Friday, November 19, 2010

Math Struggles~ Sharing some thoughts on our Math and Home Learning

I often post about things we find helpful in our home learning but I want to start sharing more about  some areas we might struggle in and how I go about helping the boys work through these trouble spots.

We hit a wall with our math learning this morning, well actually I would say it was really this whole week. We have been using Teaching Textbooks 7 and my son was re-starting fractions (which he has done before so some was review) with unlike denominators.  He had a really difficult time understanding because TT actually had taught adding/subtracting uncommon denominators "before" actually teaching (which was a lesson or two after this lesson) common multiples and least common multiples. So things started to get confusing.
He also had trouble with how they were explain ratios he got some of it but not all. 

There I sat with him to listen to the lecture on "least common multiples" and found my own head swimming with how they would cancel numbers and use factorization to find the LCM. I really cannot even explain it fully since I could not get my own head around it.  I often wonder if at times the people creating these programs really keep in mind that they are writing this for all different kinds of children. I don't think they really do.

My son was really getting frustrated with this and I could see it was NOT a good morning for our math. He was very concerned about his grade he would be getting on this particular lesson ( 54%), which really reflected just how far he was drowning in this lesson.  I sat down with him and showed him an average of all of his lessons and his average for all his lessons he has done so far is 106% ( yes I know very good) so he then felt a bit better ~ and I explained and showed him the lessons prior to all of this was mostly review and a bit of re-learning of some concepts which never really gave him too much difficulty, so now, I explained this is where the learning begins and moves forward.

He still wasn't convinced, lol  ( As I so often do) I ended up going directly to my MOTL teaching books and looked up a more common sense approach to teaching some of these concepts. And things began to get much better. I sat with him some more and showed him how he used to find the LCM for particular numbers and it all started coming back to him and he started getting it.

I think overall he is just frustrated with how the program explains things, where he may look at things just a bit differently so it pretty much messes him all up and he gets so confused that he just can't think.

I also remembered that we had Key To Series on our Shelf ( I had picked this up just in case and had used it a bit last year with him ) and looked up the topic of LCM and we did a few together, he did fine.  So we are going to skip over this with TT and move forward with Fractions using the Key To Fractions with him.

I copied over the booklets and have them in a thin binder for him so he can write on the pages and his younger brother can use them later on.  He was happy to be able to go to this series for learning and re-learning his fractions and if he is happy then so am I .

You can skip any lessons you wish in TT and it does not affect the grade average at the end because it only grades work you have done, so if we want we can always hop right back to TT for our next unit which is Decimals. I am not positive we will do that since my son asked about possibly working with Horizons since he liked this program so very much. So~ we may actually use that instead of continuing on with TT.  Both programs are quite similar in many ways as using a spiral approach to learning new concepts with older concepts consistently reinforced.

I have also pulled out some links to help us also in the area of fractions too~ they are as follows:
visual fractions
visual math learning

These links might help a bit more if we need extra support but my feeling is once we sit down and go through these things again with our Key To booklets we shouldn't have any further problems.

Next I do plan on tackling ratios since this also was a trouble area for him with TT and so we will work on this area next before we move forward.
I am planning on using MOTL to help us with this and then move forward.

I suppose my reason for explaining all of this is to just show that not everything works wonderfully and without any problems, it would be nice if it did wouldn't it? But it doesn't, so we need to be able to sometimes pull from other areas and resources when trying to master a certain skill/concept. 

As I have really tried a few different math programs I am now really contemplating going back to using MOTL for our spine for math concepts instead of relying on Teaching Textbooks.  Using MOTL with another program is very workable because it is so flexible so a workbook approach like Horizons can work nicely with something like MOTL so I will need think about this more and then talk things over with my son as well. ( I can imagine some may be wondering why if MOTL is such a common sense approach would I not just use it for working through PreAlgerbra- I have used it but found as we get rolling I am continually having to find worksheets upon worksheets because the boys want to do more and more practice problems, I know what a problem to have isn't it?- so that is my dilemma I suppose- one that I will think more about over the coming weeks)

Keeping things moving and allowing flexibility in the process is key to our home learning success. We have learned over these years of working with each other when something isn't working or may really need to be altered we just do it and don't really look back. I am very thankful for that. Their dad, who plays an active role in our home teaching also agrees with this and is so very supportive when something is needed or a "change in course" happens.  There are lessons to be learned in everything, even in our struggles when we are attempting to get something right, but we can't change who we are or how we learn just because of a program.

