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    #167091 - 09/10/13 08:54 AM Math Homework
    ConnectingDots Offline

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848

    New here, although I've been reading and appreciating these forums for the past several weeks! Hoping for some advice on this month's challenge.

    DS ( just turned 7) has tested as PG, with exceptional math ability but overall quite balanced scores.

    He's in second grade at a private parochial school, but in third grade for math. (Kindergarten was a great Montessori experience, we relocated and suffered through a very difficult private school first grade year and are so far, glad that he is happy and that we aren't getting weekly stresses from teachers, principal or son.)

    However, math homework is a problem. Some of it is far too easy, but he typically does it without complaining. The problems are in two main areas. One is when the worksheet requires him to "explain how you got the answer." I'm hoping someone has a good way of coaching a kid who does the problems seemingly without thinking (I know he does think, but the speed is amazing.) on how to come up with an answer, preferably without crying and melting down. Or, do we need to talk about this with the teacher? I did hear something in a pre-start of school conference that troubled me, about how with this new curriculum "gifted" kids couldn't always answer how they did it... meaning the curriculum developers thought that was bad/the kids didn't know it and thus needed to be forced into doing so... I read conflicting information on this topic. He does have a solid foundation on relating concepts to manipulatives from his Montessori days, so it seems like backtracking at times to explain the process.

    The other issue is that his math teacher has supposedly told him if something was "too hard" to just write that down. Bingo, instant out so he can stop doing homework and read or play... until we figured out what was happening and ruined his glorious plans. It appears that the "too hard" pages may be material he's not covered before. I've been giving him brief explanations and he can always do the work, other than the resistance to any questions that ask him to explain his work. He doesn't particularly like writing and his handwriting is sloppy. Not sure if that's connected or not to the resistance.

    He told me last night that the pages he's been writing "too hard" on are assignments only he gets, that the other kids only get the ones he's been doing (he developed a keen sense last year of when he was getting additional, vs. appropriately different, work, so I tend to believe him). We're going to meet with his second-grade teacher and are going to get a connection to the math teacher to get to the bottom of this...

    #167099 - 09/10/13 10:18 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    ConnectingDots Offline

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848
    BTW, I apologize for the long-winded message!

    #167107 - 09/10/13 10:50 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    polarbear Offline

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    Welcome ConnectingDots smile

    I think the problem with not knowing what to write as an explanation to show how you did your math homework is a *really* common problem - it didn't come naturally to any of my children, two of whom are very talented at math and one who has struggled with learning new math concepts. With my kids, when it was early elementary, if I knew they knew how to do the work, understood the concept and it was simply easy enough for them to do the work in their head or without really thinking, I didn't worry about whether or not they wrote anything down for the "show your work" questions. This didn't go over well with some of their teachers, but I had to remind myself, this is only early elementary - unless this is preventing them from moving ahead with more challenging math, I just let it go and ignored the complaints from the teachers. I *did* always first ask my child why they were having a hard time with showing their work, and explained to the teachers what the issue was but if the teacher was sticking firmly with must-show-work I just stayed zen about whether or not that part of my child's homework was blank.

    Re writing "too hard" - I would tell my kids that *I* wasn't going to let them write that, even if it was ok with the teacher. We haven't had exactly that issue, but we have had a few times when teachers tell our kids they can skip things that I as their parent think are important for them to learn/do, so we tell them they have to do it because we said so. Sounds domineering and non-child-centered.. but.. it's only a few things here and there smile

    Re not particularly liking writing and having sloppy handwriting - if nothing showed as a concern in his testing, I wouldn't worry about it - all of that is fairly typical at his age. If you start to notice that he is slouching over his work, has an odd pencil grip, rubs his wrists a lot or seems to have much sloppier work than his classmates, then I'd wonder if something else was going on and if discomfort with handwriting was causing part of the reluctance to answer the problems. Having a child who was showing resistance to handwriting that was related to an undiagnosed (at the time) disability in K-1, the thing I noticed about reluctance to write was it was across the board on *all* homework, not just the "show your work" problems in math.

    Best wishes,


    #167109 - 09/10/13 11:00 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    ConnectingDots Offline

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848
    Polarbear -- thank you! We told him as soon as we discovered the whole "too hard" thing that it might be okay with the teacher, but not with us. He still thinks us patently unfair, of course, but so be it. However, he usually does his homework before we pick him up from school and has been trying to get past us by saying homework is done. Lovely.

    He is extremely farsighted (corrected and making great progress thanks to a wonderful eye doctor). My guess is that he's not as coordinated on writing yet, given that he also struggles with tying his shoes. (He can do it, but dislikes it as they don't always stay tied.) We will watch for what you mention.

