03 November 2010

Mathematics and Homeschooling

Seems to me that every math textbook has an interminably long "review" period.  I would understand where a teacher, new to a class of 26 or so students, would need to go through a time of review to ensure that all the children are up to speed before proceeding with the year's work.  I also imagine that most textbooks are written with the public schooler or new homeschooler (who might need a review period before embarking on new material) in mind.

But I'm noticing especially now that Emperor is getting close to beginning pre-algebra that the seventh grade textbook is following a pattern of 1) long review period, 2) regular work, normal pace, 3) crazy-paced advanced "additional topics" section. 

Right now, we're in the crazy-paced advanced "additional topics" section.  It's nuts.  Within a week, the kid learned exponential notation, Pythagorean theorem, working with inequalities and using negative numbers in basic algebraic equations.  It just seems an odd sideways jump from probabilities and tax rate calculation, though I'm sure the textbook makers know what they are doing.

Much of Emperor's trouble, I'm discovering, is his difficulty in SLOWING DOWN long enough to write some basic information down.  He still can't seem to take a minute to line up his numbers before multiplying.  He was ok doing much of this in his head, but now we're at the point where (with decimals and whatnot) we really, really need to write our numbers down.  Apparently copying the problem onto another sheet of paper (lined, turned sideways so we can have "columns") is too much work.  It's better just to type answers into the computer without checking anything!  I guess "just knowing" the answer has worked for him up until now, but he had a period there where he would totally bomb grade-wise.  About three lessons have grades of 62-75.

I cannot IMAGINE setting this boy off on a multiple-choice test.  I know him.  He would fill in circles just because.  I made him back away from the computer (and hence, the permanent gradebook) and fill his answers into the notebook.  Then I checked them.  I was expecting a huge number of errors... but I didn't find them.  I guess getting away from the keyboard made him slow down? 

I'd be interested to hear what other teachers (homeschool or classroom) think and how they've worked to solve similar problems.


  1. I've never used the computer to
    teach math with, but I can speak
    to the kid who would rather not
    show their work.

    Daniel was this kid. He did not understand why showing his work
    was important if he could do it
    all in his head. It was not
    logical, you understand. ;)

    I pointed out that I could not
    help him if I could not see where
    he'd gone wrong. That did help.
    I also pointed out that Algebra
    isn't just about the answers but
    the process. Kind of like
    creating a piece of art. Being
    Daniel, he got that.

    If I had a problem with a kid
    who was in a rush to do his work and it was causing him to make
    mistakes, I'd stop giving him
    all his work at once. Probably
    just three to five problems at
    at a time. If they complain, I'd
    tell them that this method saves
    us both some unnecessary work-
    me grading an entire page with
    sloppy errors on it and them from
    having to go back and correct
    said errors.

  2. My eldest daughter has the same problem, though she's quickly seeing the light as we enter more difficult math situations. I think what REALLY helped, however, was a problem we both did last week. While she did her math to figure out the answer to my obscure question, I scratched out some math of my own while also trying to teach the younger daughter's questions and make dinner. Of course, we came up with different answers.

    We went through her math, first, to look for errors. (After all, she's 8 and new to the day's concepts, right?) We DID find one, but while it changed her ultimate answer, ours still didn't match. Next up, going through my work, shown clearly on the page. Er...there's a problem. Oh, and look, another one. Mom royally messed up, but we were able to find it all without having to retool the ENTIRE solution ALL BECAUSE WE SHOWED OUR WORK. This may have cured her...time will tell. :) GOOD LUCK!


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)