# 11 y/o, math and concentration - need help

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My DS 11 is very good at math, has a quick grasp of the concepts and a solid knowledge of prealgebra.

He is currently studying algebra. Today it took us 45 minutes to do two problems (systems of linear equations). Why? Because he makes careless mistakes - not even in doing calculations, but copying the equations from one line to another. He will insert extra signs or forget signs, take the left side of the first equation but the right side of the second etc. Just copying stuff. And then, of course, the simple problems which have nice integer answers become complicated, the (wrong) answers become fractional - and when doing the check in the end he notices that it does not work out (yeah, it is good that he diligently does the check!) But that's twenty wasted minutes.

This is a very new behavior.

Does anybody have an idea what I can do? I would like to help him concentrate better on this stuff. It is very frustrating for him because he can do the math and enjoys it - but he does not enjoy having to redo a single problem three times.

I am grateful for any suggestions.

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Does nobody have any idea?

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One way to proofreader would be after writing the problem, read it back backwards... So for 3x -5y = 12, he'd check with 12 = 3x - 5y

Maybe using a ruler to be sure copying is accurate would help too.

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Ds17 did this with Alg 1. I had him do one problem per each side of a notebook paper. I even had him turn the lined paper sideways so that he could use the lines as columns, such as some kids learn to do long division.

Frankly, he didn't care enough to be neat. He also thought he didn't have to show all work :rolleyes: I told him that if he was going to act like a third grader in his neatness, I would treat him like a third grader. It only took a week or two of those changes before his accuracy increased.

On the bright side, by the time he hit AP Calc and AP Physics C, his work was incredibly neat :)

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Sometimes, even though our kids are bright, they are still needing to mature in other areas. One area for my son who is bright with math is attention to detail. Because he doesn't pay close enough attention he misses details. Maybe you just need to slow down your pace a bit... only a few problems a day and really hone in on copying correctly, details, etc. Or... have him show you after each step his work. You could tell him how many errors you find and he could then try and find them on his own. You might even work with him for a couple weeks, not because he can't do the math, but to help him with his attention to detail. You can then help catch things as they pop up so he doesn't have to redo everything. :001_smile:

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He does write very neatly and is very systematic (something we have been drilling into our kids from the beginning):

He writes on lined paper.

He sets the equations underneath each other with the equal signs aligned.

He writes the operation for each step behind a vertical line at the end of his equation before proceeding to do the calculation.

He does this for every single step and does no steps in his head.

He uses only the front of the paper, so does not have to turn and thus lose his focus.

???

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My first guess would be a maturity issue. Yes, he gets the math, but he is only 11 and algebra includes a logic that many 11 year-olds don't quite have yet. (my oldest son was where yours is when he was 11---we went slow and he took three years to complete algebra I and II)

That being said---I also had an 11 year-old son that improved his math habits when computer time was offered for a lesson completed in an hours time with at least a 90%. Before the incentive was offered, he would only complete 1 1/2 lessons per week. It was misery for him and me when it came to math. Amazing what a little carrot-dangling can do, eh?!

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Would reading the original problem aloud and then what he wrote aloud help catch a copying error?

It sounds like it's a copying problem only, nothing conceptual or with setup or notation, right?

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I think it is just something about the age. My 12-year-old has the same problem. She was adding a problem with decimals today and for some reason decided to multiply the numbers instead of adding them. Sometimes it seems like the simplest problems and operations become the most complex. I try to get my dd to write slower and neater or even use graph paper to write problems on, whatever it takes for her to focus more on the problem, but sometimes her head is just in the clouds!

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Welcome to the world of teenage boys on hormones.... it does get better....

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