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Son spent fall semester at a brick and mortar school. It is an excellent school. He was earning passing, but barely passing, grades in algebra. But due to emotional problems, we let him return to home schooling for spring. I thought I would start with pulling out the algebra curriculum we had been using to figure out where he is at. Right off, from moment one, he couldn't do the work. He could not even figure out -3/3..he thought the final answer was 0. I tried to talk him through it...if he had three pieces of pizza out of three..would he have one pizza. He says well it was a negative so he figures zero. 

 

OK..he earned a 76 in algebra for first semester in a brick and mortar school, which is accredited and a great school. But the 76 consisted of 100's on home work (so I do not know if he was just given those grades because he turned something in) and then barely passing tests. Frankly, I cannot see how he passed any tests.

 

Now what? I can hardly bare to face starting algebra over again...for the ..what? 5th time? Would this be the 5th time? I am losing count. Let's see..we started with Jacobs, and then did Foerster's, and then moved to Derek Owens, and then to a school, so yeah, I guess this will be our 5th time to completely start algebra over. I do not think..cannot imagine..that starting over is a good idea. I am at a loss!!! And the main reason he was hating the school is he could not handle the math. His grades were getting lower and lower. We also have done Keys to Algebra, the first few books. I am starting to hyperventilate knowing that starting over, yet again, is not going to matter. He seems as if he is completely incapable of learning math. He cannot graduate high school like this. Forget college. I mean seriously...what can even be done at this point?

Edited by Janeway

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I think you are catastrophizing.  Take a deep breath.  Many people who are not strong in math graduate and even go to college.  You can't predict the end point right now.  You just need to get to a good place.

 

I remember, before, there was some talk of a math disability and testing.  Has that been done?

 

Why is he not getting Algebra?  Are his math facts strong?  If so, I think you need to move really slowly.  I would also use something that constantly reviews like Saxon.  Or something that reviews and goes slowly like Teaching Textbooks (but I suggest you check how he does every single day and how many tries it takes him if you go this route--or have him work on paper and you grade it.)Have him do every problem and fix the mistakes.  If you think he knows the beginning chapters, give him the tests and see how he goes, but don't go on unless he gets at least an 80 on them.  You really need to do this--start over.  You know that.  But don't rush him and don't try to accelerate the pace with Algebra.  All other math builds on this. 

 

But I still suggest getting him tested because I think that's what others thought the problem was.

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Did the school do any sort of diagnostic testing?  Did they flag him for intervention in any way?  Or did they just stick him in a class and let him sink or swim?

 

Have you had him tested by someone who is an expert in such things?  Can you, yourself, do a basic overview analysis to determine what he knows well and what he does not, both in terms of algorithms and in terms of conceptual stuff?  (If not, that's ok, that's what experts are for.)

 

Mom+textbook hasn't worked.  School teacher + textbook hasn't worked.  You need an expert to get in there and see what the barriers are and develop a plan to address them.

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Did the school do any sort of diagnostic testing?  Did they flag him for intervention in any way?  Or did they just stick him in a class and let him sink or swim?

 

Have you had him tested by someone who is an expert in such things?  Can you, yourself, do a basic overview analysis to determine what he knows well and what he does not, both in terms of algorithms and in terms of conceptual stuff?  (If not, that's ok, that's what experts are for.)

 

Mom+textbook hasn't worked.  School teacher + textbook hasn't worked.  You need an expert to get in there and see what the barriers are and develop a plan to address them.

He was already tested over the summer through the children's hospital. He has a math learning disability, but even the psychologist felt that it should not affect him to this extent. And his math ITBS overall score at the end of 6th grade was 99th percentile. He has not taken ITBS since then so I do not have more recent scores. But I did spend a ton of time on math with him.

 

It is as if algebra cannot click some how. No clue why. However, I will say we did Singapore Math for the lower grades and then switched American math. Not sure if the styles are a reason. Sometimes, I just feel like he is not making an effort. That this could potentially be more about effort than it is about math. 

