...my child sold your honor student the answers to the test...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning to Love Math

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Middle school is a whole new experience when it comes to homework. It takes a lot of organization and concentration to get through the piles of work after school. And homework counts for a lot of the total grade. Now add on top of that an ADHD kid with an ADHD mom, and it’s crazy town from 2:30 on, Monday through Friday.


In order to make sure that the lesson of organization is pounded into Xavier’s skull on a daily basis, each day when he gets home, we go through his binder, folders, and backpack, cleaning, sorting, and prepping. I also use the nifty school website each afternoon to list out the homework he has, in case he forgot to write it down. It’s only happened once or twice, but it’s a great way to double check. It also helps me because I can’t read Xavier’s scribbles even if my life depended on it.


Every weekday, Xavier will decide which lessons to tackle first, and we discuss them as he works on them. I’m finding myself fascinated with the lesson plans he comes home with, and while I don’t help him by giving him answers, I do enjoy learning as he looks stuff up. For example, the other day his social studies homework was to write his name in ancient Sumerian. While he did his own name, I sat down and wrote out the names of the rest of our family.  In Language Arts he had to write a sci-fi Cinderella story. I loved showing him how to make a note timeline for his book, and the next thing I know he has four pages fully written, and so proud of himself.


There is one lesson though, that I sit down and do with him every day, and this is math. Now let me clarify: I don’t “do” the math for him. But we’ve established a routine where we each grab a notebook, do the same problem separately, and then check against each other (and the calculator) to see who got it right. And you know what? It’s fun!!!!


This is coming from someone who loathes math with the utmost passion! I hated math, still do, and yet… I am actually enjoying (re)learning the mathematical concepts of pre-algebra. A big part of it is because I love watching Xavier grasp the concept we are working on at the time, or figuring it out myself and having the ability to teach it in a way that he understands. That “AHA!” moment he gets is priceless.


But I am also enjoying it for myself. I am finding that all of a sudden, the concepts are so much clearer to grasp than they were when I was in middle school myself. Maybe it’s because it is taught differently than when I learned. Whereas when I was in school the formulas were taught by rote, now they are taught with theory. Instead of “this is how you do problem x” it’s “Here is how to figure out problem x and why!”

Xavier can briefly describe the theory to me and it makes complete sense! And when the numbers all add up correctly, I feel so excited. Math has eluded me my entire life, and there has always been that teeny tiny voice in the back of my head that whispers “you’re not intelligent enough to grasp math. It’s too far above you.” But it’s not, so nyah!


So this becomes a win/win situation. Xavier explains the theory even if it hasn’t clicked. I’ll try a problem and it clicks. Then I can go to him and explain it in different ways, or show him tricks until it clicks for him. And then we sit together with our notebooks, and try to see who can get the correct answer first. We compare our answers, double check with the calculator, and if one of us is wrong, we try to see where we went wrong. It’s become a fascinating way to instill the current concept we're working on and double checking to Xavier, while also making it more enjoyable for him. At the same time, I am also learning, and appreciating the lesson.


While I don’t, for any reason, wish to be back in middle school, I am having more fun than I could have thought in helping Xavier stay focused and soak up as much information as he can. It makes me really appreciate how teaching has evolved over the years, and I am very pleased with the school he goes to.


Dawn Saros-Kirk said...

I hate math! I panic at the thought of having to come up with an answer. I usually defer math questions to my boys' dad. But I like your idea of you trying the problem too. Maybe I should do that to brush up on my math skills because they are definitely lacking! My oldest starts middle school this year so I'm sure the math is going to be more challenging. Have a great weekend!

SRM said...

Dawn, about four weeks ago I felt the same. I hate math, and if I could, I'd try to get my husband to help.

But he was working and Xavier needed help. So I bit the bullet. Now, don't get me wrong. I still hate geometry, calculus is like ancient Sumerian to me. But yeah, sitting down and researching the concept, then trying it out on pre-algebra? It's....kinda fun when you do it with your kid.

What grade is your kid going into? Xavier just started sixth grade this year. Good luck! =)

Dawn Saros-Kirk said...

My oldest is also starting 6th grade this year and my youngest is starting 4th.