# Slowdowns and doubting yourself.

## Recommended Posts

How do you handle it when you hit a massive slowdown in a kid who has been sailing along? Does it drive you crazy? Does it make you second-guess your program and expectations?

My daughter is almost 7 and in the last few weeks of MEP 2b. She's mastered her multiplication tables, does factor trees like a pro, reduces fractions, multiplies whole numbers by fractions or mixed numbers in her head, and answers complicated story problems.

Last week and this week she has been so vague and distracted about math. She stares out the window. She gives wrong guesses at random. Today she tried to insist that 12 - 7 = 3. She watches my face or gazes out the window instead of looking at the problem. She spaces out on my explanations and then insists on doing the problem a different way.

For example, MEP keeps giving her sets of problems like:

12 - 3 x 2 + 1

12 - 3 x (2 + 1)

(12 - 3) x (2 + 1)

I showed her that the numbers and signs are the same and reminded her that the only thing that will be different is the order of operations. She was able to describe the proper order for operations to me. And then she sat there and did problem after problem incorrectly. It's been like that EVERY DAY.

It drives me crazy. It makes me wonder if I've been pushing her too hard and she's genuinely not capable of understanding this level of abstraction. It makes me feel like a cruel martinet who is sucking the joy out of learning for her. (My usual penalty for "seriously not focusing" is that she has to run laps around the house. She's been running laps EVERY DAY during math.)

She's also gone back to just reading easy series books and Calvin & Hobbes, and reading bits and pieces out of multiple books without finishing any. I don't know if that's connected or not. Even books she likes don't necessarily get finished.

I don't think I work her too hard. I work, and we have a nanny part-time, so she has hours and hours to play, daydream, and explore at her own pace.

Any thoughts? Should I switch her over to a Waldorf school where she can do handwork and daydream about gnomes? ;)

##### Share on other sites

This has happened to my younger at times. A few months ago, he was devouring 4th grade literature but now can't get enough of Peanuts. :glare: He was reading encyclopedias for enjoyment but now prefers Rainbow Magic books. With math, he was doing well, I wouldn't say zooming along, but mastering is times tables and doing fairly complicated word problems (not on the level of your daughter, it doesn't sound, but ahead of schedule and with ease) and today he balked at division--he just kept telling me "I just don't know!!" and right now, he's getting upset with DH over some Latin review that he KNOWS. He just doesn't want to deal right now. DS is quite different from older--older is a people pleaser, always works very hard. Younger is more.....freewheeling...does things on his own schedule and it is difficult to coerce/encourage him to do something he doesn't want to do. So he goes in fits and spurts--huge jumps and then a slowdown. I don't think that's unusual.

Perhaps just give your daughter some really simple math, or play math games with her. My son adored Marilyn Burns I Hate Mathematics--you might try that.

##### Share on other sites

Happens. Breathe. You are not a cruel mother and she will be fine. :grouphug:

Remember the curve of learning. It is not a linear function. It is more like an exponential one, with huge leaps, but also LONG plateaux. Some of those plateaux, when hit, manifest as regression, even. Think of a plane. You are traveling the fastest when you feel like nothing is happening. That is a part of the game. Kids need time to process stuff. Sometimes that manifests in weird ways.

Depending on the situation, I go with one of the following approaches:

A) Take a break. With advanced children you can "afford" those breaks every now and then. Take a day off and go somewhere. I used to take my kids to art galleries, matinees and to eat out on such days. Or, even take several days off as regards that particular subject. Sometimes all you need is a break, really - of several hours or days - and things become MUCH clearer in your mind.

B) Not sure how applicable this is to your situation if you have a 7 year old, but sometimes you can give time to kids while giving them the same task, but allowing them to work it out in their time. I would sometimes give my kids a few days' worth of material where they hit a plateau and a "deadline" of an entire week to complete it and then present it to me. Something about this approach seems to break that "tension" that it is all about NOW and all "urgent", and kids can do it when they feel like doing it. Again, not sure how applicable it is for younger kids as they vary a lot in their ability to actually complete larger chunks of work alone, but with my kids it worked even before we switched to self-scheduling completely.

