Kitchen > PrivateWebHome > WebLog > SixWeeksOn
08 Nov 2005 - 05:36

## six weeks on

We're six weeks or so into Ben's new individualized Saxon math program. I still really like it and feel good about it, but...

I'm still supplementing

Right now, for example, Ben is doing a worksheet I pulled together for him that has the following items on it: subtracting mixed numbers, solving simple linear equations, dividing fractions, and doing unit conversions. These are exactly the same topics I gave him on a worksheet last night. They are items that he had trouble with on recent occasions, that I decided I wanted to be sure he was drilling to the point of mastery.

The Saxon mixed practice sets will ensure he sees these sorts of problems over and over, but possibly not intensively enough in some cases. It seems to me that the brief sets of intensive practice problems aren't always enough for him to achieve mastery.

When I look at the sort of sheets I put together for Ben, I think -- gosh, he can do worksheets, I like worksheets -- we should do Kumon!

But Kumon couldn't target exactly the things I want Ben to be learning on a given night.

Maybe I am just a control freak.

Picking the Topics

Some of the topics are items Ben's asked me about more than once. For example, he's asked me how to divide by a fraction more than once; he keeps forgetting. So tonight he got a bunch of fraction-division problems; he got them all right. I expect I'll be able to drop that off the nightly set now (but it looks as though they'll be replaced by canceling factors in fraction multiplication problems).

Some of the topics are items on which Ben isn't following the proper procedure, and I just want him to get into the habit of doing it the correct way. In the case of unit conversions, Ben, if left to himself, will take a wild stab at an answer and usually get it wrong (converting, for example, 4.5 millimeters to 4500 meters). So he's doing a couple every night, and I check to be sure he's following procedure (which, by the way, he understands).

I started adding simple linear equations to his worksheets not because he was getting the solutions wrong - in fact, he never does get those single-step linear equations wrong -- but because I wanted to teach him the step-by-step method for solving equations. A kid can usually solve a problem like x-3=10 or 2z = 14 by eyeballing the equation, and that's what Ben was doing, every time. Things won't start getting interesting (i.e., nontrivial) until he encounters problems like 2x-3=13, but I want him to know how to approach those problems. So I have Ben do a batch of problems like the former ones, in the proper step-by-step way.

Son of Space Cadet Wonder Child

or, what it's really like around here

I don't want anyone to think that it's necessarily always a good scene around here. Getting this kid to pay any attention at all is next to freaking impossible. Give him a moment's opportunity, and he'll be doodling something (probably a railroad track*) right on the side of his homework without even quite realizing he's lost track of what he was supposed to be doing. Scream at him, and he'll stop for a moment, but very quickly he will space off again. He will rush through his homework, get an easy problem wrong, and get it wrong 4 more times before finally paying enough attention to get through the problem and get the right answer.

He's not slow at all. We've always spent a lot more time on homework than most kids have to, though, because he can't stay on task. He can't even stay on task long enough to do those horrible timed problems on IQ tests, which explain why his processing speed scores are so low. But watch him for a few minutes, and you realize it's not that he's overall slow; he's working respectably fast, but the short bursts of work are quickly interrupted by episodes of drumming, doodling, and being distracted by whatever stimulus the environment is offering up.

In short, he is a lot like me, only worse. Mild autism is like A.D.D. on wheels; noone can space out as profoundly as a person with autism. I hope he takes off with something that he really likes at some point, like I did. It's his only hope. I just feel that it's up to us to make sure that when he decides he wants to take off, he has some skills to take off with, even if I have to force-feed them to him nightly.

P.S.

If you're working with a kid who has any sort of attention deficit, I'd love to hear about any teaching or coping successes you've had.

P.P.S.

If you're an autism researcher, and you have any clue at all why it is that people from all points of the autism spectrum are so fascinated by trains, I am just dying to know.

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re: trains

Back when the twins were little, of course we were constantly terrified that Christopher would turn out to be autistic, too.

Seemed like that was the way our luck was headed.

Around age 3, Christopher was spending a lot of time lining up his Hot Wheels cars. Huge long lines of Hot Wheels. All over the house.

Freak out time.

We had the dearest speech therapist on earth (these people really are the Good Souls in life).

She told me, "Don't worry about that. Autistic kids never line up cars. They only line up trains."

