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Is BA a good fit for her?


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DD8 LOVES Beast Academy. She's been excited about math since we started doing it. She very rarely has any negative reaction to my pulling it out or telling her to get it. She is usually quite happy about it and runs off with the books. 

 

But she struggles with not always knowing what to do. She'll ask for help very quickly and doesn't like having to work at figuring out how to solve it. She doesn't mind struggling TO solve it as long as she has an idea HOW. If she's in the right frame of mind, she can often figure it out without realizing she had to figure out how, but if she's not, then she will stall even when it's something we've done before. 

 

I want to help her, and I often do, but I don't want to be walking her to the answer every time. Or is that okay? 

 

For an example, today she had to do 50 * ? = 4,000. We had done this type of problem before, but it was last week. I know if I just spell it out for her she's going to give me an "oh yeah!" and have a sheepish grin cuz she knows she should have known that. But she just gets it in her head sometimes when she sees something that looks hard that she can't do it. Then it's like her brain freezes and she can't work her way to it. 

 

Right now we are just filling in the gaps and working through 3 as I just pulled her out of school last week. So I'm not so worried about now as long as we keep going with SOMEthing. But for when we start 4th grade, I'm not sure if BA should be our main curriculum, or if we need to go back to singapore and just have BA be a sometimes treat. 

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Many of us on here use Beast as a supplement and not the main. I use it a year behind SM so that the focus is on developing problem solving skills and higher order thinking rather than acquiring math skills.

 

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Agreed.  My kids would not have made it with BA as their primary math.  They need a lot of spiral review and some explanation in more detail.  They did a lot better using CLE as the spine and BA as a supplement.  They learned a lot from BA but they needed more and different than what BA offered as their primary math.  No math program fits everyone the same way.  If your child is liking BA but is not doing well with BA by itself then get something else as the spine and use BA on the side.  It is an awesome program but often is not a good fit as a stand alone.

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How much walking through do you mean?

 

If my daughter's brain froze on the example you gave, I'd start by telling her to just talk aloud about anything she *does* know regarding the problem on the page. Then I might prod with, "what happens with zeros at the ends of numbers in multiplication?" That would often be enough to get the sheepish look, and is completely fine in my book.

 

For my kid, getting the process down is often *harder* with more straightforward math programs. And writing is a real difficulty, so pages full of problems would set her up for a much worse mental state. BA isn't perfect, as she often does get frustrated with the struggle, but it's still the best thing we've tried.

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They have a section of hints in the back of the practice books, before the answers. I think teaching how to think through problems when stuck at this age is fine. Even if you think they should know. Knowing division is the opposite of multiplication is one thing. Knowing when to apply it to a problem is another. Giving her hints is just helping her apply the knowledge.

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When ds was using it, it was the core of his math work, but I often found he needed to do easy math sometimes too, just for his confidence and to refresh him on basic concepts. It sounds like she needs something else as well. Whether Beast becomes the supplement or the other way around is up to you and what you use. If we had tried to do a full other program, that would have been too much for ds. But it wouldn't be for many other kids.

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For an example, today she had to do 50 * ? = 4,000. 

 

For something like this, I often like to just make a statement of fact (a fact that the child fully knows as well) that might jog their thinking process:

 

"Well, I know that 50 * 10 = 500."

 

Then I give them lots of time to think about that.  If they are still stuck I will state another fact:

 

"And if 50 * 10 = 500, then 50 * 10 * 2 would equal 1000."

 

I will repeat this cycle as many times as necessary until they figure it out.

 

Wendy

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For today's problem, I backed up and wrote out a similar problem and walked her through that. Then we went back to the one she had to do and a little prompting with a reminder of how we started the last problem got her going and she completed it. She doesn't usually have too much difficulty with non-starred problems. Sometimes the hint helps her get going, but often the hint is the part she's already figured out and it's the next step she's stuck on. 

