Tips for mathy child

Posted by: Isabel

Tips for mathy child - 02/13/19 02:59 AM

Hi, I would like to ask for your advice regarding my 6 year old son, who has been identified as gifted and is specially strong in mathematics.

Right now he is attending a school which is not ideal, but probably the best we can find around here. They don't have fancy premises or a lot of resources, but the teacher-child ratio is really good (2 teachers for 14 children). They have an open approach to learning, lots of time for free play and many books, Legos and table games.

My son seems to be doing fine there (although he often requests to be homeschooled) and I think they will generally be able to meet his needs. However, I am not so sure about maths.

Maths is the area where my boy shines and I would say the one domain where his giftedness becomes obvious. His favourite question has been "how many" since he was two.

Over the years, we have done a lot of oral and mental maths, as this never failed to entertain him. He has been adding and substracting two and three digit numbers in his head since he was 4, as well as skip counting, counting backwards, decomposing numbers, etc. He always comes up with strange mathematical games, like adding the days of the month, or finding out how many minutes he slept tonight.

Last month I thought that it was time for him to learn in a more systematic way, so I bought an online subscription to Beast Academy, just to try. We began at the third level, as levels 1 and 2 are not available yet, but so far he has been able to do all the activities and he seems to be enjoying himself very much.

So, yesterday we had a meeting with my son's teacher which has left me feeling uneasy and insecure. I brought up the subject of his maths abilities and told her that he has been asking to work on multiplication and fractions.

She says that she is aware that he is ahead of the group and she is trying to give him more advanced materials (addition up to 100 instead of addition up to 20), but that he still needs to work on the basics, that he needs to work with manipulative materials and that he needs to understand very well tens and ones. Also, that he needs to learn the mathematical symbols and that he still reverses some letters and numbers and that he is too young to be doing maths on a computer.

I told her that my son has always refused to work with manipulative materials (I have already tried many times) because he usually understands the concepts very easily and works much faster just with his mind, and that while I agreed that he needs to work on his graphomotor skills, I thought that it was cruel to make him slow down his mind just because his hands can't work at the same pace.

So, it seems that we have agreed to disagree and that he will have to keep working on addition and substraction for a while. And I have been left feeling as a pushy mother who is confusing her child introducing too many concepts too early. So, apart from venting, I would like to know what have been your experiences with mathematically oriented children and what have you done to meet their needs.

Please forgive any mistakes, as I am not a native English speaker.

Thank you for your help!
Posted by: KJP

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/13/19 03:18 AM

Hi Isabel,

Iíve used used Dreambox and Beast Academy for similar reasons with my children. I would just ignore the teacherís comments. Beast Academy is a well regarded program. It will not harm your childís development.

At teacher conferences this year one teacher mentioned how wonderful it was that my son could solve problems in so many different ways. I think his work with Beast Academy has helped develop this skill.

It sounds like youíre doing a great job meeting his needs. Keep up the great parenting and donít let the teacherís comments cause you self doubt.
Posted by: Platypus101

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/13/19 04:08 AM

I second KJP. You are only pushy if you're pushing. If you are responding to his needs, that's good parenting. As long as it's child-led, it's pretty hard to be "too much too early".

Many teachers have pretty rigid ideas of "developmentally ready", that worship the calendar and ignore the child. If he's enjoying Beast Academy (a pretty awesome program) and wants more, then he's ready for more; don't worry about "confusing" your child with above-age math. If it's too much for him, he will stop enjoying it and wanting it.

If you need some reassurance for yourself that allowing him to accelerate *at his own chosen pace* is good, not bad for him, the research is pretty clear one this one, and summarized here:

Some schools are more flexible, but many of us live in areas that abhor acceleration. Keep working on your school, gently but with confidence, but also recognize that if they won't meet his needs, you may have to do so at home. I don't know how long your on-line subscription lasts, but perhaps if you switched to the paper version your teacher might have a less visceral reaction? A workbook might feel more familiar to her, and Beast Academy, full of cartoon monsters, might seem less threatening than the online drilling machine she may be envisioning.
Posted by: ruazkaz

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/13/19 04:36 AM

Our son was in a similar situation and we pushed the school to give him more challenge and they did not. We kept giving him things to do at home and at the same time continued to push the school. Finally, his fourth grade teacher helped us push and he began to do independent study during math.

