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25 Oct 2005  20:48
Susan on parents getting kids through math class
Even with bright kids it is apparent to me that the math parent can seriously make or break the deal. This is exactly what we're up against, only our kids aren't particularly encouraged to ask for help. The teacher actually made a joke about this early on. "I don't like it when you ask me questions," she said. That was a joke. Our accelerated course, which is the only course taught at roughly the same level as math courses in highachieving countries, is defined, from the getgo, as a course for mathematically talented kids. Kids who just naturally have it. Christopher does not naturally have it. The only way he's going to get it is through teaching. That's why I have to keep 2 steps ahead of him. I have to learn all this stuff (which, yes, I'm enjoying, but still) just to have a shot at pulling him through this course. Interesting, though, what Susan says about high school. I have a terrific article by Willingham about kids not knowing what they don't know (I've been planning to get it posted for awhile). I wonder if, once Christopher reaches high school, he'll be able to tell what he knows & doesn't know better than he can now. At the moment, it's hopeless. He has zero idea whether he knows something well enough to work a problem on a test. Zero. And he's overconfident, thinking he understands and/or knows something he doesn't. Plus his teacher does not seem to do much, if any, guided practice in class, so I don't get the sense that a whole lot of Probing for Understanding is happening there. She covers the material in class; he's supposed to show up knowing it the next day. (This is the way it's always been done; I'm sure his teacher learned math the same way.) Sunday night I let Christopher do his math homework by himself, because I wanted to take the dogs for a run and I needed to pick up Jimmy & Andrew at their Program and Christopher was going over to Daniel's house and I forget the rest. A thousand things. So he did his homework on his own. I checked it the next morning, and virtually everything was wrong. I asked if he'd understood the teacher's explanation. He said 'no.' I asked if she had them do any practice problems in class. He said 'no.'
I demand a refund.
Back to main page. CommentsAfter entering a comment, users can login anonymously as KtmGuest (password: guest) when prompted.Please consider registering as a regular user. Look here for syntax help. "I checked it the next morning, and virtually everything was wrong. I asked if he'd understood the teacher's explanation. He said 'no.' I asked if she had them do any practice problems in class. He said 'no.'" This is a familiar scenerio in our home. And since the teacher doesn't really check to see if they got a problem right or wrong a major gap can emerge and the teacher not know for quite a while. The parent has to catch it. Also, my son told me that the other girl who made an "A" told him that her parents work with her. Yeah, no kidding. Seriously, I wonder if they aren't just culling the herd sometimes. In middle school.
 SusanS  25 Oct 2005
Seriously, I wonder if they aren't just culling the herd sometimes. In middle school. I think its more a question of them being unable to teach the herd with their inefficient techniques.  KDeRosa  25 Oct 2005
Also, my son told me that the other girl who made an "A" told him that her parents work with her. Yeah, no kidding. you betcha  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
Our school, as I've said a zillion times now, consciously, deliberately, and with intent (hey! I've read John Grisham, too!) culled 35% of the Phase 4 kids between grade 5 & 6.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
That was the plan, and they did it.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
Christopher's gonna get creamed possibly because the teacher is having the kids do the next extended problem in class. There's no way he can do an extended problem on his own.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
I just have to hope that only 5% of the class can.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
Of course, I don't think any of them is going to invent modular arithmetic on the spot.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
Outloud distributive property problems Word document
In the midst of my desperation I suddenly remembered a RUSSIAN MATH technique: systematic 'OutLoud' problems. Each problem set opens with a set of OutLoud problems, which are problems so simple you can do them out loud. (aka mental math, but it's a little different in that they aren't just doing computations; they're doing algebra outlouds, distributive property outlouds, etc.) Christopher desperately needs lots more practice on the distributive property in all its many guises, and is violently opposed to doing more practice. I'm not willing to let him fail a test as a 'natural consequence' because I'm pretty sure he's going to be failing an extended problem or two or three, AND because MATH, in the immortal words of Ken, IS BRUTALLY CUMULATIVE, which means I don't want to let him flunk a test on the distributive property and then try to teach it on the rebound..... So I need help. Suddenly it came to me: Out loud problems! Christopher is already used to doing them (I've been taking him through RUSSIAN MATH a bit, doing whichever lesson is closest to the PrenticeHall lessonand we always do the Out Loud problems). The other idea I'm using comes from Kumon & RUSSIAN MATH both: instead of mixing up the problems, I wrote whole columns of the exact same kind of problem. (That's what I meant by 'systematic out loud problems.'
The first column has 7 problems like these:
2nd column:
3rd column:
4th column: Obviously, he's having a horrific time distributing negative factors; it's awful.
RUSSIAN MATH devotes a whole lesson to demonstrating & then practicing the idea that: But Christopher's class glossed over this as if it were nothing more important, or more difficult, than a concept like: any letter of the alphabet can be a variable, not just 'x'. There's just no metacognitive awareness anywhere in the class. The kids don't have it; the book doesn't have it; the teacher doesn't have it. It's the blind leading the blind.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
btw, I meant to add that I don't think a tutor can get a kid through a course like this, unless you had the tutor in to the house at least twice a week.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
At a minimum.  CatherineJohnson  26 Oct 2005
"Our school, as I've said a zillion times now, consciously, deliberately, and with intent (hey! I've read John Grisham, too!) culled 35% of the Phase 4 kids between grade 5 & 6." And each of those zillion times I am still dumbfounded. "deliberately, and with intent" This is worse than incompetence. If kids do poorly in math, then it must be the kids, right? It couldn't possibly be the curriculum and the teachers? The idea of a math brain is a real copout. I can see life getting more difficult for kids once they get to algebra, but there are a lot of things that can be done in the earlier grades to make the transition easier. Many of the problems arise because they go so slowly in the lower grades. Then they are forced to cram in a lot of new material to get even halfway close to preparing the kids for high school. Our public school provides only some algebra for some kids in 8th grade. I don't know what they think. Do they think this is good enough? Ignorance is no excuse.
 SteveH  26 Oct 2005
 