C) Continue with your work in the subject, but change the topic. Sort of a math break with math, if that makes sense. Give her a few days of strategy games, some fun application problems, or some other "alternative" kind of math. Sneak in some older review content in there, not the things she immediately struggles with. Maybe all she needs is a few days of such a break.

And then afterward, sit her down and if she still cannot do it, go through it with her having her explain to you what exactly confuses her. One of the best gifts you can give to your daughter is the ability to articulate precise questions on where is the problem. Work on this with her from when she is little - it saves you a LOT of nerves later, because you just remind them that they must to you with *concrete questions*, not 'general' lack of understanding, and the effort itself which is needed to reach a point of a formulation of a concrete question means that you must attempt to understand it and dissect it first. So, if possible, I would use this opportunity to teach that, too.

##### Share on other sites

I'm :bigear: because we're kind of having the same issue, but a year behind.

##### Share on other sites

Any thoughts? Should I switch her over to a Waldorf school where she can do handwork and daydream about gnomes? ;)

LOL I can relate with so much of what you've written--even this last line.

##### Share on other sites

I think it's something in the air. :lol: DS has sailed along as well, and then last week we were doing a review in Singapore 4. For this review only, he temporarily forgot how to do multi-digit multiplication, long division, and just about anything else. :tongue_smilie: Funny thing is that long division took him one day to learn, and he NEVER forgot it, even when we didn't do it for a few weeks and then came back to it. Now suddenly on a review, he has no clue how to do it. Oh, and during the section we'd been working on before that review, he HAD done multiplication and long division, so it wasn't like he hadn't seen it in a while. It was like his brain fell out of his head temporarily.

I'm not worried about it. I showed him how to do it again, and he was able to complete the rest of the review no problem. We are now doing the geometry section, which is new stuff, and it's fun for him because he gets to use the protractor. :D Btw, I HATE HATE HATE geometry. I can't wait to get through this chapter and move on to decimals. :tongue_smilie: I'm keeping my geometry hatred to myself though, so don't worry!

I think my son has just learned a TON recently and needs some time to absorb it. It's all good. We're slowing down a little bit (even skipped math yesterday!) and letting him play a bit more this week. It IS nice that they're ahead though, so we can slack off for a bit without worrying about being "behind". We'll still easily finish Singapore 4B before the end of the school year, I'm sure. I don't see anything in there that he is likely to hit a wall on. Now and then, he just needs to rest his brain a bit and let things simmer.

##### Share on other sites

This happened to my dd last month during long division. She could do it but it was torture. I went through all the emotions and thoughts you mentioned but we kept slogging along. I made a point to sit with her during math to keep her focused. I always sit near her but sometimes work on my computer or other things. I had to sit there and say, "what's the next step" a lot. Since she was so dreading math I added a few fun supplements that she did on her own like Life of Fred and books from the library but we didn't stop the long division. Her attitude about math was spilling over to a lack of interest in reading or doing anything that required mental energy. It lasted about two weeks. We moved past it and on to fractions and she is back to spending half her day reading.

I love math, it was my favorite subject in school but I do not love doing long division with my daughter.:D

##### Share on other sites

DD the Younger has days like that with MEP. If she's looking through the whiteboard (the first place I go when we run into trouble), I know there's little point continuing. If the remaining problems/lessons aren't easier/different, I leave it for another day.

We were blindsided by an a/b/c chart a few weeks ago (in a Day 5 lesson, no less!). The given rule was something like

a+3=b*3=c-3

with only two examples given, and an otherwise blank chart. While she's done plenty of work with equalities, this was both a novel presentation and had a twist (i.e. a must be a multiple of 3 for b to be a natural number).

I made a choice to fill in the a's for her and was happy she eventually "got it" enough to figure out the b's and c's. But I postponed the rest of the lesson because her brain was near fried at that point.