 

So if a lot of prompts is okay with this program and this age, then I'd like to stay with BA because of how much she likes it. I just don't want to get a year or two down the road and find out she wasn't really "getting" it all along. 

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We're using BA as our main math curriculum, and it seems like it's going okay.  DD10 is in 4D.  I certainly have needed to do some hinting and prompting towards the end of each section, but those are challenging and non-obvious problems, so I'm okay with that.  And I think she is learning how to deal with math problems where "what to do" isn't immediately obvious.  One thing I've tried is requiring her to write down *something* before I help her.  So I'm looking for her to pick the important information out of word problems and make a diagram if that might be helpful.  

 

On the other hand, we have had a couple of topics now (long division and multiplying & dividing fractions) where she didn't have a solid understanding of the basic concept by the end of the chapter.  In those cases, we opted use one of the Math Mammoth topic books to go over the concept with a slightly different explanation and more practice.

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Sometimes the hint helps her get going, but often the hint is the part she's already figured out and it's the next step she's stuck on.

Argh, this. Maybe 1 in 10 hints gives DD info she hadn't already figured out.

 

But I do figure if the writers thought it was ok to give those hints, it's probably just fine to make up a few of my own for the things that my particular child gets stuck on. :)

 

If you read the guides, the beasts do a marvelous job of modeling how to struggle with a problem, and also how to help each other through those struggles.

 

For purely my own peace of mind, I occasionally bring up a question from a few chapters earlier. Not one of the super tricky ones, but one of the middle of the road ones. Typically, DD breezes through it. Even just getting to the end of a chapter, we'll go back to earlier questions that were a stretch a whopping 2-3 weeks ago, and she'll often breeze through it. So I'm not too worried she's not getting it. We just deal with some drama getting there.

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For today's problem, I backed up and wrote out a similar problem and walked her through that. Then we went back to the one she had to do and a little prompting with a reminder of how we started the last problem got her going and she completed it. 

 

I try to avoid that, because it sets up the idea that there is one right way to solve that type of problem, when there are at least a half dozen ways that I can think of off the top of my head.

 

I think the greatest value in BA is that it asks challenging questions without having already explicitly taught kids how to solve them.  It gives kids the tools they need, but then leaves it up to them to figure out exactly how to use those tools to solve unique problems - that is real life.  

 

My goal is to support my son as he struggles with challenging problems, without stepping into the role of "teacher".  I don't want to teach him how to do the problem, or one just like it.  I'll throw out a fact that his mind can latch onto and build from, I'll act as a sounding board, I'll point out computation errors before they cause him too much trouble, I'll help him read through the relevant section of the guide again, I'll even sometimes muse aloud about what similarities I see between the current problem and previous ones on the page.  I try to avoid, however, being the all-knowing expert that holds all the answers.  It will always be easier to ask someone else how to solve a problem rather than struggle with it yourself.  The beauty of BA is that it gives kids the opportunity to get their own hands dirty in the problem solving process...even when that involves frustration, false starts, wrong answers, struggling with one problem for the whole math time and still not having an answer, etc.

 

All that said, we do not use BA as our primary math program.  That would not work well for my son, even though he is an extremely accelerated, mathy student.  We use Math Mammoth as our primary curriculum and supplement with BA to strengthen problem solving skills.

 

Wendy

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I tutor a gal using BA, and she isn't particularly gifted in math.  I let her try things as long as they are legal.  She is allowed to add 11 to both sides of an equation, even if that approach won't quite lead you to a solution.  It's legal, so let's try it and see what happens.  If it doesn't work, no worries, maybe we can do something similar that will lead to a solution.  

 

We did all those exercises involving finding consecutive squares, where (n+1)^2 = n^2 + n + n + 1.  It never seemed to stick, so every single time we drew the squares out.  Every single time.  And then we'd count the squares.  I don't know that she could ever do it spontaneously.  But I'm not worried, because I was never taught anything like that, and even though I studied quadratics up and down and left and right, I never saw that picture.  But maybe that image of the consecutive squares will stay with her.

