Learning to love math

Recently I wrote about how we have been struggling with Kyri’s attitude. Often when we would start working on our math work for the day, she would immediately get huffy, turn around in her chair and just completely shut down. I know she is a bright girl, and so it would pain me to hear her say she hated math, because I know she GETS it, her frustration just gets in the way. I have been working to really listen to her, to try and figure out what she needs, rather than just respond to the behavior.

Some days this is easier said than done, but overall we have made significant process. To get her out of this rough patch, I have had to make some changes in our homeschool routine. First, I had to back off a bit and relax myself. She’s five, and since she has a late birthday, she technically wouldn’t even be starting kindergarten until Fall 2012. We are also schooling year round, so its not like I need to meet some June deadline to have a set amount of work done. Geting stressed out about school (both of us) is counterproductive – if she hates school, what have I accomplished?

Second, I changed our approach completely, at least for a short while. Kyri did not want to do her math worksheets – covering counting, estimating, addition and subtraction, and place value. So we stopped doing worksheets. We sat on the floor and used small river rocks from the craft store. I would place a handful in front of her and ask her to set up rows of ten, and then a small row of whatever was leftover. How many groups of ten? How many leftover?  She loved it. She started grabbing her own handfuls and counting them out. Next we made a long number line the middle of the living room floor using blue painters tape. I pulled out our addition and subtraction flashcards and she would have to step up and down the number line to solve the math problem. She was having such a good time doing this – she was jumping around solving math problems and giggling, and insisted that I “take a turn” so that she was calling out problems while I jumped around the number line. This really helped shake her out of her math funk, and we have been able to do our math workbooks again. I can say to her, “visualize being on the number line, where are you starting and how many steps forward are you taking?” Finally, by listening to her, I learned that she didn’t always like to write – who knows, maybe she’s not feeling it one day because she is tired, or just because. Obviously I want her to write her work down to improve her handwriting, but to me, its more important that she is DOING the math, so if she starts to balk at doing her work, I offer to let her narrate to me. I start off by asking if she wants to narrate half the page, and write the other half. Some days she agrees, other days, she wants to narrrate the whole thing. But she is doing the math in her head, which is what is important to me.

Another thing that I learned when I started really listening to her is that she has been anxious to start time and money – my plan has been to finish working through place value before moving on to time and money, but for some reason she is really excited to start the next topic. So we started working ahead. We try to do addition/subtraction each day and then take turns covering place value, time or money. We have come a long way in the past month – we rarely go through the scene I described anymore, which makes me VERY happy. I thought it was fitting that this week’s writing prompt at The Homeschool Classroom was to discuss our best recent homeschool moment. Given all we have been through in the past couple of months, one of my best recent homeschool moments has been Kyri finishing her math work, and then eagerly working ahead because she is enjoying herself. And for fun, she likes to make up little sheets of math problems for me to do. Getting our kids to WANT to learn and to enjoy themselves while doing it – this is why we homeschool, right?

9 Comments on “Learning to love math

  1. HAHAHA she wants to get to time and money. Is she a future CPA in the making? Awesome. Glad you figured out how to get her interested. I was always bored with math in public school (in elementary) because of the slow pace. Then with the switch to algebra, I didn’t pay attention enough and didn’t get the puzzle until later. But once I got the puzzle, I got it.

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    • haha maybe once she understands money she’ll realize that office and craft supplies aren’t free! one thing with teaching her the number line – sometimes she asks me a question like what’s 2 minus 3 or something that would have a negative number answer. instead of telling her we can’t do that type of math, we are teaching her early that the number line can actually go backwards past the zero and give up negative numbers as answers. she might not fully grasp it right now, but I want her to be familiar with the concept and not struggle with it later.

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  2. Came over from The Homeschool Classroom. Good thoughts about math! My 5-year-old is doing the same – refusing to work. Our version of the number-line jump-around activity is I took Sunny outside and drew the number line in chalk on the driveway. Math AND playing outside! Win win! (And then we got interrupted by someone showing up at our house to talk. Grrrr.)

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    • that’s a great idea about the sidewalk chalk – I think we will try this next time (and its nicer than pulling tape off the carpet…). thanks for the comment!

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  3. I love to read someone doing similar stuff with the same age of child – I just posted my math techniques too! My son is not into worksheets anymore at all. I’ve had to totally switch gears, and I’ve stepped back quite a bit. Making it engaging is so important I think, and you really hit the nail for your daughter. We do a lot of puppet shows, so I incorporated math into one of them the other day, and I made it very funny. My son loved it.

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    • One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that SHE is the student, not me. I might think worksheets are fun and wonderful, but she may not feel the same way. BTW I love the idea of using a puppet show!

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  4. Pingback: First Grade Math Curriculum | the vegan bee

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