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

She was right.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

I think you can count on Ben eventually finding something that obsesses him & taking off.

That's Temple.

She is the single most on-task person I've ever met in my life, bar none.

I'm obsessive myself, and I'm surrounded by obsessive people, and Temple beats us all.

Temple probably doesn't know the meaning of the word 'procrastinate.'

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

btw, the last time I was looking into all this stuff, researchers were coming to believe that ADD-spacy type & ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) were two separate things.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

This is interesting.

Looks like people are now thinking there are 3 related sub-types:

According to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders2 (DSM-IV-TR), there are three patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD. People with ADHD may show several signs of being consistently inattentive. They may have a pattern of being hyperactive and impulsive far more than others of their age. Or they may show all three types of behavior. This means that there are three subtypes of ADHD recognized by professionals. These are the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention); the predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant hyperactive-impulsive behavior) sometimes called ADD—an outdated term for this entire disorder; and the combined type (that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

source:
NIMH

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

I am in deperate need of worksheets tailored specifically to upcoming tets.

Christopher is going to have a lousy grade on the next test, because the problems on the test were different from the problems on the homework & on the worksheets I made up for him.

The teacher gave a test with huge, long equations to simplify; all the practice was on short equations.

grr...

KUMON is zero help in this regard, though I'm glad we're doing it.

I think I'm going to email the teacher about this. That was the big complaint about her teaching last year, giving much harder problems on the test than the kids had ever seen in the book or in class. My neighbor was constantly being foiled by this. She'd work her tail off writing up new problems to drill her son on X; then the teacher would give a test with super-hard problems on Y instead.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Check these out!!

I'll get them up front later (I MUST get my proposal done...).

I can't believe the work he does using only Word.

You know what???

We need to get J.D. to write a Word tutorial for us! (Or for him...)

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

I only wish I had the magic solution to keeping my daughter focused too. She is 10 yo and also high-functioning autistic. If she could put the same focus on school that she does on making endless lists of "My Little Pony" toys and drawing new DVD menus of shows she makes up....

This website is very interesting to me as we've been subjected to Everyday Math since 1st grade. Megan is now in 4th grade. Her progress report in Kdg went from "very good skills in Math" to getting 20% on tests in 1st grade. Now, she is getting C's, and says Math is her favorite subject, but that is with an aide in the classroom to keep her focused and constant practice at home.

I had some success between 1st and 2nd grade doing Saxon 1 over the summer--I think it's time to buy Saxon 4/5 and start with that, as I see "forgiving division" and other Everyday Math methods coming up that I really don't want to teach her. She also gets so confused with the language in Math--reading comprehension is very weak along with writing, so when she has to explain how she got an answer, it's really difficult. Luckily, the teachers so far don't insist on the kids learning all the alternative ways of doing a problem which Everyday Math pushes--they can solve the problem in which ever way they feel comfortable.

But I think I'll be starting up Saxon soon and was thinking of also getting either Singapore Math 3A and maybe "Challenging Word Problems 2". Any thoughts? The word problems are really difficult for her given the comprehension issues.

-- KathyIggy - 08 Nov 2005

Hi Kathy!

Boy, my feeling is: get Saxon and march through it.

Did you see the posts about JUMP?

I thought that was fascinating.

He makes exactly the same point you do, that kids with learning problems are always having problems with the language. He says math is far easier for these kids, but we're making it harder.

You may want to order one of his workbooks (I'm going to).

The KUMON worksheets have almost zero language. It's amazing.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Just finished reading all of your post—yup, I would dive into Saxon & order Singapore Math 3A AND definitely check out JUMP.

You might want to hold off on Challenging Word Problems 2...and just take her through all the word problems in 3A first (that's what I'm doing with Christopher)....but on the other hand, given that reading is a problem, you might want to see whether you can improve her reading by using the Challenging Word Problems books.

The JUMP guy seems to be saying that his math program is dramatically improving LD kids' reading, and I'm inclined to believe him.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

The JUMP info was very interesting. I might print off the fractions unit and give that a try.

