Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mathematical Musings

Today my oldest daughter needed some help on a few math problems. While I had no problem solving the math (in my head, which, let me tell you, is not helpful to a confused 10-year-old), I did have a bit of a hard time explaining it to her. She was working on word problems, and I figured them using the "harder" (but to me easier) methods using decimals, percentages, etc. The question was how to explain without all that? It's been years. Eons! In addition, and I don't know the details because I was too young, my mother tells me that when I was in elementary school they Beta tested us with a "different approach to math" that later was thrown out. Let me tell you - this did a number on me. I'm sure many kids were able to bounce back from having their mathematical foundations toyed with, but it was a challenge for me. As such, my higher level math, like calculus, always came more easily than basic fractions. I definitely don't want to pass along this problem to my kids, so I've had a tendency to be paranoid about how math is taught. 

Today made me realize that as the math work progresses, I may need to actually get a teacher's manual. Or maybe a book written to teachers - something like Math for Humans or what have you. Not because I can't figure the stuff out, but because sometimes I can't figure out how to tell my daughter how to figure it out without making it harder!! Up until now, it hasn't been much of a challenge. And practice makes perfect - my youngest two daughters are working well-ahead in math, whereas the oldest two... eh, not so much. They are both "on level" if you look at the grade levels on their books. Not that I care about grade level - I would actually prefer them to be "below" but truly understanding what they are doing than "ahead" any day.

It was bound to happen. I'm actually looking forward to when they can take some math classes at the local community college. I think hearing different approaches will be very helpful. I know many moms that sign up their children for homeschool writing, homeschool art, and so on. I distinctly remember a conversation with a mom explaining that because she felt she was a bad writer she didn't feel comfortable being the "sole provider" on the topic. I thought I got what she was saying... but now I really get it.


  1. When I can't figure out how to explain a concept to my son, I look for it on the Khan Academy website. So far that's worked for us.

  2. I know about Khan Academy, but I didn't even think of it for this. Thank you so much!

  3. I totally agree with you about being "below" or "ahead." Our mandatory testing is going to show that my daughter is slightly below grade level. However, she truly understands what she learned this year, and she knows how to apply her mathematics knowledge to life.

    It's hard to help kids in math, when we were all taught a totally different way. I made good grades in math by learning the methods, but I had no concept of what it meant. I HOPE I'm giving my kids the best of both worlds--the skill plus the concept behind it!