 

I did have one big success with her recently.  We had been learning about distributing multiplication over addition, and how sometimes it can be easier to multiply something by 30 -1 instead of multiplying by 29.  She must have internalized this because when solving an entirely different problem she needed to solve 16 + 14.  She could not tell me what was 16 + 14, but without my prompting, she rewrote the expression as 10 + 6 + 10 + 4.  That is equal to 10 + 10 + 6 + 4.  Aha!  Here was something she could solve.  She knows what is 6 + 4, so now it's a matter of adding up the 10's to find the answer.  

 

Here she's making these properties work for her, and I savor these little victories.  

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Argh, this. Maybe 1 in 10 hints gives DD info she hadn't already figured out.

 

But I do figure if the writers thought it was ok to give those hints, it's probably just fine to make up a few of my own for the things that my particular child gets stuck on. :)

 

If you read the guides, the beasts do a marvelous job of modeling how to struggle with a problem, and also how to help each other through those struggles.

 

For purely my own peace of mind, I occasionally bring up a question from a few chapters earlier. Not one of the super tricky ones, but one of the middle of the road ones. Typically, DD breezes through it. Even just getting to the end of a chapter, we'll go back to earlier questions that were a stretch a whopping 2-3 weeks ago, and she'll often breeze through it. So I'm not too worried she's not getting it. We just deal with some drama getting there.

This is a good point!  I actually haven't read all of the guides. I read the first chapter and I've read bits here and there. I should read through all of it with her. 

 

I try to avoid that, because it sets up the idea that there is one right way to solve that type of problem, when there are at least a half dozen ways that I can think of off the top of my head.

 

I think the greatest value in BA is that it asks challenging questions without having already explicitly taught kids how to solve them.  It gives kids the tools they need, but then leaves it up to them to figure out exactly how to use those tools to solve unique problems - that is real life.  

 

My goal is to support my son as he struggles with challenging problems, without stepping into the role of "teacher".  I don't want to teach him how to do the problem, or one just like it.  I'll throw out a fact that his mind can latch onto and build from, I'll act as a sounding board, I'll point out computation errors before they cause him too much trouble, I'll help him read through the relevant section of the guide again, I'll even sometimes muse aloud about what similarities I see between the current problem and previous ones on the page.  I try to avoid, however, being the all-knowing expert that holds all the answers.  It will always be easier to ask someone else how to solve a problem rather than struggle with it yourself.  The beauty of BA is that it gives kids the opportunity to get their own hands dirty in the problem solving process...even when that involves frustration, false starts, wrong answers, struggling with one problem for the whole math time and still not having an answer, etc.

 

All that said, we do not use BA as our primary math program.  That would not work well for my son, even though he is an extremely accelerated, mathy student.  We use Math Mammoth as our primary curriculum and supplement with BA to strengthen problem solving skills.

 

Wendy

I usually try to ask prompting questions to get her thinking about what she's trying to figure out and what she may need to know first to get there. I was having a hard day yesterday due to dental work, headache, and the inability to eat due to said dental work. I just went with the only clear way I could! This is good to consider, though. Because I've never intentionally *avoided* walking her through or giving her steps to follow. I do usually try to get her to think through ways to get there herself, but I also sometimes spell out an answer. I will pay closer attention to that. 

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I also remind myself that BA placement tests say that if the student misses something they should get a second chance after you grade it. I use that philosophy often, including with my non-BA math learners.

 

I try to make a dialog out of my prompts, "huh. I'm not sure what to do either. What kind of things do we know about this type of problem." Building on Wendyroo's point I will often explicitly say, well there are/were many ways to solve this problem how are you approaching it? and then, "here is what I did. Same answer, both approaches are valid." Sometimes I like their way better, sometimes not.

 

I'm sure you do a lot of these things already, and it sounds like yesterday was rough. There are a plethora of ways to check retention besides waiting two years, don't let it be a mystery.

 

Hopefully this is helpful and doesn't sound corrective.

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