# Science-Maths Problems: Help Sought From HS Homeschoolers

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I hope I'm not being a pest, but this problem just won't go away, and I would really appreciate hearing from experienced homeschoolers of highschoolers. Recently I posted about 'refusals': that my almost 14 year old refuses to do certain tasks. I've boiled it down to just what he refuses: or nearabouts, and it's mostly just one thing.

Before I get to that, the confusing picture is that he must have good reasoning abilities because last year he flew through Nance's Introduction to Formal Logic, getting almost everything right and even thriving on it. He is working at PreAlgebra level in MUS. He is a whiz at diagramming even very complicated English AND Latin sentences. His SAT tests results show that he is good-average in most things, well above average in essay. He understands all the science concepts, his comprehension is very good, and he reads novels and writes stories for fun. He has mild HFA.

It's the science questions that involve maths that cause major meltdowns and refusals. We allow a calculator, but a problem like:

"A child is pushing her toy across the room with a constant velocity to the east. If the static friction between this toy and the floor is 15 newtons,  while the kinetic friction is 10 newtons, what force is the child exerting?"

... will create meltdowns, tears, throwing things, paper ripping, and stress for us. He had 4 of these problems to do for Apologia Physical Science module 10. They have taken a week, and those 4 questions only got done because my dh sat down with him and handheld him all the way. It took 2 hours, and this was the 4th attempt. It was exhausting just listening to it.

What we've tried:
I tried role modelling how to attempt a difficult problem, with my dh being a teacher, ds being the observer..

I've hand-held him over and over again as I go through every step.

I took him to see a psychologist - that was a complete waste of time and money as she didn't understand homeschooling, and thought I was babying him.

We've asked him what the problem is: what is he not understanding and why is he having meltdowns over these reasonably simple problems, and we never get a clear answer.

I've explained that it's like being on a threshold of a new level: once he gets how to do these problems, he enters into a new level (ie like a video game).

Dh thinks he "just doesn't want to do them", .... but it follows that there must be a reason why he doesn't want to.

I'm looking for solutions to this obstacle in our homeschool. Everything else goes well except for this.

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Is he in the habit of using the problem solving skill of "draw a picture"?

Basically the solution is to break down the steps and see what he is missing from his problem solving toolbox or his physics conceptual understanding.

Thank you Heigh Ho. I'm not sure how I would break something down further than the parts already, and I would really appreciate some concrete suggestions. Thank you

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I would suspect that he doesn't have the mathematical foundation to solve that problem. MUS pre-alg is very basic and MUS does not require applying concepts to unique scenarios. Mostly they model a problem and their problems follow the model.

Have you considered using conceptual science programs which focus more on the concepts and require little in terms of math?

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I would suspect that he doesn't have the mathematical foundation to solve that problem. MUS pre-alg is very basic and MUS does not require applying concepts to unique scenarios. Mostly they model a problem and their problems follow the model.

Have you considered using conceptual science programs which focus more on the concepts and require little in terms of math?

The MUS PreAlgebra + Honors (which he is doing) does have plenty of word problems. I was able to do the same science problems, even though I have forgotten almost all my math from highschool - I simply used logic and a calculator!

Ds is very keen on doing Apologia Chemistry next year and then physics, even though we've told him he has to do a lot more of these problems with chemistry.

I'm wondering if it's Executive Function problems, and how to get around that.  :huh:

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I agree that his math skills are likely to be the problem.

Also, chemistry would be very difficult for next year as it requires a lot of algebra.

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I agree that his math skills are likely to be the problem.

Also, chemistry would be very difficult for next year as it requires a lot of algebra.

I agree. It sounds like he is going to need to complete alg before taking chem, not simultaneously.

OP, fwiw, I still believe the root problem is his math skills. Simply bc you were able to solve them does not equate to his having a solid enough grasp to apply to unique situations. You are building on previous math exposure. He is building up from ground zero. Whether you remember the prior math completely or not, you have still had previous exposure to those skills.

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I obviously don't know your student, so I am trying a stab in the dark here:

Does he have a standard procedure for such a problem?

If a student has difficulties starting, it helps having a standard technique which he has to follow, so he knows how to begin the problem.

He needs to begin with a diagram, sketch the object, draw in forces and acceleration (if existent).

He should name and express the basic principle (Newtons 2nd law) which can be used to solve the problem.

He should be able to talk through the definitions of static and kinetic friction.

With a student like this, I would work on a  white board and use Socratic methods. I am not sure whether this is a question of math skills as pp suggest, since there is no real math in this problem - the student has to do not a single step of calculation! This is a merely conceptual problem that tests whether the student understands what static and kinetic friction are. (I am puzzled where the calculator would come in here at all, but on general note, the student should first derive a symbolic expression without numbers before getting a numerical answer.)

How is he working on science? Do you have a lot of dialog going on? Is he forced to talk through the concepts on a regular basis?

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The OP has a child who was struggling with MUS Zeta in March http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/506680-paalgebra-calculator-use-opinions-and-experiences-please/

and had a recent post about the student refusing to do school. It is why I suspect he doesn't really have a grasp of what he is actually doing and probably shuts down anytime he sees anything that resembles math. Add in HFA, and that is another entire complication in the picture.

OP, what are your goals for him academically? In math? In science? If physical science and math are causing meltdowns, planning chemistry and physics, both very math heavy sciences if you take traditional vs. conceptual courses, is probably going to be very frustrating. Is there a reason you wouldn't want to consider conceptual courses?

