My stepson is halfway through the fourth grade. His grade in math at school fluctuates between poor at some times and good at others. However, my husband and I have been concerned lately that he's not as up to speed as he should be at basic math. We played Monopoly last weekend and he was having trouble doing the addition and subtraction for simple change. We sat down tonight and did some practice exchanges with the Monopoly money, and he can't even subtract 290 from 300...even after thinking it through for several minutes.
I'm concerned that his grade doesn't accurately reflect his abilities. Even a simple question like "What's 20 minus 15?" will have him concentrating with all his might for half a minute before he can come up with the answer. They're currently studying multiplication in school, and it worries me that they're studying that and he can't do addition and subtraction of 3-digit numbers (his face simply goes blank when you try to do anything with 4-digit numbers).
Does this sound concerning for a child who's about to turn ten years old? My husband and I are trying to figure out the best approach, because my stepson's mother doesn't like to discipline him and we feel like if we don't do anything, nothing is going to change. Thoughts?
That does sound a little 'off.' It could be he hasn't been picking it up all along and has found a way to compensate, or he could have a specific learning disability. Your husband should contact his teacher as a first step (chatting with his ex wife about would also be a good idea in case she and the teacher have already been discussing it), and then see about requesting some testing to determine what's going on with his math. Is he doing o.k. in all his other subjects or are there concerns there as well?
My oldest is 3rd, so no help... but, if you're worried about fact recall I just found a great post with variations on war to help remember math facts... all you need is a few decks of cards and the variations are endless...
Maybe he just needs some practice to gain confidence?
My daughter is in second and she could pop out those answers right away when I asked her. I guess all those mental math tricks I have been complaining about are actually paying off.
As One-Girl said, mental math can be tricky for some people. I'm not great with it. My husband is. I need paper for a lot of things.
Also, math tends to be taught in chunks in the earlier grades - one skill doesn't necessarily connect to the last one they learned so a lot of times, if teachers don't make tests cumulative, kids will learn something for the test and then promptly forget it as they move on to the next topic.
I agree with asking for a conversation with the teacher and considering an evaluation. Tutoring can make up for a lot.
In our area, 4th grade is multi-digit multiplication, division with remainders, early decimals and fractions.
Mental math is really it's own talent. My DS and DH are SO good at manipulating numbers in their head. They don't even have to think about it. DD and myself are not. I still use my fingers and mental math tricks even though I did well in math and went through Calculus with little trouble. My DD too. Accelerated 2 years in math and does great but in 3rd/4th/5th grade... always failed timed tests in simple arithmetic. Her brain just doesn't work that way.
Unless you see your son struggling in class or on paper, I wouldn't stress it. You can teach him tricks to mental math tricks for fun and that might speed him up a bit. Flash cards can help but not much fun. Countdown is a fun game that exercises mental math skills (they used to sell it at Target.)
Here's something I did with my daughter in third and fourth grades: We set-up 'store' in the living room. A tablecloth went over the air-hockey table, and out came the play money, calculator, and yard sale price stickers. She hung an 'open' sign on the door, and dressed-up, too. She gathered items from around the house, stickered them, and laid them out around the living room (I mean her store:) Family members walk in with their play money purses full, and really got into acting the part of the customer to make it fun. I let her add up purchases on the calculator, write down the total on her notebook, then use the calculator to take the amount given her minus purchase total -- later, we moved on to her doing all of it on the notepad with no calculator. Then we moved on to her figuring it out in her head (prices were rounded dollar amounts). This might be a fun, easy way to boost some math skills! My other advice is make it as fun as possible, throwing in some rewards once in awhile, such as bringing the storekeeper a gift of ice cream, etc.
Also, just to regularly talk about math related subjects in everyday life. Have him check the outdoor temperature for you on the thermostat or weather channel. Recall together what the temp. was yesterday. Have him 'help you' figure out how many degrees warmer or cooler it is today. Fun things that help him build those skills, and that build your relationship too. We also love playing games with the kids to not only have family time but to also sharpen skills (somewhat on the sly:).
I homeschool, and we love Teaching Textbooks CD-ROM math program (there's a website). TT does the teaching for you, with explanations, practice problems, 'hints' when needed, and quizzes on CD-ROM. You, the parent, can get into the grade book portion to see how your child is doing on the lessons and quizzes, and have them re-do any which are not up to par. My daughter has used this for the past two years, in 5th & 6th grades. Prior to that, we used Rod & Staff math textbooks for her math instruction, which we were very happy with as well. I realize you might not want to add another math program to what he's already doing in school, particularly if there is regular homework he's bringing home, but just thought I'd share incase.
I agree with the others that I would expect a 4th grader to be able to do those problems you mentioned, but that the mental math is not always spot on for a lot of people. My dd2 is in 4th grade and not in love with math, but she's actually fairly bright as far as math is concerned. She's not exceptionally gifted in math, however, but her teacher keeps giving her the gifted math homework. (She is gifted in reading/writing and loves that and it comes easily to her, so I think that's why he keeps giving her the gifted math work.) With math she does have to work a little bit harder and I could see how she might stop to think about those problems if I asked her to do them in her head, partly because she doesn't like math so she's not particularly receptive to being asked to do it. If she thought about it for a few seconds she would get it easily, though. She regularly does homework problems that require multiplication and fairly easy division.
My dd1 (7th grade) really struggles with math. She is not math-organized in her thinking. She does very well in all her other subjects, but she's a little shut down on math. I am not super fond of her math teacher. He doesn't get her at all and I think that's part of the problem, but she's never liked math or games. I think she may have some math learning disabilities. She had a tentative diagnosis of Non-verbal Learning Disorder when she was younger, but she didn't fully participate in the evaluation so I'm not sure if that was accurate. She's a big picture kid and gets lost in the small details of math, making careless errors in her addition in multiplying large numbers, or subtraction in division. It's pretty frustrating because she CAN do the work, but, y'know, leave out a decimal point and the whole thing is wrong. Contrast that with leaving a period out of your English paper and you might get counted off 2 points.
How are his grades? Do you see his homework?
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