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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bringing Down the Math Wall…an update

One day, my dear boy can’t wrap his head around regrouping.  The next day it’s as though that wall never existed.  It’s still not child’s play to him, but it’s not the end of the world, either.

All I did was break it down into smaller steps and insert a more hands-on, concrete illustration of the concept and the wall crumbled before my eyes.

But even though that particular wall was annihilated---I realized that I was pushing him too hard in certain areas.

It’s a fine line.  If I don’t push enough, Peter may miss out on growth opportunities.  But if I push too hard, it’s counterproductive---not only will he not rise to meet the challenge, he may take a few steps backwards.

Breaking Down the Math Wall at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

I want to see him grow and reach his full potential.  But I can’t measure growth on a day-to-day basis.  Sometimes he has bad days (just like the rest of us).  Sometimes he has really, really good days.

It’s easy to get mired in day-to-day challenges and lose hope, but this or that moment will pass by so quickly.

Every single year, I’ve been amazed to look back and see how far he has come from the previous year.  He may not be where I envisioned him, but then I couldn’t have predicted some of the amazing things he’s capable of.

One of the things I realized is that our math studies had become too influenced by the typical school way of doing things---math doesn’t need to be done on worksheets, or even on paper. 

My highly visual, whole-to-parts kids hated math with a passion.  As in, when we would pray in the morning, he would pray to not have to do any math.

Ouch.  Not the love of learning I was going for.

The past few weeks I’ve made some significant changes in how we do math.  Gone are worksheets.  Ok, to be completely honest, I did give him one worksheet last week.  It seemed like a good idea the time---big mistake.

I found that the math routine needed to change to better fit my child.  It didn’t make sense to expect him to change to fit the math program. 

Our new math routine looks like this: 

  1. Working through Math-U-See Beta to reinforce his arithmetic skills (he can actually do everything in this level, but we’re working on automaticity, if we can get it, or at least faster processing).  He does any computations orally or on a personal whiteboard.
  2. Working through the elementary Life of Fred series.  We just finished Apples in less than 2 weeks and he can’t wait to start Butterflies.  He does the “Your Turn” exercises on his whiteboard.
  3. Everyday practice of what Peter calls “corner problems” on a big whiteboard.  They look like this:

Practicing math facts with "corner problems" at Homechooling Hearts & Minds

Peter calls this set a “square” because he turned 4 “corners.”

I write pairs of addition or subtraction problems, which he computes and then he adds the resulting sums (or differences) to each other.  We started simply (as you can see, he first added the same number pairs in a different order and then got to practice adding doubles).  We’ve moved on to mixing operations and doing unrelated pairs together.

Peter has gone from a math hater to someone who looks forward to doing math (sort of).  Writing on whiteboard is less odious because he can write bigger and erase mistakes with a finger.

It cuts down on the amount of paper we need to store or throw out---the use of slates back in the olden days was a wise thing.

It cuts down on the illusion that I can hand him a worksheet and expect him to do it on his own.  While he does do all the work himself, I’m right there, which is something he needs.

In our case, I did change the materials we were using, but it would also be possible to change the delivery of your current program to better suit your child.  There’s no rule that says he has to fill out every worksheet or write every answer.

Have you broken down any walls in your homeschool lately?

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