Edited by nmoira
typo
##### Share on other sites

We were blindsided by an a/b/c chart a few weeks ago (in a Day 5 lesson, no less!). The given rule was something like

a+3=b*3=c-3

with only two examples given, and an otherwise blank chart. While she's done plenty of work with equalities, this was both a novel presentation and had a twist (i.e. a must be a multiple of 3 for b to be a natural number).

I made a choice to fill in the a's for her and was happy she eventually "got it" enough to figure out he b's and c's. But I postponed the rest of the lesson because her brain was near fried at that point.

Oh yeah. *shudder* I remember that one. We're not too far off from where you are. That's the kind of thing that makes me laugh when people wonder whether MEP is enough.

##### Share on other sites

How do you handle it when you hit a massive slowdown in a kid who has been sailing along? Does it drive you crazy? Does it make you second-guess your program and expectations?

My daughter is almost 7 and in the last few weeks of MEP 2b. She's mastered her multiplication tables, does factor trees like a pro, reduces fractions, multiplies whole numbers by fractions or mixed numbers in her head, and answers complicated story problems.

Last week and this week she has been so vague and distracted about math. She stares out the window. She gives wrong guesses at random. Today she tried to insist that 12 - 7 = 3. She watches my face or gazes out the window instead of looking at the problem. She spaces out on my explanations and then insists on doing the problem a different way.

For example, MEP keeps giving her sets of problems like:

12 - 3 x 2 + 1

12 - 3 x (2 + 1)

(12 - 3) x (2 + 1)

;)

miquon really do a great job on this type of question. u might think take a look

##### Share on other sites

Oh yeah. *shudder* I remember that one. We're not too far off from where you are. That's the kind of thing that makes me laugh when people wonder whether MEP is enough.
Could you take a break from MEP for a couple weeks? Then start back at the beginning (of this batch) with those problems? I've found that a break is often more productive, and less painful, when an obvious (to me) concept just doesn't seem to click.
##### Share on other sites

Could you take a break from MEP for a couple weeks? Then start back at the beginning (of this batch) with those problems? I've found that a break is often more productive, and less painful, when an obvious (to me) concept just doesn't seem to click.

Fortunately, today looks to have been the last day of difficult stuff for quite some time. Tomorrow's lesson starts in with numbers over 100, which should be easy for her, and then we get into the "last couple weeks of school" fluff/review, followed by the "coming back from summer break" review section at the beginning of 3a.

So hopefully that will perk her up and get her going again. If not, I have some math puzzle books we can substitute for a week or two.

Still waiting impatiently for Beast Academy!

##### Share on other sites

BTDT! I've found - for math especially - that it's best to mix things up a bit. We work with two curricula at a time usually, so that we can use one for a few weeks, hit a wall, and use the other for a few weeks. I also back off entirely some days, use strategy board games instead of math once in a while, and work on an entirely different type of skill sometimes. The nice thing about math is that there are so many subtopics that can be covered on so many levels, that it makes it easier to jump to something else without losing steam.

##### Share on other sites

BTDT! I've found - for math especially - that it's best to mix things up a bit. We work with two curricula at a time usually, so that we can use one for a few weeks, hit a wall, and use the other for a few weeks. I also back off entirely some days, use strategy board games instead of math once in a while, and work on an entirely different type of skill sometimes. The nice thing about math is that there are so many subtopics that can be covered on so many levels, that it makes it easier to jump to something else without losing steam.

:iagree: Except I never switched to strategy games because then dc would always want strategy games. I found in Singapore that you could jump to a different section easily. If my dc were struggling I'd jump to something easy for them like measurements or graphs.

##### Share on other sites

Any thoughts? Should I switch her over to a Waldorf school where she can do handwork and daydream about gnomes? ;)

This is my favorite quote from this board, ever.

Here's what I think, and it's a Guaranteed Fresh 100% Layperson's Opinion (GFLO):

She doesn't have a learning problem for math-- she can't (due to MEP being a very strong program, her expertise with it and current advancement with respect to age peers, no previous signs of a learning disability). I don't know of any math-related learning disability that'd suddenly afflict your daughter like this.

