# 6th Grade Math, at the end of my rope...

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I am hoping that someone has had this experience and can talk me off of the ledge.

I have a 6th grader, who is in his second year homeschooling. He is doing well overall, but I have been assigned to cover math as my wife has had some difficulty (now I understand better). The problem appears to be a total shut down. This is typical of what I am facing - the question is "what number is in the same place in one number as another?" After some confusion, I tried to simplify - what place is that number, what place in this other number matches. Finally, after wrong answers, I asked, please read me this number - 12,345...

I got nothing, as if I was asking the square root of the cosine of pie. It is feeling more like a war, and I am convinced that he does understand. What now? Sometimes, when I ask for clarification of his answer he will change it randomly, as if I stated that it was wrong instead.

This is one of those moments where I feel as if I made the wrong choice and broke my son.

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Which math program are you using? What math program has your son used before homeschooling? Did you do a placement test?

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What math program are you using? Was he doing well in math last year and is now having problems? Has he always had problems?

FWIW, I didn't understand your question either. Are you looking for whether a digit is in the ten's place etc. to determine if he understands place value?

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Saxon 7/6. He went through 6/5 last year with no issue. When he couldn't red me the number that we were looking at this morning I started to wonder if there is something else that I am missing. He seems to be melting down when we work with him.

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What math program are you using? Was he doing well in math last year and is now having problems? Has he always had problems?

FWIW, I didn't understand your question either. Are you looking for whether a digit is in the ten's place etc. to determine if he understands place value?

I agree. I don't have a mathematical mind, and if you asked me the question the way you are phrasing it now, I probably wouldn't understand it, either. It is important to know which math program you are using, too. There are many different approaches to math.

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Did you do the math with him last year? Are you sure he understood everything from last year?

If it's just place value that he is having trouble understanding, I'd go back to the beginning and explain place value all over again. Some type of manipulative, like cuisinaire rods might be helpful.

Is there anything else going on in his life which could be stressing him out and manifesting itself during math time?

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Sorry, I over simplified the problem. It was something similar to this. What number in 12,345 is in the same place as the 6 in 61.23. His initial answer was 2, which I understood, and after discussing it a bit, I asked him to read me the first number. That is where we went south.

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Sorry, I over simplified the problem. It was something similar to this. What number in 12,345 is in the same place as the 6 in 61.23. His initial answer was 2, which I understood, and after discussing it a bit, I asked him to read me the first number. That is where we went south.

Then I think you need to re-explain place value in very simplistic terms until he gets it. I understand why he said 2. He doesn't understand how decimal points work as far as place value. I would show him in fractions what the decimal places mean as part of your explanation. I'd have him repeat back to me the place value of every single digit in a whole list of numbers, with and without decimal places until I was sure he understood.

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I was going to guess that you used Saxon. :glare:

Can you find a good math handbook or math dictionary that explains the concepts differently?

It really might just be the Saxon way of explaining things. One of my older girls had a session with a college math teacher. When he was evaluating where she was, he gave her some basic problems. I KNEW she knew how to do these, but she looked at them like they were written in invisible ink. She didn;t understand them if they weren't written in Saxonese.

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It's also possible that he is feeling anxiety with the program if he's been having problems. You may need to set the book aside for a short while and come at the concept a little differently. I had to do that with negative numbers for my youngest dd. She was getting so frustrated with her lessons. There are lots of resources online so you don't have to necessarily buy a separate program. It's also okay to back up in the program and repeat some of the lessons. Just don't worry about getting through the program by a certain date. Let him work at his own pace for learning so he has time to cement the concepts.

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Get rid of the Saxon! Really. Look at some other programs that lay things out simply. I would also get some placement tests for various programs and see how he does. He may need to go back and cover some things he missed.

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Then I think you need to re-explain place value in very simplistic terms until he gets it. I understand why he said 2. He doesn't understand how decimal points work as far as place value. I would show him in fractions what the decimal places mean as part of your explanation. I'd have him repeat back to me the place value of every single digit in a whole list of numbers, with and without decimal places until I was sure he understood.

:iagree: -- it sounds like he is struggling with place value. I don't think Saxon is the issue...I'd stick with it.

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Are you requring him to do every problem in every problem set? Did he have to do that last year? Unlike other publishers' math, every problem in every problem set is important.

You might start back at the beginning of the text.

Also, are you asking him things that have been covered in the text, using the same language?

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It was not necessarily a Saxon issue...

My own girls knew place value like the back of their hand... BUT-- this problem is requiring students to THINK in multiple directions at the same time (same problem).

Some students will be natural at this... "the 6 is in the 10's position so the answer will be ___ because it is in the 10's position in that number".

MANY 6th grade students are sill very concrete in their thinking. They will be able to do this problem but only after seeing it worked out a few times. Their connections are not natural yet.

I simply sat down and talked through a few similar problems-- then my girls worked the one on the lesson and moved on with life.

This type of question is NOT testing place value as much as it is attempting to teach students how to make connections (work problems that are mixing concepts/reasoning patterns).