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The OP has a child who was struggling with MUS Zeta in March http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/506680-paalgebra-calculator-use-opinions-and-experiences-please/

and had a recent post about the student refusing to do school. It is why I suspect he doesn't really have a grasp of what he is actually doing and probably shuts down anytime he sees anything that resembles math. Add in HFA, and that is another entire complication in the picture.

I am not saying that he may NOT also have math issues. My point was that the example problem did not involve any math at all, not even a simple addition or subtraction, but was entirely conceptual - so I would suspect something else going on in addition to possible math issues.

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I am not saying that he may NOT also have math issues. My point was that the example problem did not involve any math at all, not even a simple addition or subtraction, but was entirely conceptual - so I would suspect something else going on in addition to possible math issues.

Right, but for a kid who is avoidant of math and shuts down, just seeing numbers in the problem may be enough to drive them into meltdown mode.

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Right, but for a kid who is avoidant of math and shuts down, just seeing numbers in the problem may be enough to drive them into meltdown mode.

And that is where the parent's Socratic questioning would come in: to rephrase the problem without the numbers and to guide the student to the answer based on merely conceptual understanding.

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I obviously don't know your student, so I am trying a stab in the dark here:

Does he have a standard procedure for such a problem?

If a student has difficulties starting, it helps having a standard technique which he has to follow, so he knows how to begin the problem.

He needs to begin with a diagram, sketch the object, draw in forces and acceleration (if existent).

He should name and express the basic principle (Newtons 2nd law) which can be used to solve the problem.

He should be able to talk through the definitions of static and kinetic friction.

With a student like this, I would work on a  white board and use Socratic methods. I am not sure whether this is a question of math skills as pp suggest, since there is no real math in this problem - the student has to do not a single step of calculation! This is a merely conceptual problem that tests whether the student understands what static and kinetic friction are. (I am puzzled where the calculator would come in here at all, but on general note, the student should first derive a symbolic expression without numbers before getting a numerical answer.)

How is he working on science? Do you have a lot of dialog going on? Is he forced to talk through the concepts on a regular basis?

We talked him through the procedure step by step. He insists on doing it in his head, but comes up with the wrong answer. He has an aversion to writing out the problem on a whiteboard or paper. We force him to. He cries.  :huh:

He LOVES science. I read the text aloud to him, engage with him during the reading. We do experiments together: he laughs a lot. We both enjoy it. The reverse is true when it comes to problems equations from scenarios.

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OP, what are your goals for him academically? In math? In science? If physical science and math are causing meltdowns, planning chemistry and physics, both very math heavy sciences if you take traditional vs. conceptual courses, is probably going to be very frustrating. Is there a reason you wouldn't want to consider conceptual courses?

The goal for math right now is to complete the entire MUS program, which he does partially with a tutor. Science: ds wants to do Chemistry and Physics. He drools over the Apologia catalogue and loves Dr Wile.

I agree: we won't even open the Chemistry book until he has completed the Algebra program. That might make him work harder on it.

As for Conceptual courses: I don't quite understand. Do you have a curriculum suggestion and link? I thought Apologia was very conceptual, and that is why we like it. There have only been about 10 of these 'traumatic' questions in the entire Ap Physical Science. The rest is fun and engaging.

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Your replies are really helping. Dh is also reading them and we are discussing what might be the problem and how we can overcome it.

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The goal for math right now is to complete the entire MUS program, which he does partially with a tutor. Science: ds wants to do Chemistry and Physics. He drools over the Apologia catalogue and loves Dr Wile.

I agree: we won't even open the Chemistry book until he has completed the Algebra program. That might make him work harder on it.

As for Conceptual courses: I don't quite understand. Do you have a curriculum suggestion and link? I thought Apologia was very conceptual, and that is why we like it. There have only been about 10 of these 'traumatic' questions in the entire Ap Physical Science. The rest is fun and engaging.

The conceptual courses have less math. Not sure on the prereq for chemistry (pre-alg or alg 1) but the conceptual physics can definitely be done with a prereq of alg 1.

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The science questions will create:

refusals,

meltdowns,

tears,

throwing things,

paper ripping, and

stress for us.

He had 4 of these problems...They have taken a week,

my dh handheld him all the way.

this was the 4th attempt.

It was exhausting just listening to it.

Reading this over, all I can say is wow!

The material is too hard. Absolutely too hard. This is not a normal response to something challenging.  This is a strong indicator that the material can NOT be done at this time, at all.  I would simply stop all attempts to do this level of work.  And I would stop it now.

I think you need to start fresh, with material at a lower level, and build up his reading comprehension and problem solving skills.  Here are some ideas:

With a different science text:

1) Read a question out loud and ask him how to approach it.

2) Have each of you read the question to yourself, and then have him explain it to you

3) Scribe for him

4) Have him *write* problems that you will answer

Using other subjects, you can teach problem solving and persistence and reading comprehension:

5) Have him do puzzlers like MEP has online, something that is frustrating but doable.

6) He could also do some Singapore math Challenging word problems.

7) How about logic puzzles?  Lots of words to work through

Scheduling:

8) Do only 1 problem every day.  Set a buzzer for 15 minutes and quit regardless of if you are finished.

9) Rotate the subject matter that the problem is in (using the above ideas)

Just some ideas.  But I would definitely step back right now.

Ruth in NZ

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