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So I am trying to get this whole Math U See thing down....I just started and we went back to Alpha with my 3rd grader so he would grasp the concept behind the program.  The problem I am facing is this, they don't want a child to count on for  any of their facts even if it is mentally.  My son says he does this especially when adding 2 to a number.  So my question is...how do I know if he really is?  Is it a big deal?  When do you decide to try something else?  Please, please help!

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So my question is...how do I know if he really is?  Is it a big deal?  When do you decide to try something else?  Please, please help!


If he is telling you he is counting on (1,2) then he is counting on.


is this a big deal?


"Counting on" will not end your son's math career, just slow it down.  Once a kid grasps the concept of "two" or "three" or "five" he will be able to skip count.  This ability will help in adding, in subtracting, in mentally adding numbers up to 20 and doing other mental math, learning  multiplication and division.


For example:  8 + 6 = 14.  This problem can be solved by seeing that 8 wants to be a 10 (2-4-6-8-10), so the 8 takes 2 away from the 6.  A ten is then formed with 4 remaining.  10 + 4 = 14. In order to make that kind of mental calculation, a person should grasp the concept that  "8" and "2" make "10."   


MUS explains that adding is fast counting.  But if one is still counting, the implication is that the adding is going to be slowed down.  Also, in the Alpha teaching book it explains that kids need to learn the number concept (they call it conservation of matter) because a young mind will see 5 units as MORE than one longer block of 5.  Have you ever tried to trade 5  $1 bills for a $5 bill with a kiddo and watch the kid melt down?  :)  The child hasn't yet learned conservation of matter.  


MUS is meant to be learned with the MUS manipulative blocks.  They are very helpful.  


When do you decide to try something else?


When I am feeling frustrated by a method of learning or curriculum, I find it helpful to just keep going and work through the frustration.  I'm not attempting to be snide, it's just the experience I've had with several curriculums over the past 5 years.  I, too, felt frustrated by MUS in the beginning.  I was competent in math, having learned by memorizing the algorithm (just do this formula and get this answer), so having to back up and learn the concepts was irritating for me.  Not unconquerable, just irritating.  I had a lot of kids to teach and it bothered me that I couldn't open up the book, understand it in 8 seconds and just go.  


I stuck with MUS because I read a book  that convinced me about the value of understanding math concepts, I accepted that MUS was written by someone who knows a lot more about math than I do, and MUS helped me be a better math teacher.  


Over the long haul, (we've now gone through MUS Primer to MUS Geometry) I'm really grateful for getting the opportunity to learn the concepts, not just how to get the problem done.


What it sounds like is that your son can use counting on to get the problem done.  You're asking if taking the time to grasp the concept is worth it.  


You will find your answer by asking how you want your kid to learn math--to just get through the algorithms (hey!  it worked fine for me in the 1980s) or take a deeper tack.  It's really just how you want to approach it.  

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Thank you so much Stellalarella! That really helps! I bought MUS because I do want him to learn the concepts behind math I was just starting to worry that he just wasn't going to do it that way. As a MUS user do you find you need another supplement to retain knowledgeable? Are there any you recommend if so?

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Regarding the retention of math facts, I find that my kids highly benefit from doing untimed flashcards, daily or near daily.  i even started my high schooler back on flash cards and it has helped him.  It only takes a few minutes.  As in 3.  There are various methods to begin flashcards.  I've heard it recommended to start with 3-4 cards that are easy and add in 2-3 cards that are hard.  Go through those until they are mastered.  Having success with the easy ones is supposed to make picking up the harder ones easier.  Work up to the full deck.  


By the time a kid is doing long division, she has to hold a lot of info in working memory.  No one has enough slots in working memory to do long division or multidigit multiplication with regrouping unless those math facts are down pat.  


I appreciate the constant review in MUS.  But having said that, I will say that just this week I did a quiz on area and perimeter with 3 of my kids.  Blank stares back at me.  I wanted to pound my head against the wall.


This is not a fault of the math program--because let me tell you, these three kids have done area and perimeter and done it and done it.  I've had them explain it.  We've memorized the definitions.  I've given dinner time pop quizzes.  We've done real life area and perimeter problems. We've used manipulatives.  Two of the three kids in question have had 2+ years exposure to area and perimeter.  And MUS reviews all the time!!


I cannot explain why a teacher can go over something 1000 times and yet the beautiful kiddo can just. draw. a. blank.  


It happens in math.  It happens in grammar.  It happens in history.  It happens in spelling.  It just happens.  


I press on knowing that when dd is 40 and needs to build a fence around the back yard, she will be able somehow to figure out how to do it.  



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"Counting on" will not end your son's math career, just slow it down.  


I agree with everything Stellalarella said, especially this. It's much better for a child to be using a strategy that makes sense to him to figure out a math fact than to be memorizing them rotely and not sure what they mean. Counting on does slow kids down, but the more they practice working with numbers, the more automatic the math facts become. 


The other drawback of one-by-one counting on is that it's error-prone, especially for larger numbers. (Imagine counting one-by-one nine times to add 8+ 9!) But, it can be a stepping stone to more efficient strategies. 

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Thank you, Kate!  I think he mostly counts on for the adding 1 and two but for the adding nine he makes ten and then adds so I think he is getting it for some of the facts and not others.  I guess I just get nervous that MUS wasn't the right choice when really I probably need to have a little more faith! 

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i agree with everything Stellarella said. I picked MUS because I wanted my kids to understand the concepts, I wanted a manipulatives-based program, and I wanted a video teacher who can explain the same thing over and over and still smile and crack a joke (video teachers are great that way).


I saw a Steve Demme video on Youtube once, and now I can't find it, where he was answering parent questions and he said, "Your child is never "behind." He's always where he is. You teach him where he is and help him move forward from where he is to the next step." I loved that so much! My oldest was "behind" until he was almost 10, and now 18 months later he's a book ahead. Something clicked. I love how MUS is flexible in being able to slow down or move faster based on the child's understanding. We're just starting prealgebra now, at the end of his 6th grade year, even though he took 3 years to do Alpha (I started Alpha at 5 - since then I've started Primer at 5 with my others, my 4th is now in Primer). 


I do also supplement with flashcards, Calculadder drill pages, and xtramath.org. While they're in Alpha-Gamma, they also get a facts drill several times a week. When they're in Delta and up, sometimes we'll take a week and just review all the math facts and I'll also pause their lessons and just have them do fact review and practice when calculating errors rather than conceptual errors are giving them the wrong answer frequently.


If he's figuring out how to get to the answer, that's better than memorizing without understanding! After that, he just needs lots and lots of practice, and the more he practices, the faster he'll get. It's just like sounding out words to figure them out. Sounding things out is a great strategy, but eventually, at their own pace, each child finally starts reading fluently, where they aren't sounding out consciously most of the time anymore. Practice, practice.

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