I've been looking at prior posts re Everyday Math and I'm glad to see others had the same reaction I did...one post was about a frames and arrows problem where the beginning and ending frame was given with 3 empty ones in between and no rule given. I basically gave Megan the answer to that one last year as I do with the problems that always pop up despite the fact the way to do them has never been taught. There also isn't much coherence to the material presented-- In the last unit, which was supposedly multiplication, they threw in some of those logic problems like you see in puzzle books (i.e. five people each like a different food and various clues are given). It had nothing to do with arithmetic and the other material presented, and, given Meg's comprehension difficuty, she does not get these.

I look forward to teaching Megan at home--I was a "math Geek" in high school--one of the few girls on the Math team, but eventually went to law school. I thought at one time about going back to school to become an actuary. I did take night courses in Calculus and linear algebra for "fun"--I just like the challenge of finding the answer, since in law there are really not any right answers. I feel pretty confident teaching my kids Math through high school, but with an autistic spectrum kid, just finding the way to present the concept is a challenge.

-- KathyIggy - 08 Nov 2005

Did you read my cousin's story?

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Let us know how the fraction unit goes.

I'm fascinated by his ideas.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

I've been teaching an after-school program in Singapore Math & what constantly amazes me is the active loathing children feel for 'solving problems more than one way.'

They HATE that.

I find it so strange that constructivist math would deliberately create an approach to teaching math that is directly opposed to the basic nature of children, which is: THERE'S A RIGHT WAY AND A WRONG WAY.

I know I mentioned in a comment somewhere that our teacher last year, who was incredible but didn't have kids of her own yet, was once speculating to me about 'Why do kids always want to know the right answer?'

She thought it was because schools have shamed them for having wrong answers!

I simply do not understand why ed schools can't grasp & teach simple developmental psychology.

Grade-school age children are not cognitively flexible. Period.

Cognitive flexibility is something that develops, to the extent that it develops at all (!), with maturing frontal lobes.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

"In the last unit, which was supposedly multiplication, they threw in some of those logic problems like you see in puzzle books (i.e. five people each like a different food and various clues are given). It had nothing to do with arithmetic and the other material presented, and, given Meg's comprehension difficuty, she does not get these."

My son (4th grade EM) asked me yesterday if I knew what logic puzzles were (I forgot exactly what he said). I said that I needed more information. He said that he told the teacher that it wasn't math. He said the teacher told him that it helps him use his brain. I looked in the EM book that you are allowed to take home and there was nothing in there. (This is the book that has more pages about calculator use than about fractions.) The HomeLink? book stays at school and they just bring home single pages to do. I think they do this just to keep the parents in the dark. I'm going to have to go into the school to see what this is all about.

On his math page last night was a geometry puzzle. 1. I am a polygon. 2. I have two right angles. 3. Only two sides are parallel.

He was stumped. Of course, I came up with a very complicated polygon that didn't have any particular name. Then I told him that they probably wanted a trapazoid and I drew him a picture meeting the requirements. He said that that wasn't the kind of trapazoid shape they had learned about. Good 'ol rote knowledge. They can't even do what they say they are going to do.

Everyday Math - We're not better, just different, and it's ours, so we can make a lot of money.

-- SteveH - 08 Nov 2005

My kids in Singapore Math love logic puzzles!

They like those paradoxical things like, 'If a rooster lays an egg on the barn roof, which direction does it roll?'

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Re SteveH?'s comment: "On his math page last night was a geometry puzzle. 1. I am a polygon. 2. I have two right angles. 3. Only two sides are parallel. "

Megan did this page last week. My husband and I were stumped as well. We came up with something that kind of looked like a hexagon of some sort, I guess.

We do get to see the Math Journal this year as this teacher does not assign those "Home Links" but instead gives the "Math Boxes" as homework, so I do get to see what I have to "look forward to", and also see how incoherent, jumpy, and unorganized it all is. Last year, in practicing for the state tests (where they have to explain how they got the answer in narrative form) Megan brought home a problem where there were a given number of spiders and ants in a tank, and the total number of legs was given. You had to find out how many of each insect. Clearly an algebra problem, and I could figure it out that way. But how to explain it midway through 3rd grade, and to a child with comprehension issues? Trial and error was the only way I could do it.

Shockingly, my daughter (barely) met state standards in Math last year, and got a "4" (the best score) on the extended response items, but an average of maybe 50% correct on the multiple choice items, and she probably was guessing on most of them. Sigh.

