Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Something really bizarre happened last month.

It’s taken me a few weeks to get my head wrapped around it, but I think I’ve finally managed it.

My fifteen year old daughter came to me complaining about her math.

Okay, that’s par for the course. My kids and I are all math dunces, and, knowing that, I prefer to take a low-stress approach. They have to learn a certain amount of math to function in this world, just like they have to learn to drive (that’s not a frivolous analogy – I have two children who would never have learned to drive if I hadn’t made them!) and that being the case it’s only counter-productive to let them learn to hate math. So I let them move along at an exceptionally slow pace, which would freak out any parent who was worried about the kids being at grade level, but I really don’t care about that sort of thing at all.

The bizarre thing was that her complaint was that the lessons were so boring and repetitive. She understood the point and wanted to move on, already. Here is a child who has managed, on her own, to get further along than any of her older siblings ever managed to get before the age of eighteen – about half way through Saxon 87. In other words, she was using a book that was only one year behind “grade level” and finding it too easy.

Wait. I have a child who possibly has a grade-level ability in math?

I finally came out my daze enough to figure out what to do for her. I gave her the pre-algebra placement test at TeachingTextbooks.com and she passed with flying colors so I ordered the curriculum for her. I’m switching from Saxon because she’ll be getting beyond my ability to help if she needs it, and I love the way this curriculum explains every single problem, if the student needs it.

So we’ll see how it goes.

7 comments :

  1. This is my violin student, FWIW. My second daughter was a really good piano student, but it didn't translate into math proficiency, as it seems to do with so many.

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  2. How exciting! I hope she likes TT. That's what we've used for math around here. I admire your lack of concern with Proper Math Progress. ;)

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    1. My biggest concern was that they'd develop a mental block against as I had and then be unable to learn more if they needed it, or would never even be interested in learning more. When my oldest son decided to take college classes, he worked through pre-algebra and algebra on his own (with help from my husband and another friend as needed) and did well. So, at least for him, he wasn't ruined by my approach, which is a relief. There's always that tiny worry-wort voice in my head telling me that I'm making a huge mistake.

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  3. Teaching Textbooks did very well for our daughter through Algebra 2. After that, we switched to an online course, Thinkwell, for Precalculus (which combines their Algebra 2 -- some review for our student, and some new material -- and Trigonometry.) She did well with it; the professor uses humor and explains things well. (You can ask her about it, if you're interested.)

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    1. Thanks, Kara, I'll be sure to keep that in mind. I'd seen Teaching Textbooks recommended elsewhere before, but it was when you mentioned it a couple of years ago that I really took it seriously. John started it about a year ago, and Lilian just a couple of months ago. They're both in Level 3, though in very different places.

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  4. There was an article that Alexander read recently titled something like "Five-Year Olds Can Learn Calculus". I'm thinking... "Not MY five-year-old!" I've hated and been afraid of math for a long time. I think we'll be following in your footsteps!

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    1. I saw that article, too. The woman they were interviewing has a blog, Moebius Noodles that I look at every once in a while, and I've been thinking about buying her book.

      From the article: "She doesn’t expect children to be able to solve formal equations at age five, but that’s okay. “There are levels of understanding,” she says. “You don’t want to shackle people into a formal understanding too early.” After the informal level comes the level where students discuss ideas and notice patterns."

      Calculus is about change, and about the area under a curve, and stuff like that (which I know from reading a definition, not from ever having taken a class in it), and those are ideas and properties that even young children can think about. You don't have to have a formula for that. In fact, in the article she says that we tend to mess our kids up by expecting them to perform mathematical computations that are beyond they developmental ability.

      So, anyway... I've been sick in bed today and spent my awake time writing notes on what I've learned, what I need to learn, so I can write more about it here. I don't recommend anyone actually do it the way we have, but at least you can be encouraged that by introducing formal arithmetic later and not stressing over it you can have kids that don't grow up to hate it and are free to learn it later if they decide to. That's an awfully low standard, but you see what I mean. It's better than making them hate and think they can't do it, and then having to unlearn all that later.

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