I am hopeful this helps and encourages some who may be finding they too, are having struggles in certain areas of learning.  Sometimes we need to just move slow and steady and other times a change is needed -some bigger than others but the main goal should be the learner and helping them feel good about their abilities and understanding while learning at home. :)


Cindy K. said...

I am so glad you are taking the time to go back and cement these fractions concepts with your son now! There are 2 major reasons kids fail, or struggle and learn to hate, Algebra when they get there. The number 1 reason is lack of confidence in fractions and all of the manipulations with them. (If they can't do it all with real numbers, how are they going to handle the manipulations when you introduce an unknown in there?) The number 2 reason is the panic that occurs when alphabetic characters have suddenly entered into their math problems! LOL! (The way I help kids get over this problem is remind them that in FIRST GRADE, they were often asked to solve a problem like this: ____ + 8 = 15. And they had to come up with 7. The only difference (in the beginning) with that equation and Algebra is that we are now using a placeholder, usually 'x', instead of a blank line or a box. Often times, this simple comparison takes some of the fear out of seeing 'x' in their problems!)

We too, have taken a short break from my son's math program, Life of Fred. He just finished the Pre-Algebra 1 book last month, but had started struggling at the end. He passed the Final Bridge, on his 3rd try, after introducing him to Hands-On Equations to help him understand solving simple algebra problems. So once he passed, I asked him if he would like to spend some more time with HoE before starting Pre-Algebra 2, and he said yes. (Incidentally, this is the son that REFUSED to use HoE last year when he started Pre-Algebra 1 and I wanted him to work on it 1 day/week! He said he didn't like it! Gee, now he has a need for it and WANTS to do it! LOL! Oh, and I did NOT remind him of this fact. Just filed it away for future reference!) We have spent about 3 weeks working on this, including a couple nights/week with me taking him through the lessons one-on-one, something he rarely gets from me, and he has really been growing in understanding! He finished the Level 2 book today and we are putting Level 3 off until after LoF Pre-Algebra 2, when he will be otherwise preparing to start LoF Beginning Algebra. (The concepts are getting quite advanced at this level and would be more appropriate then.)

I have recently discovered a series from Critical Thinking Press that I didn't realize they have - a core math curriculum that involves critical thinking/logic skills as part of it! It's called Mathematical Reasoning and starts at a Pre-K level and goes, currently, through 4th grade. They have told a blogger I read that they will be completing 5th and 6th grade books as well. They also have a book in the series that can be used as a supplement for 4th-8th grade math. The core math books can be used as consumable or reproducible, are colorful, and are quite thought-provoking. They use a slight spiral method of teaching and look to be quite good. Even though my other son does quite well with Making Math Meaningful, I am thinking this core math book might still make a good supplement. Like maybe a good "Friday math" book to reinforce concepts from a different perspective and be kind of fun.

I would like to get something similar for the other, pre-algebra, son as well, but am not sure if the supplemental book will be a good one for him, or if I should find another product for him to have for "Friday math". I'd like something that will stretch his thinking more, even though LoF tends to do this, too, but that will also review those important 5th-6th grade math concepts of fractions, percents, decimals, and ratios, while he is working on his Pre-Algebra. Just to make me feel that he is really confident in his understanding of them as he moves into upper-level math.

Learners at Home said...

Cindy, Yes, I am resolved to not just keep on going but to stop and really make sure these skills have a solid foundation because they will help later on. He actually had alot of this last year but I believe the way it was explained through this program it is just crazy confusing! lol for us anyway... :) I will check out the program you mentioned I think its always good to have a few things on your shelf to pull from I am very thankful I have the things I do.
And as far as taking a break from TT - as long as we are still learning and moving forward I don't think it really matters where we are in the program, :)


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