I call this 'subliminal' teaching-- and it is one reason we had to switch from Saxon-- not worth the frustration when the student does not think naturally like the Saxon method teaches.

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If you are having a lot of problems with math, there's obviously something other than just this exercise. Have you asked him why he thinks math is more of a problem now than it was last year? Have you asked him what he likes and doesnt like about math? Sometimes you can switch up something to make it work better, but sometimes its something else - like puberty, or math phobia, or the time of day, or something you said one time that he's still mad about . . . You have to figure out the root of the problem before you can figure out how to fix it. But teens brains do totally rewire during puberty and it can wreak all sorts of havoc.

i'm not a fan of saxon . ..

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Make sure he has eaten something with protein before doing math. My ds will melt down and look helpless at the simplest problem if his blood sugar is low. Boys are growing REALLY fast through this age.

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It was not necessarily a Saxon issue...

this problem is requiring students to THINK in multiple directions at the same time (same problem).

Some students will be natural at this... "the 6 is in the 10's position so the answer will be ___ because it is in the 10's position in that number"....

MANY 6th grade students are sill very concrete in their thinking. ...

This type of question is NOT testing place value as much as it is attempting to teach students how to make connections (work problems that are mixing concepts/reasoning patterns).

I call this 'subliminal' teaching-- and it is one reason we had to switch from Saxon-- not worth the frustration when the student does not think naturally like the Saxon method teaches.

:iagree: I just showed this problem to my youngest who is quite advanced in math and his initial, immediate answer was 2. I said, "Look again." and in a second he said, "Oooooooooh, I see. It's 4. I didn't see one was a comma and one was a decimal. I was just counting digits."

I think the question is just worded such that the intent isn't initially clear to the student - even a good math student. It's more a verbal understanding than a mathematical understanding that is required to answer it.

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I actually think the question is weird. Weird and convoluted imo.

I think a review of place value would be useful. I haven't used saxon so I can't speak for that, but we have had great luck using Singapore and learning place value.

I would definately talk to ds, with an open mind, about his math struggles. I have done this with my 6th grader here and there through the years. When I listen and take her suggestions for how to teach we almost always see an improvement.

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Make sure he has eaten something with protein before doing math. My ds will melt down and look helpless at the simplest problem if his blood sugar is low. Boys are growing REALLY fast through this age.

:iagree:

Also, remember Pauline's "Only One Hour" Rule of Math - one hour into a lesson, the brain goes dead. After that hour, many, many students cannot do things that they easily did 30 minutes before. Stop, and pick it up again later, when you're both fresh. Two hours per day is max for many (one morning, one later in the day or evening).

And even at 6th grade, having cuisinaire rods or ones/tens/hundreds rods can be a huge help. If you don't have the physical versions, you can probably google some to print out.

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Khan Academy has a few videos on place value that might be helpful.

ETA: My 8 y.o. would not say it was easy. ;)

Place value was a sticking point for two of my students so I used a variety of methods to teach it and we are still reviewing. I drew lines on a dry erase board and wrote the numbers in their places, we made a decimal street model (ala Math U See), we played some Starfall games and some games in other programs, and we watched the Khan videos.

I think for my kids the key was the dry erase work where we just threw in different numbers and played around with the concepts. There are also board games that will help with this, Math Marathon maybe? Basically, you roll three dice and each resulting digit represents one place value, then you move three game pieces at a time on three different tracks. You have to get all your pieces to the end, so you have to calculate each turn what the best value to put in each place would be to get to the end goal.

Edited by MomatHWTK
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My 8 year old just said that was easy.

Personally I kick Saxon to the curb so fast your head would spin.

Bill

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It was not necessarily a Saxon issue...

My own girls knew place value like the back of their hand... BUT-- this problem is requiring students to THINK in multiple directions at the same time (same problem).

Some students will be natural at this... "the 6 is in the 10's position so the answer will be ___ because it is in the 10's position in that number".

MANY 6th grade students are sill very concrete in their thinking. They will be able to do this problem but only after seeing it worked out a few times. Their connections are not natural yet.

I simply sat down and talked through a few similar problems-- then my girls worked the one on the lesson and moved on with life.

This type of question is NOT testing place value as much as it is attempting to teach students how to make connections (work problems that are mixing concepts/reasoning patterns).

I call this 'subliminal' teaching-- and it is one reason we had to switch from Saxon-- not worth the frustration when the student does not think naturally like the Saxon method teaches.

:iagree:

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BUT-- this problem is requiring students to THINK in multiple directions at the same time (same problem).

Some students will be natural at this... "the 6 is in the 10's position so the answer will be ___ because it is in the 10's position in that number".

MANY 6th grade students are sill very concrete in their thinking. They will be able to do this problem but only after seeing it worked out a few times. Their connections are not natural yet.

I am very surprised to read this statement and frankly if it's true I am horrified.
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I am very surprised to read this statement and frankly if it's true I am horrified.

Why?

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I'm not really sure how you can get to 6th grade math and not understand place value.

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Here is a good place value chart. Copy it and work with it with your student.

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