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naturegirl

Math help for 4th grader

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My son would be in fourth grade if he were in school. However, none of our math curriculum is fourth grade math. We used Miquon math up through second grade, then switched over to Beast Academy about half way through his third grade year. At the beginning of his third grade year I also bought Singapore Challenging Word Problems, to do occasionally, to make sure he understood how to use numbers in real world examples. However, I thought the third grade book was too hard, so I bought second grade. At times we can move through math slowly, because I will stop our regular curriculum occasionally and teach him about binary numbers or the Fibonacci sequence. Just to show him that not all math is just arithmetic. There is a whole world awaiting him once he learns his basic math facts. We also stop sometimes just to play games to reinforce fractions or multiplication facts. 

 

Anyway, because of the way we've been moving through math, we just recently started the third grade Singapore Challenging Word Problems and we are still in third grade Beast Academy. For the past several months he has been calling himself stupid and thinks he's terrible at math because he is so "behind." I feel terrible because part of the reason we are "behind" is because we stop here and there to do other things and because we have moved twice during the summer/fall and school just didn't always happen as often as it should have. I don't feel behind at all, because I see him progressing and learning all the time. I think he's doing great.

 

However, in an effort to build his self confidence, I decided to get him Teaching Textbooks, because I had heard they were usually a year or two behind other math programs. I looked through the grade levels and picked out sixth grade. I looked through the whole book and he already knows how to do everything in the book. Not all of it is necessarily easy, but he can do everything in there. I thought about going to a lower level, but I don't want his math to be all busy work. 

 

At first the plan seemed to be going well. Teaching Textbooks was super easy for him and he seemed to be gaining confidence. But the last several lessons have been causing stress again. Not because he's getting very many things wrong. He always gets a 95 or a 100 percent. But he's doing it on the computer and I hear screaming coming from the computer every day as he get's upset if he misses something (it gives you two tries on every problem). He rarely needs two tries, but when it does happen he becomes irrationally upset. Sometimes he will even storm out of the computer room and into his bedroom, slamming the door and talking about how stupid he is.

 

So now I am at a loss. I personally prefer Singapore Math because it is a challenging program that really makes you think. I think in the end, after completing it, he will be able to approach problems more creatively than if he didn't do the program. I only switched because I don't want him to hate math. He is really very smart and I hate to hear him get down on himself. So what does everyone think? I hate to jump around from program to program too much. But I want him to regain his confidence and at least not hate math.

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In his situation, I would sit him down with the comprehensive test on Mobymax. It's free, just sign up to use the lessons.  Have him go through (either in sections or all at once) until the test stops, and then print out the entire results (it's a lot of pages) and sit down with him.  At the top will be the grade level he's at, and the rest of it will give him what he needs to work on/what he does well with.

 

I think he needs to see where he's working and be shown what he has mastered.  Singapore and BA are not traditional programs - they encourage deeper thinking and that won't compare against a traditional program's list of skills.  He may just need to see where he is in the big scheme of things and understand why he's using what he is.

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So a couple of things occur to me.

 

First, this doesn't sound like a math problem. Switching curriculum might fix it but only because of how the surrounding stuff changes, not because the issue is math.

 

It sounds like a problem of resiliency.

 

You might be able to help it by being there with him, talking him through some resiliency (which is why switching to a curriculum that involves you might improve it, even though the problem isn't the math.)

 

You might find ways to deliberately teach it.

 

And while you could solve the thinking about being bad at math by pointing out that he's doing a challenge program... The bigger issue is changing the focus to be about working hard and progressing, instead of the focus being on meeting/not meeting/exceeding random exterior benchmarks.

 

Sent from my ONEPLUS A5000 using Tapatalk

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I agree with upthread, this doesn't sound like a math issue.  It sounds like a resiliency issue.  He feels like a failure if the answer is wrong.  His thinking needs help.  The process is more important than the answer at this point.  He needs to learn the process/concepts and to be willing and able to make mistakes to learn and internalize that process.  Does he have perfectionist/anxiety tendencies?

 

Is he writing down his steps so he can go back and see where he made mistakes and why?  That is key.  He needs to be willing to understand why.  Writing down the steps and learning to review his steps to see where the issue is can make a huge difference.

 

Do you sit with him and work through any of the material together?  Do you emulate resilience in areas of your own life?  In other words, does he see you make mistakes and work to learn from them, welcome them even?  You might start articulating your own frustrations/areas where you might make a mistake and show him how to process through learning from those mistakes.

 

You might work on this from a more global perspective.  Maybe some biographies of people who had to (and were willing to) make a lot of mistakes to achieve what they were trying to achieve would help.  Or documentaries...

 

 

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Haven't read the other answers, but this is a perfectionism issue, not a math issue. What I tell my kids, is that if they never make mistakes, that the work they're doing is too easy. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Edited by luuknam
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Well, I'd ditch the Teaching Textbooks, immediately. How frustrating that something you got to boost his morale is making him despise math (and also, in my opinion, get the wrong idea about it).

 

In a way, this IS a math issue, because there is something about math teaching in particular that causes this response in many kids.

 

Your child is not alone in becoming unhinged by the idea of the Right Answer, and it takes a lot of maturity to enjoy recognizing and fixing one's mistakes. Also, what message do we send as educators when we counsel our kids not to be perfectionists, and then make them go back and correct every answer, or even just point out every wrong answer? Of course if we make them correct every answer or if we attend to their mistakes, they'll think what matters is the Right Answer, not what they tried, or how they approached a problem.

 

Math is NOT grade levels. (Obviously, you know that based upon everything you've written and done, but it's worth reiterating.) Grade levels are a made-up but helpful progression designed to create some consistency and eliminate gaps for kids who are going through the public school system.  Math is about mastering concepts. If I were you, I'd chop the bindings off the books I have and create a bunch of unit studies around mastering math concepts to emphasize this, and/or get the books in Math Mammoth Blue Series for this kid. BA is awesome (esp. if he likes it), but it's for a specific type of kid, and by that I don't mean "only the smart ones." No, I think it's completely normal even for mathy, bright kids to not be quite mature enough in elementary school to enjoy the kinds of challenges BA can present. There is plenty of time to become excited by a challenge.

 

While it must be terrible to hear him call himself stupid, the more you argue with him, the more he may dig in his heels. None of your feelings of pride for his accomplishments, or your insistence on the rightness of them, will change his bad feelings; they may just cause him to shut down and not talk to you about them. I say this from experience. Although it's the hardest thing in the world when it's your goal to make him feel smart AND confident AND love math, we can't really make our kids feel anything. I would say that, from my limited experience as a child and as a parent, comparing someone to others even when your comparison is favorable is one of the most detrimental things you can do to a person's self-esteem. Don't go down the road of telling him he is ahead of most kids his age. It's best to praise what you admire about what he does in the context of the fact that others who are doing well or moving faster do not diminish his strengths one bit.

 

And maybe just ignore the wrong answers for a while, you know? Point to the right answers and ask, how did you get that? File away the wrong ones as things you want to reinforce or approach in different ways, or work on once he's matured a bit, but for now focus on the process. According to research, people learn from their wrong answers in math, even when they're never corrected.

 

(In fact, some of the resources on the Youcubed website above might provide a great resource both for math and for mindset! I love 'em.)

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Thanks everyone for responding. It seems obvious as I read this, but I hadn't actually put it together that this isn't a math problem. That completely changes how I look at this. I appreciate any and all suggestions that people have. You all have given me a lot to think about. 

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