-- KathyIggy - 08 Nov 2005

I could figure it out that way. But how to explain it midway through 3rd grade, and to a child with comprehension issues? Trial and error was the only way I could do it.

Carolyn just did that problem using a bar model!

That has been a Hot Topic around here!

Just go to the front page and scroll down—you'll see it!

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

and got a "4" (the best score) on the extended response items, but an average of maybe 50% correct on the multiple choice items, and she probably was guessing on most of them

That's interesting.

What do you make of that?

(Can I ask which state you live in?)

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Or do most states use the 1 - 4 grading on state tests?

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

We are in Bloomington-Normal, IL, home of Illinois State University, the state teachers college, which has been good as far as special ed/autism spectrum issues go. But the school LOVES Everyday Math, as their state math test results are pretty good--I think in 3rd grade, more than 50% exceeded state standards.

Megan does have a testing accomodation in that she took the ISAT tests last year with the speech teacher in a separate room, given her distractibility issues. I know the speech teacher worked a lot with her before the test on how to do these. But I wonder how they grade these, since on one of the questions, she got a "1" for application of the correct skill, but a "4" on the explanation?? Maybe she explained very well how to do the problem incorrectly?

Megan also met standards re: reading, in fact scoring better than in Math. But any sort of reading comprehension asking inferential questions is real difficult.

The Singapore bar models intrigue me, as I have never seen anything like that before. I got hooked on this site as I think there was a reference to it on MSN's "Clicked" blog, along with a mention of the "Russian Math" problem where 2 people leave their villages at sunrise and you had to figure out what time sunrise was. I killed an entire morning at work trying to figure that one out!

-- KathyIggy - 08 Nov 2005

Bloomington-Normal, IL

That's where I'm from!

Unbelievable!

Lincoln, IL

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

We did a post on those IL tests.....

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

MSN?

I'll have to go find that.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

here it is....

There are tons of ISAT Extended Reponse items on the web.

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

keywords: Illinois state standards

-- CatherineJohnson - 08 Nov 2005

Hi Kathy,

Did you check out Illinois Loop yet? Great site for us Illinoisians. Illini. Whatever we are.

-- SusanS - 09 Nov 2005

FIGHTING Ilini

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

I have looked at Illinois Loop, especially the part about overkill with all the projects assigned as homework, all of which require an entire shelf of art supplies, artistic talent (which is in short supply at my house) and usually end in tears and/or a family argument.

-- KathyIggy - 09 Nov 2005

Hi Kathy, and welcome! I'm sorry to be weighing in late!

I basically gave Megan the answer to that one last year as I do with the problems that always pop up despite the fact the way to do them has never been taught.

Oh boy, I remember that so well. Decimal multiplication, for example, popped up out of nowhere, as did long division. Eventually I figured out why these things came out of nowhere the way they did; the assumption was that the kids would punch them into calculators, I think. My son's classroom had a whole basketful of calculators.

I spent most of 4th grade reacting to the latest outrage in the classroom. And I don't know how good the groupwork is for the general classroom, but for Ben (being HFA) it was a disaster.

One thing you might want to consider is asking for a one-on-one aide to do Saxon with her. She's got an IEP -- you could do that. I did it with Ben this year (he's in 6th grade); check out this post. I toughed out two years of everyday math, and what a waste of time that was.

Welcome; hope you stay!

-- CarolynJohnston - 09 Nov 2005

usually end in tears and/or a family argument

I myself am partial to the Family Argument part

That's what got us into KUMON

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

You're kidding.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

Kathy: you wrote

But how to explain it midway through 3rd grade, and to a child with comprehension issues? Trial and error was the only way I could do it.

Gawd, this brings it all back. The horror... the horror...

Ditch it if you can. I regret the two years I kept Ben in Everyday Math. My reason was that math was his best class, and when they were doing Saxon it was the one time in class in which he could really excel with the regular kids. But it wasn't worth it.

-- CarolynJohnston - 09 Nov 2005

Catherine:

I kid you not.

-- CarolynJohnston - 09 Nov 2005

"Trial and error was the only way I could do it."

They don't teach bar models in EM, at least so far. They actually want your child to figure it out from nothing. Trial and error. Guess and check. They view higher order thinking skills as some sort of magical technique that allows one to figure things out without any previous knowledge.