He is now in 10th grade and attends a local college for Linear Algebra and we are hopeful he will get accepted to a very rigorous school for 11/12 grade.

Every kid is different but for us the best things were the local math circle, math summer camps and math competitions. Good luck!
Posted by: Aufilia

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/23/19 01:31 PM

Oh my goodness, have we BTDT before! We've heard it all. "She needs to really know the basics" and "we need to fill the gaps" and "she's only bored because you taught her too much at home" -- just imagine you can see my eyes rolling and rolling and rolling. Beast Academy and Dreambox are both fine and, in fact, the best of all the online edutainemnt things we've tried. There's no reason they wouldn't be appropriate. Your teacher probably doesn't even know what Beast Acadmey IS.

You're not being pushy so much as that your teacher has no appropriate expereince to understand your child or your child's needs. Your child is statistically unusual and she hasn't had enough kids like him to "get it". Just keep doing what you're doing and keep asking the school to accomodate. Maybe this one won't, but maybe the next one will. The best luck we've ever had with accomodation is when the teacher is on board, but IME it's almost impossible to change the mind of anyone who isn't willing to think outside the box and be flexible.
Posted by: Isabel

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/24/19 08:19 AM

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I feel much better after reading them. Raising our child is becoming quite an isolating experience, and your reassurance really helps.

Aufilia, I think you are right when you say that the teacher doesn't get him. She thinks that he just "sees" the results of mathematical operations in his head, but he doesn't understand the process, when in fact he knows perfectly well what he is doing, but lacks the verbal skills to explain it.

It is also likely that the teacher doesn't particularly like our child, as she seems to be more into artistically creative children, and our son has always hated drawing and painting and he isn't even particularly interested in books.

Just the other day he went on a school trip to learn about a local writer, and when he returned I asked him what he had learnt. His answer was:

"Well, she is now 182. Yesterday she was 181, but she has now turned 182 because her birthday is on February 22. Well, not her birthday anymore, because she is now dead, but her ghost's birthday. So this means that she was born later in the year than my friend T., who was born in January, but at the same time she is older because she was born years earlier".

Of course, not a mention about any of her writings.

So, as much as I would have liked to share my passion for books with him, I just had to laugh and admit that this is just the way he is and all I can do is nurture his interests and hope for the best. I will follow your advice and keep working with him at home, and let's see if at some point we figure out what to do with school.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/24/19 08:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Isabel
His answer was:

"Well, she is now 182. Yesterday she was 181, but she has now turned 182 because his birthday is on February 22. Well, not her birthday anymore, because she is now dead, but his ghost's birthday. So this means that she was born later in the year that my friend T., who was born in January, but at the same time she is older because she was born years earlier".
WOW! Great analysis for a 6-year-old. Lots of compare/contrast, and meaningful connection to his observations about his friend's age and birth date placement in the year.
It may possible, going forward, to leverage his natural inclination to compare/contrast and apply that skill to reading.
He may be more fond of reading for facts (gathering information), and may prefer non-fiction. For example, in reading science and/or history, he may find ample references to numbers, dates, measurements, etc to analyze, compare/contrast, and make connections to his own observations and experiences. Continuing to engage him in conversation about his thoughts may be key. In this way, his interest/affinity for numbers may overlap into reading and ease a transition to becoming an avid reader.
Posted by: AUA

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/24/19 02:56 PM

My six year old loves these Math Quest books by David Glover.
Posted by: Saritz

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/26/19 04:39 AM

Hi Isabel,

I have an 11 year old that sounds a lot like your son. He used to count until we got to preschool and then tell me the minutes (by dividing by 60). The preschool was about 15 minutes away. smile

We've had teachers who understood and teachers who didn't over the years. He was in a GT magnet for elementary, but many of the teachers just wanted to follow the calendar.

