Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Struggling with Homeschooling Math

We had a busy day planned today.  We were actually going to have karate class today for the first Tuesday in over a month!  I asked the boys to pick out some schoolwork to bring in the car with us.

Evan was finished his schoolwork by the time we reached the end of our road.  He worked on a page counting by 3's in his math book and a page adding ch- or sh- to the beginning of words in his reading book.  He didn't need any help to complete any of the work and he was feeling both happy and proud of himself.
 
Alec and Ian had both brought a book with them in the car.  Ian read another chapter in his Roscoe Riley book while Alec read his Warriors book for the entire car ride.  Ian's book is due back soon and he's been planning how much he needs to read each day to be finished by the time the book is due.  I think it's an early and rudimentary start to time management and I like to see him planning ahead and setting goals for himself.

Everything was going great... and then he pulled out his math book.

Our wonderful days often come to a screeching halt because of math!


I never minded math and was actually pretty proficient in it.  I found Algebra to be both challenging and, dare I say it,-- a little fun?!   I liked finding the value of x, or using the foil method.  I never understood when I'd use it but I quickly memorized formulas and saw the patterns and connections in what I was being taught.

I can't say I loved math or thought it was the best subject but I don't remember dissolving into tears over every assignment.

Yet I find that more often than not this is what happens with my older two.

Usually when the assignment is over they both agree the tears and anxiety were for nothing but it is often the way the lessons start.

It's so frustrating.

We've tried to many different things to make math less stressful:

  • We tried stopping math work completely for a while and just playing math games and having fun with math..  
  • We turned to workbooks to make sure we were covering all the relevant topics and the boys enjoyed knowing that two pages later they were done.  
  • We tried reading math stories like Grapes of Math and the Sir Cumference series then planning a follow up activity.
  • We tried using online resources like Khan Academy or ABCYa math games. 
  • We tried an oral math series thinking that it was all the writing that they hated.
Each of our techniques for a while but then we seem to be right back where we started... frustrated and in tears.

They have jumped around from book to book and from page to page mostly working on the same skills for the past few years in fits and spurts.

Now we're starting to cover new material and it's been torturous.
 
Ian was trying to work on his math book in the car and his first page was just asking him to measure various objects and write down the measurement in inches.  It was easy and he was happy.

He then picked a page that dealt with breaking down each inch into halves, quarters, eights, and sixteenths.  I thought he'd have no problem with it since he's been working with my husband on using and reading rulers and tape measures.  We've also spent the past few months working with fractions; adding them, reducing them, multiplying them, dividing them, etc.

Without even answering more than a single question Ian started getting upset and I could tell that he wasn't even listening to me or any of my explanations.  

He kept staring at the book insisting he didn't know any of it and this was too hard.   He claims he in incapable of remembering anything about math.  I know that's bogus but I was at a loss to help him-- while still DRIVING!

I finally got him to put the book away and told him I would help him later.
   
Oftentimes I find that just taking a small break and stepping back from the subject that is frustrating us the only thing I can do. 

We went to a store or two and finished some of our errands.  As we piled back into the car and headed to karate Ian pulled out his book again.  He wanted me to help him finish his school work before karate but I told him I couldn't help him until we got home since I was driving and once we arrived at karate it would be time for karate.

He skipped the top section he was stumbling over earlier and completed the entire rest of the page.  

On his own!  

Without tears!

He then even went back and filled in the top section using the information on the rest of the page to help him.  Suddenly he saw the patterns I was trying to explain to him earlier and everything just clicked.

 I asked him if he realized that, more often than not, this is his pattern:

  • He looks at the math page, starts hyperventilating and getting all upset claiming he can't do it and he doesn't know what to do.  I convince him to walk away after getting frustrated myself and trying not to yell at him or tell him the answers.  
  • He walks away in tears gulping and sobbing, only to come back just a few minutes later and sit down to complete the page.  
Grinning he told me he had noticed that pattern too.

I asked if he could just not freak out first but tell himself he CAN do this and have a positive attitude so we can approach math with confidence but he told me he didn't think that was possible.

I really wish he could start to see himself for the bright young boy that he is.  I have struggled to keep math fun and incorporate games as often as I can.

It's giving me a headache.
   
 And I haven't even told you about the struggles with Alec's math page dealing with finding area of squares and rectangle.... that required us to apply two digit multiplication.  Really I'm thinking double digit multiplication is all I need to say and most of you will know just what I mean.

I was feeling a bit dejected by all the strife over math.  It's exhausting! 

Ian was busy setting up the Monopoly board while Alec and I were working together  Ian asked us to play when we were done.  I'm not a huge Monopoly fan but know it's very educational for the kids.

I told Ian that if he wanted to play he had to be the banker since I really didn't want to.  He wasn't happy about it but he grudgingly took on the job.  Alec was our realtor and both boys spent their time adding, making change, mortgaging properties and carrying out their own transactions.  We talked about probability too when Ian kept landing on Go To Jail every time he went around the board (or half around the board as it so happened).

In other words happily applying math... without tears and frustration..  


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