 

Oh..back to the ITBS..here are his CoGat Scores....in percentiles... Verbal 89 Quantitative 40 NonVerbal 97 Composite 84. Not sure if that helps much. 

Edited by Janeway

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It is as if algebra cannot click some how. No clue why. 

 

The problem is not the algebra.

 

He could not even figure out -3/3..he thought the final answer was 0. I tried to talk him through it...if he had three pieces of pizza out of three..would he have one pizza. He says well it was a negative so he figures zero. 

 

This is prealgebra. He got lost somewhere around 5th grade because this is basic fractions and negative numbers.

Starting algebra over and over again will not be the solution if the problem is rooted in the arithmetic grounding before.

 

Are there math specialists or other resources? I suspect just trying the 5th different algebra curriculum will not remedy the problem.

What is done to address his diagnosed math disability?

Edited by regentrude
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:grouphug:   BTDT. 

 

I speak to you as the parent of a child with a profound math LD.  It affected and colored everything.  I panicked.  I stressed.  And I didn't do her any good by taking that path.  Or constantly repeating math with various sources designed for neurotypical children.  Here is my take...

  1. You are right, just starting Algebra I over again is not the answer.
  2. As mentioned up thread Mom+algebra using multiple sources did not work for your child.  Classroom teacher + algebra also did not work.  My next suggestion is professional tutoring with someone who has experience with kids with serious math LDs since that absolutely seems like what you are dealing with.  You need someone who genuinely understands that level of math struggle, not just a standard tutor.
  3. Just because he cannot do Algebra (at least not yet) does not mean your child cannot attend college or find a good career path or is doomed to live in your basement playing video games or whatever other scenario is playing through your head right now.  I understand your state of mind.  Believe me.  Sending hugs of support.  But his best chance is for you to take a deep breath, accept that he has a serious deficit in math, whether the psychologist understands why his math LD is affecting him so much or not, and start finding ways to help him function without laying his entire future on whether he can pass Algebra I.  There are options.
  4. Since he already had an evaluation that states he does have a math LD you may be able to get special accommodations for things like standardized testing and even help at the college level if you establish that paper trail while he is still in High School.
  5. Dyscalculia (profound struggles in math essentially) is not well understood yet.  If the psychologist that did the evaluation is not an expert in this field they may not truly understand what the real underlying issues are.  Their results are helpful but I would take what they say with a grain of salt with regards to how to approach this situation.
  6. Push really hard to find and support any areas of interest he has.  Do NOT mentally/emotionally hinge his future success in life on math and don't let him either.  Just don't go there.  Math functionality is only one aspect of the components that make up your son.  Support his areas of strength/interest and help him find joy.
  7. There is a lot more to math than Algebra I.  He may need a serious break from Algebra.  I would consider walking away from Algebra altogether for now.  He has probably developed a math phobia at this point so math anxiety may be playing a significant negative part in his functionality.  He may need some detox time instead of a constant reminder that this subject is nearly impossible for him to master (at least right now).  And then he may need to go back quite a ways to solidify gaps in basic understanding of math before even attempting algebra again.  Something like Hands On Equations, going really slowly, might help but I would be seeking professional help at this point, TBH.
  8. If you/he feel that he HAS to work on some sort of math while you sort out ways to help long term, maybe work on life skills math for now and keep it engaging.    Also, maybe combine it with a subject of interest to him.  DD did better combining math with art since art is a big passion of hers.  DS liked math combined with history.  DD likes geometry related subjects.  DS likes logic.  Seek out other avenues for math so your son might be able to make connections that are more meaningful.
  9. Consider maybe running him through the Ronit Bird materials to see if there are basic gaps.  Or having a professional tutor do so.  Since those are not tied to grade levels it will hopefully not affect self esteem as much as doing something with a grade level attachment.
  10. Keep in mind for both of you that the vast majority of jobs/life skills needed on daily basis do not rely on algebra.  Whatever his struggles right now, if he can get through High School with his self-esteem intact he will probably do fine as an adult.  You just need to help him find a path that acknowledges algebraic math is hugely challenging for him that also taps into his strengths.  

