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Wandering the Math Maze-- NEED HELP!


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​My 11 year old son, who is finishing 5th grade, has not had a great Math experience in life. 


His sister has done well using MUS from the very beginning.  But when I did it with him, he just looked at me perplexed over and over again for months.  He just didn't get it in kindergarten, we tried again in First grade and got through most of Alpha.


But then he hit another road block.  I took him out and did general things--teaching the clock, money, basic geometry, using the Math Mammoth Blue series topics.  But there was too much on a page and it overwhelmed him.  I tried to go back to MUS but the same thing happened.


So in 3rd grade I moved him to CLE Math, but he placed in 2nd grade.  He did really well, except he couldn't seem to get caught up.  The volume of work for one lesson was all he could do in a day and he was behind a whole grade.  Then before too long, in 4th grade (doing 3rd grade work), the volume of work completely overwhelmed him.  We skipped problems, he'd fail the test.  We'd give him longer to do the lesson, breaking it up into a couple days, and he'd get totally lost in what he was doing.  We skipped problems (do the odds) and do it in one day.  That's when the ADD symptoms seemed to really kick in.  I believe in not moving on until he gets it but it was taking forever and the tears were becoming a constant, daily occurrence.  We weren't making any progress.


So last year, the beginning of his fifth grade year, we switched to Teaching Textbooks.  He placed halfway into their 4th grade year and about three weeks ago he finished it.  He still doesn't have his multiplication tables memorized, even though we reviewed them daily.  We would play games online, he has one of those handheld machines. FLASHCARDS! We have our standardized testing next week and I've been doing some reviews with him, and he had no idea how to carry in a multiplication problem. 


What is going on? Is it Teaching Textbooks?  Is he just not able to pay attention to it, like it's not sinking in?  He finished every problem and gets a 100% on it.  But he isn't retaining anything?  Or is it him?  He's been tested ADD and the psychologist didn't recommend medication because his is so slight.  He didn't qualify for any services in the school system because it's not that bad, they said.  He tested off the charts in visual/spatial, they recommended we point him toward engineering.  How do I do that if he can't do math! 


To add to the conundrum, we live overseas.  So the only resources we have are what we bring down with us or I can download from the internet.  I have the next TT5 set.  I have the complete Math Mammoth set.  I have all the DVD's from MUS through Algebra.  I'm willing to sit down with him and help him through it, to make sure he's getting it.  Was I too lax and assumed that he was understanding it all because he completed the assignments and got good grades?  I'm scared to see what the SAT is going to tell me.  I do have a 4 yr. and a 1 yr. and perhaps I was too distracted to notice?


I feel like perhaps I need to find out where he really is comprehension-wise and go back to that with some curriculum and plod along with him until he gets it.  Any recommendations? (How do I do that?)   Any advice on what resources to use and how you would do it?  We are going to the States for the month of September for my parents' 50th, so we can buy something that I don't have if necessary.  I'm willing to work hard with him.  (By the way, I'm not the math whiz in our family, my husband can help a bit, but he's super busy.  School is my thing.)


Thanks in advance.

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I don't have a ton of advice, but I could've written your first two paragraphs about my dd8 and her experience with MUS and MM.  She also is possibly ADHD (if yes, mild like your son).


We have had math success now with RightStart! The variety of manipulatives, teaching method, and games have been HUGE. If you don't want to completely switch curriculum, make sure you at least look at their Games for Math supplement and/or their Activities for the AL Abacus supplement.


HTH! Good luck!

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Two things I'd offer - you might have a late bloomer. I personally think we obsess too much about certain things in younger grades.  Both my kids didn't have their multiplication tables memorized for longer than that. It didn't really hamper them frankly though I know that lots of people will disagree.. 

The other thing is something I heard about TT. (One of my kids used TT for algebra but we didn't use TT in the elem grades so I'm not sure how it's laid out ....  ) Are you requiring him to copy out the questions and do them on paper or is he just watching the video and entering the multiple choice answer? Because if he's not copying it out, that might be the problem. 

Also, I'd recommend a book called Math Power by Kenschaft.  She has a PhD in math but admits to being 'late' to learn her times tables ... 


p.s  Do you have to do standardized testing? 

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Kalusignan--Thanks for that recommendation, I'll look into it.


hornblower--we are originally from Missouri and we have to do the Standardized tests every two years.  Technically since we don't live there we don't have to, but since we go back and forth, I want my bases covered.  So we follow their guidelines.  He has issues with handwriting, so no I don't have him write it out.  I didn't buy the workbook last year and so he just filled it into the computer.  He asked me to get the workbook this year and is planning on doing it in there to help out.  I'll look into Math Power.  Thks!


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I would strongly suggest posting this on the Learning Challenges board.  I think feedback very specific to your ds's issues and what math program(s) might best fit, and how to go about it, are critical.  There are some posters who may have a lot to offer and may miss this thread over here.


Great visual-spatial strengths but struggles with math = rule out developmental vision issues with a covd optometrist.  That may be difficult overseas.


Great visual-spatial strengths but sequential weaknesses (forgets procedures) - that's a tough one.  I have my preferences for big-picture programs, like Beast Academy.


For the time being, I'd use MM as a teaching tool, but first look over the pertinent group of lessons and teach the big picture first, i.e., you may need to present differently, such as compacting several lessons into one.  Definitely try having him do problems on a white board.  I would also keep an eye out for whether there are concepts from earlier grades that need firming up, e.g. place value.

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Wapiti--Thank you.  I will do that right away.  I've been leaning toward a combinations of MM and Beast Academy--interesting you have mentioned those too.  Since I'm unfamiliar with BA though, it's hard to make a decision.  Last time we were in the States he did see a COVD optometrist and did 4 months of therapy.  It was amazing.  My boy who couldn't do more than 5 min. of school work at a time, sat down to read for over an hour after only two sessions and getting new glasses.  When we go in Sept. we'll go back to the same eye doc and have him looked at again.  We won't have time for therapy but perhaps I can do somethings at home with him.  Thanks for reminding me of that.

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I'm not sure if this might be a possibility for assessing his weak areas, but have you looked online at Splash Math? I mention it only because I've noticed when my DS does it that it's really broken down into different topics, quite specifically too. You can also jump to whatever you want your DS to work on (place value, etc).

My only other thought for trying to figure out where he's weak is to work through a grade 4 review of sorts. I found several free ones online by searching Grade 5 (or whatever) summer review. Some of them were from public schools (I guess to encourage summer review work), but the one I found aligns fairly well with what we've learned this year.

I also want to mention that Maria from MM has a video on how to teach multiplication tables. One summer I bought just the unit on Multiplication and used her specific method on how to teach them, and it worked really well. We don't use MM, but loved this method of teaching the tables!

This may not be helpful to you, but I wanted to toss my ideas out there just in case. Best of luck to you!

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