About Math: When Worksheets Fail

Two Junes ago, when my oldest wast almost six, we started with MEP, the lessons and booklet 1a. At the beginning we were both enthusiastic, by the last lessons, all she had learned was to hate the worksheets and to say the dreaded sentence, "I hate math".

This past June/July, I got Math Mammoth at a great price, the first grade book, and I promised myself to do more games and living books, but it did not work well, I ended up presenting her with the Math Mammoth or the MEP 1b booklet worksheet, since I like MEP, and my daughter started to dislike math.

In case it interests you, I'd tell you I have first grade math booklets that they use in public schools, and she can do all those things. I'm not debunking schools, I'm saying that they don't ask that much, and that to a point, I don't feel all that paper printed to fill in bubbles is justified at all, and yet here I am, doing the same in our homeschool, which I told myself I won't do. I wonder if being a former teacher helps or hinders.

Here it's where many take a different path. There are those who believe that you don't need any formal math teaching, that a child will be fine with what his or her own interests dictates and if he or she needs math in the future, his motivation will make it possible to be learned. I learned not to suspect from these families. There are friends who have children that are constantly immersed in math conversations, I was even told how my friend's daughter started to learn the multiplication tables of her own accord. I guess some unschoolers will contest that it's my distrust and lack of letting go of lessons and impositions what is stopping my girls from having all these interests on things that others show. But in my perception of life, there are a few things worth to present to the children, a corpus of knowledge that I want to actively exemplify and expose the girls to, and that I will be able to do this without damaging their curiosity and love to learn.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who believe that discipline has to be applied sternly, and maybe fantasize with a different math curriculum that can make it magically more appealing. Though I don't say that a change at some points may not be very recommendable, most of the times it accomplishes nothing. When a child has difficulties getting concepts with a short explanation, and doesn't seem to advance through worksheets unless you have a math drama and tears every day, even if you first use manipulatives and adjust the worksheets, no change of curriculum will solve this, We all have abilities and tendencies, and if math is not the strong tendency, changing curriculum is not just going to work.

There is another path at least  in my understanding. Inspired by Charlotte Mason, and based on the believe that children are all capable of having love for math, or reading, or writing, there is a solution we are willing to try.

This solution is for me to first stop the worksheets for a time. We are now on a break and that's easy for us. Now this involves some work on the parent, but I hope to have some time to think this through. As a matter of fact, I believe that my lack of disposition toward math is affecting my daughter's reaction to it. I tend to go to the old worksheet just because it guides us through a scope and sequence that I believe it's a valid one to follow, for as I said, I don't like to leave it as open to her own math inclination. In addition, though my husband is more mathematical than I am, he works many of the hours the girls are in my company and in our atmosphere which is mainly composed of books, cooking, and art around, the only sought after math the girls pursue is watching Cyber Chase, which is fine, but not my ideal of all to be explored in math.

Once we come back from our trip and resume, I plan to read the MEP lessons, and look at the worksheets, and present them orally and with manipulatives. We'll also watch more Khan Academy videos, and only after this basis is solidly laid, I'll look at the worksheets again to see how to use them. Some of the exercises she could do better, but in the midst of some very challenging, she soffocated. I truly will read those math books we have and love and I'll be getting Life of Fred 4-Book Elementary Set # 1 : Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs. I've read the sample pages, and it's something I feel I'd love. If I get passionate about something, my girls usually tag along, for sure the math short lesson will be more appealing. Life of Fred has four books on their Elementary Series. This is not a curriculum, they are not textbooks, they are books that integrate math and other disciplines, and I'm hoping they'll make us see math around and be more in tune and in love with it. There are some exercises at the end of the chapters, but I also believe you can use your discretion if to do them or not.

While I understand that this living math is non orthodox, and that I feel much more comfortable with a program, I can't deny the fact that my daughter's reaction goes beyond not always loving the worksheet. She does not experience success, she can't fill the worksheet independently, she is not lazy, she simply can't relate to those numbers in the paper as being something of importance to learn and engage with. I wish she were different, but she is not, and guess what, I was like her, so not because now I'm the mom and on the other side of the equation, I have the right to expect her to relate to math problems on paper out of context. My math teacher had to inflate my grades to match up my otherwise excelling report card. Math is the only subject I've gotten a D or I for Insuficiente, one term in high school.

I do think that if I can achieve consistency and develop love for math with the games, living math books, and Life of Fred books. I hope to be able to reintroduce all the concepts that MEP teaches and not to burn her with the worksheets anymore.

1 opinion(s):

factivation-for-multiplication said...

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

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