:grouphug:

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-3/3 = -1  is something that needs to be learned prior to algebra.  I think you need to use something, maybe a basic college math text, maybe Khan Academy, and start from the beginning with all arithmetic and math skills--you can move quickly through the part he is secure on. Figure out where he got lost and start there.

 

Assume that he will be able to learn math if his foundation for it is secured.

 

But even if he cannot, all hope is not lost.

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Algebra is where a lot of people have a difficult time. Older adults struggle with it as well. At this stage math becomes a model and an abstraction. It is almost like a foreign language in many ways.  It requires the mind to build models of an abstract universe and generalize it to the real world. Some people make this jump far easier than other. Some just memorize the steps and rules and follow the linear aspect of it to get through. 

 

Please no one throw rocks at me but I would find a really good book using Core methods for prealgebra. Why? Well because they use models and number lines for everything.  For students that linear memorization does not work they really need solid models and a lot of whiteboard work.  I like the graph sheets that are erasable from lakeshore learning the back has number lines on them. They also have a good math manipulative set. I have graded the work of the students in my sons and daughters class. The ones that have the easiest time with math are the ones who can draw a picture. They can create a writing strategy. I had success with older students having them first work on simple variable problems using different colors of pens to represent the different variables etc. 

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The thing about the -3/3=-1 and not knowing it is..he knew it, then he forgot. Then he relearned it and retained for a little while, and then forgot. It is as if learning new things confuses the old. Just before he forgot -3/3...we were working on slope intercept form...how to figure the slope...rise over run. I think it was learning that that made him go back and confuse the fraction of -3/3. As if he is trying to apply the new stuff to everything else when he goes back to everything else and it all mixes up. Sort of like...if you were making dinner and every time you add a new item, it somehow mixes with everything even though the marshmallows only belong on the sweet potatoes, they end up on everything. And each time you add the additional item, you have to go back and remake every single other item to sort it all out. 

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 And his math ITBS overall score at the end of 6th grade was 99th percentile. 

 

Why do you think he was able to score at the 99th percentile on the math on the ITBS?  Was there a time when he was doing well in math?  Or has it always been a struggle?

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The thing about the -3/3=-1 and not knowing it is..he knew it, then he forgot. Then he relearned it and retained for a little while, and then forgot. It is as if learning new things confuses the old. Just before he forgot -3/3...we were working on slope intercept form...how to figure the slope...rise over run. I think it was learning that that made him go back and confuse the fraction of -3/3. As if he is trying to apply the new stuff to everything else when he goes back to everything else and it all mixes up. Sort of like...if you were making dinner and every time you add a new item, it somehow mixes with everything even though the marshmallows only belong on the sweet potatoes, they end up on everything. And each time you add the additional item, you have to go back and remake every single other item to sort it all out. 

This is life with a math LD.  This is my daughter.  They genuinely cannot help it.  She puts in tremendous effort.  Huge.  And every time we take an extended break (or even a couple of weeks off) she forgets a ton, muddles up a bunch and then struggles to get back on her feet.  But the other component is that even in a moment where things may seem to make sense, they may not really make sense.  Not in a mastery level sort of way.  The connections and understanding may be very weak.  They aren't sustainable when more data is added.  

 

FWIW, I do not have the profound math issues that my daughter has.  I still found Algebra very difficult.  I took Algebra 1 in High School over a two year period with a teacher trained in teaching struggling students.  He was wonderful and I loved being in his class.  I did not retain the information.  I took Algebra I again in college.  Faster pace, not as good a teacher.  I got a D and that was being generous.  I didn't know what I was doing.  I took it again at the college level when I was pregnant with DD.  I studied HARD.  I did a ton of extra work outside of class.  Things finally made some sense.  I did well in the class and enjoyed it.  I did not retain it.  Working with my own kids I realized that most of that information is just gone.  I had to start over completely once again.  If it weren't for the fact that my kids need my help I wouldn't even bother.  

 

Honestly, though, I think I would have done better if I had been able to really solidify fractions/decimals/percents to mastery level before tackling pre-algebra and then done pre-algebra over at least a two year period, working really hard at review as we moved slowly forward with new material and never taking really long breaks.  Working with manipulatives and real life application might have helped, too.  It might have given my brain something to "hang my hat on".

