# Not "Mathy" or Learning Disability

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I have an 11 year old son (finishing 5th grade) who struggles with abstract concepts. Of any sort really but particularly math. He does calculations with ease. But word problems.... hooo boy.

I started Singapore's Challenging Word Problems 3 with him 1 year ago. We worked for a few months but made little to no progress. I just pulled it out again today. He did solve 2 of them on his own. Here is one that he solved: Jerry and Rick collect toy cars. Rick has 12 more toy cars than Jerry. They have 32 toy cars altogether. How many toy cars does Jerry have in his collection.

Some he struggles with still despite me going through them step by step (using various methods). Here is one of the problems that just stumped him: A baker sold a total of 1320 loaves of bread in June and July. He sold 678 loaves in June and 901 loaves in August. How many more loaves did he sell in August than in July?

Ok, so it is a two step process but he struggles to even understand that 1320 - 678 is how you get July's number.

Is this "non-mathy" or something more? The problems seem fairly similar to me so I'm ????. FTR, his brother who is several years younger is doing Beast Academy. He sister who is finishing 8th grade did a combination of AoPS and Dolciani. I'm not sure if I'm not use to someone not getting it so this seems WAY behind. I mean it is level 3 (third grade right?).

*sigh* Can someone give me some perspective please?

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How is his reading comprehension more generally?

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does he know how to draw bar diagram? I will start from that

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My ds has a hard time with abstracts, although he is younger than your ds, so take this with that in mind. With word problems I've noticed that it helps to concentrate on the language more than the math. From the sound of your post, your ds can do the operations, but does he understand the language behind "how many more", "how many less", "how many fewer", how many to start with or begin with" etc.?

I worked intensively on word problems with my ds this year. And he's doing tons better now. We did 2-3 together every day. I helped him find and underline key words or ideas like ---he gave, he lost, she made, they won, they joined etc and then we talked about if those words were adding or subtracting something. Like narration, I would have him retell me the "story" and it would even help sometimes to draw a sketch or chart to visualize who had what.

Look for the information that you know first. Emphasize the terms used to represent unknowns like "some"--we don't know how many. And then make a plan. In your example you could easily make a chart showing how many sold in each month and then highlight or circle the information the question is asking about, Aug and June, then he'll see from the chart that he's missing a number for July. And just practice practice practice learning that how many more means subtract.

I recommend word problems every.single.day. Maybe with two step problems like that--break them down for him into one. Change the language to "the baker sold 678 loaves in June and some loaves in July. He sold 1320 altogether. How many did he sell in July?" If he can figure that out then say he sold this much in July and this much in August, how many more? THEN put it all together.

Also I wanted to say that if you worked with a little bit and then put it away, then of course he's going to struggle. 1-2 problems every day, work on them together, break them into parts, put them back together, narrate them, draw pictures, act it out---whatever it takes. Work on one tricky one for a couple of days, stress the vocabulary, answer in complete sentences.

Don't stress about grade level of word problems either. As long as he is trucking along at more or less grade level in computation etc. word problems are more about problem solving than math IMHO. They're tools for learning problem solving strategies. Learning strategy, which is more important than the math problem, is the goal. That's how I feel personally.

I'd say that working on them for a few months a year ago is just not enough to start going into learning disability realm kwim? Get it out again and practice every day or try another word problem book. Kumon makes some good word problem workbooks. Figure It Out and Critical Thinking Co. has some good math problem solving books.

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How is his reading comprehension more generally?

Really good for stuff he likes. According to his test scores, he is about an 8th grade comprehension level.

does he know how to draw bar diagram? I will start from that

No. Whenever I pull out manipulatives, it seems to make it worse. He generally does better with me writing number on a white board and explaining very slowly.

Look for the information that you know first. Emphasize the terms used to represent unknowns like "some"--we don't know how many. And then make a plan. In your example you could easily make a chart showing how many sold in each month and then highlight or circle the information the question is asking about, Aug and June, then he'll see from the chart that he's missing a number for July. And just practice practice practice learning that how many more means subtract.

I recommend word problems every.single.day. Maybe with two step problems like that--break them down for him into one. Change the language to "the baker sold 678 loaves in June and some loaves in July. He sold 1320 altogether. How many did he sell in July?" If he can figure that out then say he sold this much in July and this much in August, how many more? THEN put it all together.

Also I wanted to say that if you worked with a little bit and then put it away, then of course he's going to struggle. 1-2 problems every day, work on them together, break them into parts, put them back together, narrate them, draw pictures, act it out---whatever it takes. Work on one tricky one for a couple of days, stress the vocabulary, answer in complete sentences.

Don't stress about grade level of word problems either. As long as he is trucking along at more or less grade level in computation etc. word problems are more about problem solving than math IMHO. They're tools for learning problem solving strategies. Learning strategy, which is more important than the math problem, is the goal. That's how I feel personally.