    #167202 - 09/11/13 06:04 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    KnittingMama Offline

    Registered: 04/04/12
    Posts: 267
    Loc: California
    When DS was in 1st grade they had a short template that went along with the word problems. It was 4 fill-in-the-blanks (I don't remember the terminology used, but it was something like this):

    data (4 apples, 3 apples);
    word clue (the word(s) used in the story problem, like started with, gave, ate, etc);
    operation (add, subtract, etc, what you need to do to solve the problem);
    math sentence (4 + 3 = 7).

    The teacher had this written underneath every single word problem, so it became a habit to read the story and fill in the blanks. The teacher must have had lessons on which words gave the clue to the operation.

    The math was much too easy for DS, but since he had to fill in the template after each problem, he was forced to think a little about how he arrived at the answer.

    As for claiming some of the math is too hard, I do think it's important to push a little on this. DS has fallen into the habit of quitting when the work gets challenging, and it's proven hard to get him to move even slightly beyond his comfort zone. Nip it now, because it doesn't get easier!

    #167204 - 09/11/13 06:15 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    HowlerKarma Offline

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181

    Yeah, the "too hard". Make a home rule that everything that's too hard requires you to look at it and see if you can help.

    [nodding] Yes!

    I also agree with KM-- both that it doesn't get any easier as they get older, and that you'll want to push a little on the challenge front.

    I love KM's description of that teacher's method of encouraging students to tackle word/context-rich math problems systematically-- that is GREAT!

    Math has been the subject of Battles ROYALE at my house, between two volatile and assertive PhD parents... and one self-determined, perfectionistic PG princess*.

    * as in The Princess and the Pea Pi. wink

    Edited by HowlerKarma (09/11/13 06:16 AM)
    Edit Reason: because I type good, REAL good... before coffee. Evidently.
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

    #167205 - 09/11/13 06:23 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    ConnectingDots Offline

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848
    Thank you all! I was speaking with my mom this morning and she reminded me that some of this may be anxiety left over from last school year. He was doing the next year's math book, mainly with us at night, after his regular homework (yes, after things like two plus two) and there were some epic struggles, sometimes because he didn't want to do it, sometimes because frankly, the directions stunk and sometimes because his writing was poor and we or the teacher made him redo things we couldn't read. (Nice run-on sentence, eh?)

    I love the methodology of breaking the problems down, too! He doesn't struggle with figure out word problems (yet), but it would give him a way to structure his work.

    On the plus side, he did do the "extra or formerly too hard" page without being asked to do so by us. Unfortunately, he didn't fully follow the directions and so, we had another crying fest this morning when we reminded him he had to finish the work.

    It seems like he should be happier about doing math work. Ugh!

    #167207 - 09/11/13 06:33 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    Dbat Offline

    Registered: 02/14/12
    Posts: 353
    We use rewards, rewards, rewards. I know some people don't agree with that approach, but it really works for DD. Otherwise she just complains that she wants to learn new math stuff but will really push back about sitting down and doing the work. We use anything from extra video game time to dessert (yes, I know frown but with her it's pretty much the only thing that is guaranteed to work.

    Good luck!

    #167208 - 09/11/13 06:49 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    Zen Scanner Offline

    Registered: 07/13/12
    Posts: 1478
    Loc: NC
    Math instructions fail right out of the box when they say "show your work." It doesn't exist. There isn't "work" to show. It isn't that it happens so fast; it is that it comes together so differently between lots of connections in the brain. So, a gifted kid is forced to lie by answering something that says "show your work."

    So "show your work" needs to be redefined, perhaps as "explain it for someone who doesn't have your skill." There are lots of ways of repackaging it: "if you had a tiny robot who could only move one number at a time, how would you instruct it to solve this problem" anything like that. It also helps to model explanations yourself. In a grocery store, I talk out loud converting to price per unit or price per ounce. I've also used the eating an elephant one bite at a time example. There are some mental math tricks that make large problems easy to solve and patterns that simplify things. If you start with something crazy large and show tricks, that may also get him to look at things as puzzles and not "problems." Like what is 9998 times 103?

    DS7 has PG level math skills and mixed farsightedness (one eye is more extreme than the other.) He struggles with handwriting, but is praised for his explanations of what he does in math.

    #167210 - 09/11/13 07:11 AM Re: Math Homework [Re: ConnectingDots]
    22B Offline

    Registered: 02/10/13
    Posts: 1228
    The "show your work" idea may be fine in theory, but in practice it just ends up being ritualized busywork.

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