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Math is ruining our day

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I have a ds8 who has been homeschooled since 1st grade (this is our 3rd year). Anyway, he HATES to do math. I mean, really, really hates it. It is a battle every single day. He is actually very good at it and seems to grasp the concepts quickly and easily, but he just doesn't want to do it. So he complains, he dawdles, he doodles all over his work pages, he gets out of the chair, he daydreams, he whines...anything not to just do the work. We use Math Mammoth, and are just doing the chapters in the 3rd grade book that he doesn't know well. I try to skip stuff he already knows, so it doesn't just bore him to death, but he still fights me. This is the one and only thing that makes me want to stop homeschooling. On days like today, I just want to walk him across the back yard to the school I can see from my window.


Do anyone else's children do this? It's making me crazy! Any suggestions? Or do we just keep muddling through. I just don't want him to hate math. I've always liked it and am not intimidated by teaching it in the least. I just don't know how to save our relationship and still learn the math.

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I could have written this post about both of my children last year.


The only thing that has worked for us is this...


1. Half problems UNLESS you give me grief. Then it becomes every last problem.


2. Math is timed. We do math for 30 minutes (3rd grader) or 45 min (6th grader). A minimum amount of work has to be done. In other words, in 45 minutes, my daughter must finish one lesson of math. If she does not finish, it becomes homework for the afternoon. Either way the kids are fried after that time period. IF they finish their math earlier they can take a break or read a book for the rest of their math time.

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My 11yob is like this. We homeschooled a couple years together (he is the one whose mom died of cancer, he was raised in ps and is back there now).

I had him do all other subjects first because he would take 6-8 hours on math! It was not hard. He is not at all lacking in intelligence. He has no learning disabilities. He does have the "I don't want to be told what to do" syndrome, though. And math is where he chose his battle with me. I gave him a time limit on each subject, if he chose to draw those out too long, they had to be completed after the math...


He never did change. He would sit for hours, day after day. I had to accept that this was his choice. I tried to stay unattached emotionally... it drove me nuts! But, he would not change! Some days he would decide to put in the effort and math was done in an hour. He would get about 75% correct, take another half hour to do corrections... I knew he was capable. Most days he took at least 3 hours, got about 50% correct and took another 2-3 hours for corrections. But, when he took his tests, he scored about 90%! So, I knew he had the understanding of the material. He would get up to go to the bathroom and I wouldn't let him up again for that reason for another hour. He would drop his pencils on purpose. He would get up to sharpen those pencils. He would need a drink, etc. etc. This was not going to change and since he was raised in ps and my dh was never exposed to any homeschooling, I put him back in school. I feel much better to not have to deal with that.


However, if this were my child from birth... I would have stuck with it. I would reward timely work with less problems the following day (if there were multiple practice problems, for example). I would come up with some activity to enjoy or some such incentive. (I did try incentives with the son mentioned above... but it turned into such a game and he really didn't care... like I said, this was a battle he picked to fight and he had to just sit for hours)


I hope you get some great ideas for working through this... I guess my only point is, you are not alone.

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I have two thoughts on this.


First: My dd11 was like this last year with math. She doesn't like math and didn't get it which added to the frustration. She does MUS which now she loves but I think in the beginning it was my fault for setting the precedent that she could get out of math if she ramped it up enough. I had to discipline myself to be consistent and persistent and sometimes just downright mean. Math had to become one of those non-negotiable subjects. I tried just doing evens or odds but that had two drawbacks. One, it really wasn't enough practice for her to really nail the concept and two, it still gave her the idea that she could negotiate.


I explained that math was 45 minutes. I would sit and work with her and help her in any way but that she was not to get up or waste time complaining. If the lesson wasn't finished after 45 minutes she would have to go back to it after all the other lessons of the day were complete. We had a few days that she ended up in her room because she pitched a fit but by the end of the day we would finish one lesson come h*** or high water. It was tough but after a week she realized that I meant business and she gave up and sat and did her work.


Second thought: Last year my oldest (toward the end of the year) started balking about doing her math. She would day-dream and disappear into the bathroom for 15 minutes and constantly ask if she could just skip math. After some discussions I realized that it was too easy. She didn't find it challenging so felt there was no point in doing it. I moved her ahead in the book and gave her some very challenging word problems to work on every day.


So, I guess I took the long way around saying that perhaps its behavioral on his part or perhaps he is bored. Or maybe both?

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Thanks. I did just order some fun math books from the library...ones I hope will at least spark his imagination. I think it's both that he's bored with math and that he has just developed bad habits in relation to it. It's such a fine line between challenging him with harder math and frustrating him beyond his limits. Some days I wish I could just skip the whole subject!


We did finally get the problems done today...15 story problems that took only about 20 minutes when he actually sat down to focus on it. Why can't we just get there in the first place rather than going through all the yelling and whining first?!