He never liked Dreambox, because you have to go through so many "boring" things to get to the good stuff. He loved Prodigymath for a while, and we've used IXL from time to time. IXL is a bit drier, but you can select what you want to work on without working through other things; ie, you can skip to multiplication, area of a circle, etc.

The other thing that has made school tolerable is music. If that's an option for you find a way to get him into lessons, piano, violin, trumpet, choir, whatever.

You have my deepest sympathy on the manipulatives, and the "but I'm not sure he understands counting theory". Ugh.

One more thing. Try to find a sympathetic admistrator who can help guide him to the right teachers. We were lucky in this to have a coordinator who understood (and believed in) innate math abilities and made sure from 2nd grade on that he had teachers who were flexible and who were willing to let him work at his on pace, at least part of the time.

Good luck!
Posted by: mecreature

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/26/19 09:20 AM

We were in much the same situation .
The school promised and it seemed to always fall apart. In 4th we started on AoPS Pre-Algebra and also hired a nice High School senior boy as a tutor 2 times a week. It was a great fit. We also started math competitions and summer math camps.
I strongly recommend these for strong math kids.

In 5th grade we switch to a private school where they started middle school and you tested into your math path for the next 4 years.

He is now in 10th grade taking AP calc bc, we will have to find a local college or online course for the next 2 years.

11 and 12 grade could prove to be interesting years.
He still does quite a few math competitions during the year and summer.
Posted by: Cranberry

Re: Tips for mathy child - 02/28/19 03:25 PM

I'll add some experiences from my DD15, who will also be in Calculus next year in 10th grade.

We had opportunities to accelerate her even further, but after I read The Calculus Trap, by Richard Rusczyk, and received some advice from an old college fraternity brother of mine, now a math professor at Harvey Mudd, we decided to focus on enrichment rather than further acceleration.

There are a couple of kids who are one year ahead of her, and one who is two years ahead. Yet on SAT Math, Mathcounts, AMC, etc., she outperforms them. Mostly because we have focused on learning Number Theory, Combinatorics, Discrete Math, etc. to broaden her math knowledge, rather then driving fast through calculus. Yes, they can integrate and differentiate, but they haven't a clue how apply Cauchy-Schwarz, leverage Ptolomy's Theorom on cyclic quadrilaterals, understand the statistics and probabilities that drive every-day decisions, etc.

I recently gave her a quick run through matrices, which she hasn't studied yet, for the Math 2 Subject Test. She was intrigued enough by it to start on online Linear Algebra class to learn more. One of her math teacher's comments was that she displayed a need to fully understand the details behind new topics, not just learn the formulas. I believe that her driving need to understand and learn new subjects has been driven by exposure to the more elegant areas of math.

IME, exploring areas outside the traditional sequence and developing an interest in the broad topic of math, rather than racing through courses, has been beneficial.

So when a school is opposed to rapid acceleration, look to enrichment opportunities outside of school. Or even if they don't.
Posted by: ellemenope

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/01/19 10:20 AM

Originally Posted By: Isabel

Over the years, we have done a lot of oral and mental maths, as this never failed to entertain him. He has been adding and substracting two and three digit numbers in his head since he was 4, as well as skip counting, counting backwards, decomposing numbers, etc. He always comes up with strange mathematical games, like adding the days of the month, or finding out how many minutes he slept tonight.

I would keep doing this kind of stuff. I also thought second grade was too early for computer math. And I didnít want to encourage that. DD played lots of math games in school as enrichment and memorized multiplication tables early on in a fun way. We also let her read a bunch of math books. She loves reading so it made sense to use that. I think beast academy is a great idea. Also life of Fred. But my dd didnít do the actual curriculum. She never did a single math workbook. Around 4th grade she became more self directed in math using online materials, and I donít think sheís been hurt by the slow start.
Posted by: Isabel

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 05:04 AM

Thank you all once again for all the thoughful responses. This thread has made me painfully aware of the lack of resources available where we live for mathematically talented children. In our area (small European city with a large university) there are no maths enrichment programs, apart from some after-school classes directed to children who are behind. There are a couple of abacus/Kumon academies, and that's it (my son tried abacus once and absolutely hated it).

