Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Picking battles

Ah, the joys continue. Today's topic, lying to your children to protect your sanity (and quite possibly theirs, too.)

Math is not generally considered one of the 'fuzzy' subjects. Things are either right or they're wrong. Shannon is currently having difficulty with basic math. We're starting to get into more and more advanced concepts, and she's sailing right through those. Fractions? Simple, she loved them. Geometry? Well, not her favorite, but she plodded through and was bored silly. Last week though, we started adding large columns of numbers. Suddenly, her mind seemed to reel... no longer able to add 5 and 7 together. She's building a block that 'math is hard' ... and I'm doing my best to bust that block down as fast as she can build it. That's why I loved that she took to fractions like a duck to water. But this column thing... yeah, it looks scary, so therefore it must be hard.

The introduction technique we've done is to look for easy numbers, like groups of tens in each column before you just start adding the ones, tens, hundreds like we were all taught. I'm struggling with terminology, trying to teach the way this curriculum wants. It actually makes more sense to teach the way they want it, but when you grew up "carrying" a one, suddenly "trading for a ten" is hard to get to come out of your mouth. So we worked on this lesson for two days. Today was definitely a case of two steps forward, one step back. She finally got it... the concept of *why* she was doing things a certain way made sense and she was no longer totally bogged down by the actual adding part of it. Boom, her mood soared. Then, on the next practice problem, (adding a column of eight 2-digit numbers) she made a simple notation error, failing to make a 'dot' for one of the tens she found. This led her to have one fewer hundred to "bring down" ... making her final answer wrong by a value of a hundred. Or one, if you're simply counting how many hundreds you're adding, as we were.

Discovering the error led to tears. She's at the stage where ANY mistake is the end of the world. OK, she's been at that stage her whole life, it seems. She insisted she did it right. She wailed that she hates being corrected. I calmly fell back on my "relaxed" mom persona. Explained for the hundredth time that mistakes are a part of learning, we analyze what the mistake was and determine how serious it is, why did we do it, how do we avoid it. I told her (again) that in NO way should she ever feel bad about making mistakes while learning. I explained (again) that if you never make mistakes, you're most likely only doing the things you already know, and are not stretching your brain, not learning, not accomplishing. She finally settles down, and we make another attempt. It goes slowly, but well. I load up the last problem for her to work... and this time a straight math error while adding the ones position has her final answer incorrect. But, this time I was watching her, and she genuinely made progress on understanding the technique, the why, the how. So, luckily I was able to read her answers upside down, and when she asked me the answer, I lied. I made the answer match what she had written. I felt that in this case, the technique I was teaching was more important than the actual math follow-through.

Then, I put in my notes to add more time for card games. With repetition will come mastery without thought. Eventually. :)

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