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Have you asked him what might make math more enjoyable for him? Maybe he would have some ideas on how to go about actually getting math done in a timely fashion, and if they're his ideas then just maybe he'll cooperate a little more readily.


There are lots of ways to get an elementary math education that don't involve worksheets. I would explore that avenue and have some fun! Check out http://livingmath.net for ideas.


Good luck!

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My daughter did this to me until we started using the timer. She didn't mind the lesson but the practice after the lesson made her nuts. I have to say though that I am a drill and practice person unless I can be sure you've really got it....she usually needs some of the practice if not all. So I would set the timer for 10 minutes and she would go at it to beat the timer. Not only did she normally finish well within the time but she usually got them right too...focus was better I guess!

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My son is good at math, but doesn't like it. What I've done is add story-based math a couple of times per week to keep him happy. I also let him play a computer math game after every paper lesson that we do. He loves to play on the computer, so he works at a decent pace on the MM lessons so he can get to the fun stuff.

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My dd is not a huge math person either. She is such a lit girl, it's scary, but I'm so obsessed with making math fun and interesting. She likes science so we are mixing math and science and reading lots of math books. I'm focusing more on games and concepts and doing life math with her.

We do include on fact practice sheet and one concept sheet that I go over with her from Saxon 2 which we are finishing.


Today we spent the entire morning putting together a math lapbook which she loved doing!

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My son got a lot better when I took Joanne's advice on this board and limited our math times to 15 min. When he knew he was only going to have to do math for 15 min, he was fine. We would either throw out what he didn't finish or do it next time. You could do multiple 15 (or 10, or 5) min. chunks. Now we can go up to half an hour without resistance.


We also switched to MUS. He calls it "the fun math" and is flabbergasted that his sister would rather do Saxon. :)

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One of the things I did in our homeschool was to set strict times that the children needed to be done with their math. We also didn't tolerate whining or griping. It may sound like I'm a meanie but I just have a low tolerance for bad attitude. Consequences for bad attitude or wasting time results in more work added. I don't believe that all the classes have to be fun or even that interesting. Sometimes they just have to accept that it is the means to an end and get on with it. :)

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My boys, ages 10 and 12, have done this many times.


My younger one needed something fun. I set him to doing drill in the form of a Bingo game. We used ten-sided dice and rolled them to multiply (Zero meant multiply by ten). Find the answer on the game board.


I have threatened--no lunch until you finish. Timer didn't work. Nothing seemed to work. Sometimes, I assigned a second worksheet--just needed drill--and that sometimes worked.


Keep trying. You are not alone. For us, it wasn't just math, but all written work.


Sometimes, I think they just need to outgrow this stage.

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My youngest does much better working for an amount of time rather than an amount of work.


In 7th grade she is doing math in two sessions, 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon.


She seems to do fine with math so long as her time doesn't go over 25 minutes and then she melts, so I split up her math to keep her times short.


Next year for 8th grade I'll add another 5 minutes to her total time, so she'll do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon.


We started this in 4th grade and at that point she did just 20 minutes of math each day in one session.

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At the risk of wining the Mean Mom of the Year award, here's my take...


I went to a military academy for college. We took lots of leadership classes. One class in particular spoke of the need to approach performance issues with the idea that it can be a "will" issue or a "skill" issue. So people don't perform because they either don't want to, and some don't perform because they don't know how to.


In the case of your son and math, it seems like it's a will issue:


He is actually very good at it and seems to grasp the concepts quickly and easily, but he just doesn't want to do it.


{Let me say, that if it were a skill issue - I would approach this very differently, but you clearly communicated he's totally capable, but doesn't "want" to do it.}


I would find a way to change his attitude into one where, while he may not love it, it gets done in a reasonable amount of time without the attitude.


I would do math for a set period first thing in the morning. Say, 45-60 minutes. Something reasonable with some margin for being 8. Teach all the new things. Encourage his participation with your positive attitude and encouraging words. And then let him know that if he is done early - he gets a break until the 45 minutes is up. No writing for him. No skipping the problems. No rewards for being difficult. Let him know what you expect, and then let him do his work.


Don't get it done - then you do it at 3.


As homework.


Until it's done.


"But Mom, I have soccer!!" Not until math is done.

"But Mom, I have scouts!!" Not until math is done.

"But Mom, all the other kids are playing outside!!" Not until math is done.

"But Mom, I have ......!!" Not until math is done.


No tv. No video games. No friends. No fun. Until your school work is done.


And no screaming, upset, flustered approach from you! No giving in. It's more important that he do his work with a positive, pleasant attitude than he be at an extracurricular activity. HE is choosing to miss those things - NOT you. It's not your problem he doesn't want to do it. It's his issue. He's capable. He's able. He just doesn't think you are serious about making him do it.


So that's what I would do. And I would not be harsh or mean or unkind. I would not threaten or cajole. I would just let him know what is reasonably expected, and then be positive and encouraging while he figured out I am serious.

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