So, it seems that any enrichment will have to be done at home. This is making me quite anxious because both my husband and I are very non-mathy (we both dropped maths at 16) and I feel that I soon won't be able to teach him.

So far, my son has been learning in a very non-systematic way. He can't add in columns or regroup because we basically let him figure out himself how to add - he first learnt to add up to 20, then learnt how to add tens and we then reminded him that he could decompose numbers in tens and ones and then add them up, so he never had to deal with regrouping.

However, now that he is more advanced I am feeling quite lost, because I don't know what to teach first or how to lead him so that he can discover what he needs by himself. I really don't know what he can do. Some things, like integers, seem to come naturally to him - working on the left or on the right of the number line is all the same for him.

The last couple of weeks we have been working on multiples and this led us to "discover" prime numbers. He seems to be interested and has been making some interesting observations on the topic: "I love 2 because it has so many multiples", "prime numbers are like blue, which you can mix with red and get purple".

He has no homework from school and the only after school activity that he does is one hour of chess a week, because he decided that he wanted to spend more time at home this year. We have never given him worksheets and treat Beast Academy just like any other game (do you want to read? do you want to play with your Legos? do you want to play maths on the computer?), although I am beginning to wonder whether we should push him a little so that he learns how to make an effort.

We are also trying to learn more mathematics ourselves and make maths a conversation topic at home, but I know that he will soon surpass us both.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 05:11 AM

A free educational resource which may be of interest - Khan academy.
Posted by: Isabel

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 05:14 AM

Thank you! I'll check them out. They look really interesting"
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 08:01 AM

Originally Posted By: Isabel
The last couple of weeks we have been working on multiples and this led us to "discover" prime numbers. He seems to be interested and has been making some interesting observations on the topic: "I love 2 because it has so many multiples", "prime numbers are like blue, which you can mix with red and get purple".

It sounds like he would have fun with the book You Can Count On Monsters at this point in his development. My kids have both been excited about different aspects of it from his age up through the end of elementary school.
Posted by: ruazkaz

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 01:02 PM

We are in a similar situation in that there were not a lot of resources for our son when he was younger. Unfortunately, Beast Academy was not yet available. If we were doing it again, we would definitely use Beast Academy, then AoPS.

With the internet, it is quite possible for your son to learn all the math and find a community of learners, like him. Not ideal for many kids, definitely including ours, but it is better than them not learning at all.
Posted by: mecreature

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/04/19 02:20 PM

We are out in a rural setting and didn't have much to work with. You do have time so don't stress over things.

Making math a conversation at home is a wonderful idea. We would do little things like pay attention to nutritional info and daily percentages of vitamins and minerals and have him figure out the missing info.

My son didn't and still doesn't like learning online. He will do it but his heart isn't there. The only exception was Alcumus and MathCounts Trainer on AoPS. I am not sure what is in Beast Academy as it wasn't available when my son was that age.

Remember you do have time.

And I will reiterate the high school tutor we had in 4th grade was a very positive experience. He seemed to get my ds at that age to listen and do things like "add in columns or regroup" and basically how to use a math book. Things we would struggle to get him to do, it would just click for him. Oh yeah, you have to leave time for a match of chess or a game of checkers too with the tutor. Then your ds can't wait till the next time the tutor show.

I guess we got lucky but there has to be others out there.
Posted by: Isabel

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/05/19 03:38 AM

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN

It sounds like he would have fun with the book You Can Count On Monsters at this point in his development.

Thank you! I checked it out and inmediately ordered it. Other books by the same author look interesting too.
Posted by: Isabel

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/05/19 03:41 AM

Thank you for your suggestions and your kind messages, mecreature and Indigo. I sometimes panic, but I guess we will manage. Maybe we can start some kind of club here.
Posted by: ruazkaz

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/05/19 04:04 AM

Starting a club would be a great idea, if you can find enough interest. We live near a major city and spent a lot of time driving to events, including a Math Circle, over the years. DS tried to start a club in our area and there is very little interest so it never really took off.

Re the tutor, DS did an online Python course when he was in 4th or 5th grade and it was over his head. Neither of us could help him so we contacted a local uni and got a tutor. The two of them deviated from the online curriculum quite a bit but he loved it.