"But the school LOVES Everyday Math, as their state math test results are pretty good--I think in 3rd grade, more than 50% exceeded state standards."

Our public schools are "High Performing" even though they still use MathLand. I looked at the state test and it was pathetically simple, and the scoring set very low standards. In our state, people look just at the scores and fail to see that the people in charge of teaching are the same ones that are in charge of picking out the test and selecting the performance criteria. It's all quite incredible. On top of that, they are also in charge of approving charters for new charter schools. In addition, our town is lobbying to prevent kids in our town from going to charter schools because our schools are "High Performing". Even though the money that follows the child to the charter school is a separate line item of the town's budget, the school thinks it's their money.

-- SteveH - 09 Nov 2005

In 2nd grade, I got them to use Math Central along with Everyday Math. She did a lot better but I think that was a mixture of me supplementing at home, and a really good classroom teacher who had been an LD teacher for 12 years before moving to a regular-ed 2nd grade. Her mom had also been a 2nd grade teacher for 30+ years and she got lots of ideas from her. Unfortunately, she and the principal did not see eye to eye and she is at another school now. Megan also worked one-on-one with her speech teacher/case manager on lots of Math.

I'm going to order the materials today, and I also let Megan's teachers know what I will be doing.

-- KathyIggy - 09 Nov 2005

Kathy,

I have an LD/ADHD son at home and even though they don't use EM, they seemed to be going in circles for the last couple of years. I brought it up time and time again, but realized that they just couldn't fix it for whatever reason. I started him on Saxon 6/5 this summer, a full year ahead of what they were teaching him. We do it every night after dinner for anywhere from 30 minutes to 45. I do Everything the book tells me to do, even if I don't think he needs it. (I believe he really should be another year up, but we're playing catchup.)

I found out interesting things about him that I didn't know, like the fact that he hasn't been taught fractions since the 5th grade. He's never been exposed to angles or triangles or any basic Geometry. He does not know how to measure. Anything. And the list goes on.

Critics complain about Saxon, but the results in my son are amazing. I do follow it to the letter, though. He enjoys it and he is successful, something he needs to feel desperately. The repetition is critical for any special needs kid. Saxon will not let them forget. I still need to modify somehwhat, but not much since the lessons are pretty short.

.

-- SusanS - 09 Nov 2005

They don't teach bar models in EM, at least so far. They actually want your child to figure it out from nothing. Trial and error. Guess and check. They view higher order thinking skills as some sort of magical technique that allows one to figure things out without any previous knowledge.

I'd be very surprised if Everyday Math is using bar models.

I brought it up, because bar models are a way you can explain fairly complex algebra problems to grade school kids.

I've shown my fourth graders some bar models for two-variable algebra problems, and they've pretty much followed them.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

I really love the bar models with fraction word problems. It just drives home that concept of "unit."

-- SusanS - 09 Nov 2005

I'm going to order the materials today, and I also let Megan's teachers know what I will be doing.

I think this is very important.

I tell all our teachers—and our principals & superintendents—everything I'm doing.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

Critics complain about Saxon, but the results in my son are amazing.

Now that I'm back with Saxon (for my own use) I think I'm ready to ditch the critics altogether.

It's a fantastic series.

If kids are showing up at college 'unprepared for college math,' I'm going to, for now, attribute that to other factors.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

Of course, Carolyn says I'm DITHERING!

WHICH I AM NOT!

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

Although I admit I have zigzagged on the subject of SAXON MATH.

Some.

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

ummm....it's a fantastic series except the story problems are lame

-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Nov 2005

It's interesting because the word problems are fine for my kid because he just isn't ready to go too fast with that, but I could definitely see them being too easy for the average 5th grader. The Singapore 3 word problems line up more with the Saxon 6/5, but I think even they get more complicated.

From my vantage point, the word problems in Saxon perfectly match the computation they're trying to teach, no more, no less. I agree that it's a weakness for the average kid, but for LD kids or struggling students in either math or reading they're about right. The average kid can handle more than what they're asking for. For the struggler it keeps the confidence thing going without much interruption.

In Singapore 3 the word problems are challenging enough, but the computation is too easy for him. Go figure.

-- SusanS - 09 Nov 2005

WebLogForm
Title: six weeks on
TopicType: WebLog
SubjectArea: FromTheKitchenTable
LogDate: 200511080035