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## MathInTheBlood

Posted on Apr 30, 2005 @ 18:25 by CarolynJohnston

Carolyn's side of the story of this website

My husband and I have always worked with our kid on his math homework at home. We're both Ph.D. mathematicians, and he never had much of a chance to be anything other than wonderful at math. Every night he would either do his math in front of us, or we would check his work to make sure that he understood what had been covered.

In fourth grade, last year, his school switched from the curriculum they had been using, Saxon Math, to a new math curriculum, Everyday Math. I knew the change was coming -- it was announced the previous year, and copies of the new book were left out for parents to review and comment on (and did I review it? ... actually, I didn't, because I was too introverted to Get Involved).

Math, formerly my son's strongest subject, became an everyday struggle for him and for us. Our biggest problem was the frequent appearance of problems involving skills he hadn't been introduced to yet. First it was multidigit multiplication, a topic that practically all kids learn in the fourth grade anyway; but its first appearance was in a problem set that came early in the year, before the topic was taught.

I don't think the Everyday Math guys intended the kids to approach those problems with the standard algorithms. The problems were always of the sort that you could hope to figure out with common sense. For example, the first multidigit multiplication problems were of the 51 times 3 sort... if you were a bright fourth grader with an adventurous attitude, and some energy left over from the day, you could hack around for a bit and discover for yourself that you could get the right answer by multiplying 50 by 3, and then adding another 3 to your answer.

But then, in the next night's homework, there was 23 times 4 to be similarly discovered. Some night soon, I feared, there would be 324 times 5, and then 324 times 54. He would be like Archimedes, rediscovering math from first principles every night. Enough, I thought, and I taught the multidigit multiplication algorithm on the spot. Later that year, I taught my son long division... and drilled him on it every night for a couple of months, since it was a sticking point for him. When problems such as 4 times 1/2 appeared, I sighed and taught him how to do fraction multiplication calculations.

Somewhere during the year, I realized that I was teaching him a lot of basic mathematics, but in a completely reactive way; I was allowing the Everyday Math curriculum to dictate the order and the style in which I taught math. If I had to teach my child math myself, I wanted to be doing it on my own terms, in the manner that I thought was best -- and I was sure, at the time, that I knew what that was.

MathInTheBlood
ReactiveTeaching
NowThatWereBothHere

StrugglesWithLongDivision
ForgivingDivision
ForgivingDivisionPart2
TryThisWithForgivingDivision
TeacherGuideEverydayMath
EverydayMathEpilogue
ThirteenQuartersInTerc
HowNotToTeachMath
WhoSaysLongDivisionIsHard

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