I'd say that working on them for a few months a year ago is just not enough to start going into learning disability realm kwim? Get it out again and practice every day or try another word problem book. Kumon makes some good word problem workbooks. Figure It Out and Critical Thinking Co. has some good math problem solving books.

Agreed. He was SO frustrated that he would cry hysterically. I wasn't getting anywhere like that. This time though, he didn't cry even when he didn't get it at all. Lots of maturing has happened on that front this year. Yay ;) I think you are right. I should do at least one every single day making sure he understands the terminology. And stop stressing about the level :tongue_smilie:

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So new question. If I work through them with him. When do I go back and allow him to do it himself? (not having a kid pick this stuff up almost intuitively is really throwing me for a loop!)

Day 1: Walk through problem A

Day 2: He attempts problem A and hopefully gets it correct on his own

Walk through problem B

Day 3: He attempts problem B

Walk through problem C

My concern is that even when he says "oh, now I get it", he would forget how to do it right away. He struggles with retention for sure. He can remember big picture stuff but not details. And math is all about small steps and details.....

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That last word problem that stumped your son, stumped me for a minute, a very non-mathy person. The only thing I can suggest is switching to Teaching Textbooks where someone else shows him step-by-step how to go through the problem. That is what has worked for my non-mathy dd who I just frustrated trying to help her.

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That last word problem that stumped your son, stumped me for a minute, a very non-mathy person. The only thing I can suggest is switching to Teaching Textbooks where someone else shows him step-by-step how to go through the problem. That is what has worked for my non-mathy dd who I just frustrated trying to help her.

He does use TT. It is the only math program where we could make progress. That said, it bothers me that the word problems are so very easy in TT. Having had a daughter take the SSAT this year for boarding school, I know the level of difficulty that may be headed his way in just a few years.... *sigh* I'm really not trying to make him be someone he is not. But I do want him to be the best he can be too.

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Take my input with a grain of salt, but I wouldn't think LD from what you've said. Challenging Word Problems are just that, challenging, right? I think a lot of people use them a year back (correct me if I'm wrong!), so I wouldn't worry about the level for that.

Is he using TT on grade level?

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He is using TT about 1/2 a grade ahead. So he is on the 2nd disk of TT6 and finishing up his 5th grade year.

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Kris,

If it makes you feel any better, my ten year old is doing Singapore 3B and CWP 3. It is where he needs to be. He does the exact same math as his younger bother (8). I used to let this bother me, but I have been learning to let it go. He will make progress. He will be fine. He is doing math daily. He is working hard.

He is the turtle, not the hare. :001_smile:

There seem to be sooo many on this board with 9 year olds doing an algebra program; it can make it hard to measure an *average* child's progress.

ETA: one thing I have been doing is more work with logic puzzles (great stuff in MEP), Soduku, the card game Set and other strategy games like Statego; this has helped him with his endurance level on word problems...

Edited by Zoo Keeper
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No. Whenever I pull out manipulatives, it seems to make it worse. He generally does better with me writing number on a white board and explaining very slowly.

I think she was referring to the bar diagram that SM uses to solve word problems.

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So new question. If I work through them with him. When do I go back and allow him to do it himself? (not having a kid pick this stuff up almost intuitively is really throwing me for a loop!)

What works for me is to sit with my ds and alternate problems with him. CWP isn't perfect for that because I wish there were more (this is the main reason I love MM), but it would be okay for it. I do one, talk out my whole method out loud, pause and think, explain every little thing my brain is doing. Then, his turn. Then, my turn... and so forth.

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Professor B starts with small numbers in 2 pockets of a person. It takes some word problem phobic students awhile, to move past anything over 20 things, that can be moved around between 2 pockets. It's really an ingenious method.

Money in the pockets can be used to purchase familiar items.

The pockets can hold toys and other familiar objects.

Another idea is to use real items. Sit at the kitchen table and use things found in the kitchen. No paper and pencil, just food and cups and plates.

Candy is always my default tool to overcome any educational problem. It comes in so many shapes and sizes and types and can be manipulated and grouped in so many ways. It can be cut up and stacked and put into cups. It can be graphed and weighed. It can be used as a reward. Candy can fix almost anything :-)

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Have you seen Arithmetic Village?

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That first problem, the one he got, how did he do it? Did he work it out with paper and pencil, or just sort of "see" a gap of 12 between 10 and 22 and a total of 10 and 22 being 32? If he did use pencil and paper, how exactly? I think looking more at what he can do and how he is doing it might help you to figure this out.

Also, if he tries things in the Beast book the other son has, like say the group of word problems in the 3B book where it asks about multiplying the page numbers in books, can he do those? How does he do with the starred one at the bottom of page where it wants to know if you can get 56 multiplying the page numbers of two facing pages?

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Wow, thanks guys. Lots to process here and a few things that I'll need to get back to you (like the Beast problems and some other questions). My hubby is home and wanting to tackle organizing the clothes for the whole house. HooooooBoy! I'll be back on Monday ;)

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