's like starting to walk or talk, it just happens in the brain on its own.  Before it happens, you're just hitting your head against the wall trying to teach any of the visual representations of letters or numbers.

 

It's like the notion, which most parents don't even think about, that knowing the alphabet song somehow has something to do with reading.  *It doesn't*.  Nothing at all.  It's a song, and it's useful for learning alphabetical order, and perhaps for checking that you know ALL the letters.  But for most kids, it's an aural event only -- it's a song to sing or to listen to and is unrelated to the VISUAL representation of letters, and has ZIP ZERO ZILCH to do with the actual phonemes they represent!  Heck, for most young kids, "elemenohpee" is one "word" in that song.

 

The *order* of letters is irrelevant in learning to read.  The order of numbers, on the other hand, is essential in being able to count sequentially, but is at the same time separate from the concepts of "two-ness" or "four-ness".  That's where the Montessori and Waldorf activities can be fun.  :)

 

 


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#11 of 14 Old 03-11-2012, 10:49 PM
 
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Family Math For Young Children (Click to show)

 

As I said before, I wouldn't worry. However, you could play the games in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Family-Math-Young-Children-Comparing/dp/0912511273/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331527558&sr=1-1 And when you're done with them you could move onto the games in Family Math.


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#12 of 14 Old 03-13-2012, 07:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone...I've enjoyed the links I've perused so far, and have more to read.  I'm still a little worried about her memory--other features include a complete incapacity to remember which is the trash and which the recycling, for example, even though they've been in the same places all her life.  And as for counting songs, she also does not remember or sing ANY songs, including the ones I've sung probably multiple times a day for most of her life.  She SINGS all right...just her own made up songs.  She also took a good year longer than most of her peers to learn her colors, her shapes she still isn't sure on, and half of the standard foods that she eats regularly get referred to as "that thing I ate yesterday" (meaning sometime recently, or maybe not, but she remembers eating it and wants more). 

 

So, you're right, and I'm trying to let go of the math thing, because I know that mostly I was just excited to start sharing that with her.  But I am still not convinced that something odd isn't going on here, and it does impact us significantly (particularly the food thing, which, as you can imagine, is heinously frustrating).

 

Sorry for the quick reply--I'll try to respond more thoroughly later.

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#13 of 14 Old 03-13-2012, 08:30 AM
 
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Have you talked to your pediatrician about this?  It might be a place to start, if you think there's something to be concerned about.

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#14 of 14 Old 03-13-2012, 08:48 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squrrl View Post

Thank you everyone...I've enjoyed the links I've perused so far, and have more to read.  I'm still a little worried about her memory--other features include a complete incapacity to remember which is the trash and which the recycling, for example, even though they've been in the same places all her life.  And as for counting songs, she also does not remember or sing ANY songs, including the ones I've sung probably multiple times a day for most of her life.  She SINGS all right...just her own made up songs.  She also took a good year longer than most of her peers to learn her colors, her shapes she still isn't sure on, and half of the standard foods that she eats regularly get referred to as "that thing I ate yesterday" (meaning sometime recently, or maybe not, but she remembers eating it and wants more). 

 

So, you're right, and I'm trying to let go of the math thing, because I know that mostly I was just excited to start sharing that with her.  But I am still not convinced that something odd isn't going on here, and it does impact us significantly (particularly the food thing, which, as you can imagine, is heinously frustrating).

 

Sorry for the quick reply--I'll try to respond more thoroughly later.

Individually, every one of your examples seems age appropriate (my 5.5yo *just* starting differentiating the garbage from the recycling, and my 7yo started singing our songs instead of her made-up ones this last Christmas) but taken all together, it does seem to make one wonder.  I, too would be watchful on this, and even talk to her ped if she doesn't seem like the alarmist type.  In the end, she did learn her colors, a year later perhaps, and hopefully this illustrates that she will indeed pick these things up, albeit later than others.  

 

Though I've made that point, I might still want to consult with her provider.  Because you homeschool you have one less thing to worry about regarding any possible developmental delay, as the response to a diagnoses might simply be "OK, good to know" but not require the type of handling that might be necessary with a school kid.  Did that just make sense?  It's early and Daylight Savings Time still hasn't sunk in yet.
 

 


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