I did a fair bit of reading on late readers and brain development last year. I found that solid research shows that the brain develops in stages. There can seem to be lack of progress or even a seeming regression in reading or another skill at times, due to reorganization of the brain during or in preparation for what we perceive, on the outside, as a developmental spurt. During this time it's not impossible for a child to learn, but they may not seem to be learning nearly as much due to taking in less new information. (A couple of studies likened what happens during this time to destroying and rebuilding/reknitting together the knowledge base, in correspondence with physical growth.)

I also think that with math, it's good to take breathers sometimes to let things sink in. During that time, a young one may actually be learning by integrating new knowledge. It may also be possible for a student to achieve calculation proficiency in a particular area, such as dealing with fractions, but need a bit more time to mull things over.

No matter what, I wouldn't worry that she's hit a roadblock. I've never heard of such a thing with a strong math learner, and MEP seems to be quite a robust program, as demonstrated by your daughter's abilities.

Based on what I've read and my own observations, I believe that children's readiness to learn, for different subjects or in total, may fluctuate over time (must fluctuate, actually). It can be due to growth, or due to psychological factors. If you don't see any problems on the psychological side, I'd chalk it up to a momentary stall and consider turning to something else: playing math games etc., or just taking a break from math for a reasonable length of time. This will also reduce stress, if there is any-- she will also have noticed her recent difficulties.

##### Share on other sites

BTDT! I've found - for math especially - that it's best to mix things up a bit.

:iagree::iagree::iagree:

Mixing it up is the key to keeping kids alert & focused in math -- and wondering what is next. Change where you teach it and how you teach it. Use a video, whiteboard, paper/pencil, hands-on, computer game, living book. My kids would despise worksheet math day after day.

To the OP, your dd will have hyper-focused days -- combined with days in the doldrums. Don't we all have days like this?

This happened to my dd last month during long division. She could do it but it was torture.

I think long division is torture for just about any kid - advanced or otherwise. What is fun about it? Nothing. Dd8 has been ill this week and hasn't done much. I forewarned her that we were back in action today and she expressed a not-so-motivated attitude about math. I said (sarcastically), "We can do long division for math today if that would be more fun for you." Abi quickly responds with, "Oh, no. That's ok. I'd rather do graphing.":001_smile:

This is my favorite quote from this board, ever.

:iagree:

##### Share on other sites

Thanks, everyone. It sounds as if there are a lot of similar-aged kids in the same boat. Interestingly, yesterday at our homeschool community center I mentioned some behavior issues we've had recently, and everyone instantly said, "Oh, man. Seven. Yeah." So it may just be part of general age-based annoyingness.

This thing of trying to keep her out at the edge of what she can do is new to me. I know my reasons for doing it are sound, but as someone who cruised through most of school unchallenged, I am now working with an unfamiliar standard. I try to remind myself that it's no different from an average six-year-old needing to put intellectual effort in to understand normal first-grade math.

Now that I think of it, I think my elementary teachers would probably have complained about vagueness, dreaminess, inattention, poor organization, and lack of follow-through on my part too. So maybe I've just gotten the kid I deserve.

And then afterward, sit her down and if she still cannot do it, go through it with her having her explain to you what exactly confuses her. One of the best gifts you can give to your daughter is the ability to articulate precise questions on where is the problem. Work on this with her from when she is little - it saves you a LOT of nerves later, because you just remind them that they must to you with *concrete questions*, not 'general' lack of understanding, and the effort itself which is needed to reach a point of a formulation of a concrete question means that you must attempt to understand it and dissect it first. So, if possible, I would use this opportunity to teach that, too.

Wow, this is a brilliant idea. Right now Alex doesn't have the skill to do this at all, but I can see right away how valuable this would be. I've been fumbling towards this by asking her to "think out loud so I see how you're working" when she struggles with a problem, but this is a much clearer expression of what she needs to do. Thank you.

##### Share on other sites

When my 5 year old gets like this, it seems to coincide with not enough sleep, not enough food, or a growth spurt.

## Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

Only 75 emoji are allowed.