We wanted to slow down his learning in math so we would buy the AoPS books and he would go through them with a local college professor. Afterwards he would often do the online AoPS course.

Each kid is different so we just have to find out what works and keep doing it. Good luck!!
Posted by: indigo

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/05/19 08:33 AM

If looking for a unique series of math instruction books, Life of Fred may be of interest.

Each of the children's books is named alphabetically (Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, etc). College level books are also available in the series. Each lesson is built around a simple story in the life of cartoon character Fred Gauss, and provides the reason why such a calculation would come in handy.

While some kids love this approach, others do not enjoy it. The author is a Christian pastor, some people do not consider the books for that reason.
Posted by: Lepa

Re: Tips for mathy child - 03/13/19 08:33 AM

My son is similar. He is in third grade and goes to a STEM focused private school with small classes and one teacher for every 8 students. The kids are taught math by a math teacher. The school tries to differentiate by splitting kids up into math groups by ability. Until recently I didn't think most of the work they are doing challenged him. While teachers noted that he was the "highest in his grade" it was almost like they had a lack of imagination about how much higher he could go.

The school has recently started using an online program called Matific for homework and enrichment. Teachers set the kinds of problems that kids work on and then receive reports so they can not only see where kids need reinforcement but also where kids are excelling. Since we started using Matific I have noticed a real shift in my son's teachers' understanding of his math ability. They are not only giving him problems one to three grades ahead but also pulled in a math specialist to work on enrichment with him. The specialist told me that my son is starting working on pre-algebra and that the team is meeting weekly to make sure he is being challenged and doesn't plateau.

While I was skeptical about Matific because it looks like a game and the grade-level stuff seems very easy, the head of the math education team at Khan academy (who is also an educator who has specialized in gifted education with an emphasis on math) is a parent at our school and she told me she has spent a lot of time looking at other programs and thinks Matific is excellent because it provides rich conceptual content.

In addition to the online enrichment, my son's teachers don't expect him to do as many problems to show what he knows but instead let him do a few of the difficult problems and then move on to enrichment activities like logic puzzles, which my son loves.

Generally, our approach at home has been to supplement with interesting math-related activities that do not replicate the curriculum at school and are focused on conceptual math, not arithmatic. My husband was a math kid who now has a Phd in math and he is focused on sharing his love of math with the kids. He says he never loved arithmetic but instead loves conceptual math; my son is similar. We read about and discuss concepts but we don't do any practicing or workbooks because my husband is convinced that arithmetic drills kill a love of math. We do read the Life of Fred books (as a treat- the kids love them). We love the book Very Big Numbers (by the author who wrote Counting on Monsters). My son has participated in a math circle, which he enjoyed but not enough to sacrifice his quiet afternoons at home when he gets to daydream and do whatever he wants. My son is hot and cold on Beast Academy so we don't regularly do it. There is an excellent book called Challenge Math that my son has really enjoyed. We aren't consistent about it but periodically go through a topic my son is interested in.

There is a book called Developing Math Talent that has solid advice about gifted math students.

Posted by: JasonW

Re: Tips for mathy child - 04/17/21 09:31 PM

Although Kumon is a traditional way of learning that uses worksheets, it still has its own value. Smartick is also a great new learning tool nowadays that students can easily get attracted by the content. I usually use Beestar that contains great learning materials and new learning ways for students, which makes learning interesting.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Tips for mathy child - 06/02/21 04:34 PM

Welcome, JasonW!
Posted by: Vansh

Re: Tips for mathy child - 05/17/22 07:14 AM

I would recommend Art of Problem Solving for mathematically oriented children.
Posted by: Malam

Re: Tips for mathy child - 07/19/22 11:43 AM

You can also get some math curricula like singapore math (with the intensive practice book and process skills word problems book) or beast academy online. I'm not sure how much they cost in your location.

Math Mammoth also sells downloadable workbooks by specfic topic so he can learn addition with carrying without having to go through a whole year's worth of busywork. He might like addition and subtraction 2b (introduces carrying) and the factoring worktexts.