 

My point, I guess, is that while this is exceedingly frustrating for the parent and the instructor (which can often be both) it is even more so for the person trying to learn this material.  It is disheartening and demoralizing to work SO HARD, get a glimmer of understanding, and then it all disappears again.  It can be so emotionally damaging to face that over and over and over.  And the more emotionally damaged the student, the harder it is to think.  

 

With DD, I had to walk away from any expectations of following a NT path/schedule for math.  That isn't her reality.  Instead, I started her over from the beginning, combined multiple methods/curriculum and tried not to push her beyond what she is capable of doing.  I also worked hard to end on a positive note whenever possible, I have kept lessons short, I work hard to acknowledge that she is putting in tremendous effort even if the result may look less than stellar, and I have readjusted my reality to realize that milestones in math for DD may look vastly different than milestones for an NT kid.  Nevertheless those milestones need to be acknowledged.  I cheer her on.  And I try hard never to define her worth or her future based on her math abilities. 

 

I don't think there is going to be a magic bullet here, but there are ways to help your son find a good path to his future.  Hopefully the suggestions and ideas presented will help.  I wish you and your child the best.

 

:grouphug:

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Yes, the psych was being a (remove nasty words) and is totally cracked saying math disability isn't causing this. Obviously it is. 

 

One, you might consider looking at some traditional curricula and doing placement tests. He clearly has some holes, and it sounds like he needs to back up to pre-algebra. Has he done anything sort of hands-on at the pre-algebra level? Hands-on Equations, for instance?

 

Also, you might look into the Math By All Means series. They have some algebra books on various grade levels and would approach things in a more memorable, contextualized, problem-solving way. Family Math has an upper level book, same gig, a way to approach concepts with more hands-on, more real life, more context.

 

Total aside, but Coordinate Graphing Grade 5-8 - TCR2115 | Teacher Created Resources  or Coordinate Graphing: Creating Geometry Quilts Grade 4 & Up  Might help him. 

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I had a situation where I had to start over teaching one of my children something numerous times. I remember being frustrated and annoyed that I was buying yet another curriculum. I realized over time that my annoyance was leaking into the lessons and my kiddo was picking up on it. So feel free to vent here but when you start the lesson and curriculum try to make it as positive as you can. Kids at that age already have math anxiety and self esteem issues no matter how hard we try as parents. 

 

I thought of some more ideas based on the feedback from above. In math even high level math we always created crib sheets for formulas and problems. Some times we were allowed to use them in exams and sometimes we weren't. I will be honest I still need a crib sheet for using trigonometric substitution when doing calculus because I don't do it in my everyday work. Also using money story problems for negative numbers helps a lot because this is the one place where negative numbers intersect real life. 

With graphs and charts they have to be anchored in real life. Core gets kids graphing and doing probabilities at kindergarten . I remember my son making a chart of marbles coming out of a bag and figuring out the likelihood of it being white. While I truly hate some aspects of core I have to say for kiddos who really struggle and need visual reinforcement it works far better than just memorizing steps in a process. 

 

If it were me I would back up and do a semester of prealgebra. I would have my student create sample problems on a crib sheet or I would create them and make them very colorful. for example a/a = 1  -a/a = -1 

 

Then I would put these in a visual area where the student can see them everyday.  keep the sheets standard size so they can slip in those wipeable covers or whatever. Just seeing those sheets each day will gently push this information into long term memory. Then everyday have a student warm up for 5 minutes doing already mastered material while referencing the crib sheets. 

 

Even the best math minds get there from working a lot of problems. Getting validation and attributing their success to their effort. In math I would aim for creating and honing a curriculum that gives the student a 80 percent success rate while learning to master more material gradually. Everyone feels better doing something if they are good at. The crib sheet is like a paper memory to jolt the mind into consistent action. 

 

The crib sheets will anchor what is learned. My daughter made crib sheets for prealgebra and algebra and she can still refer to these facts and previous work. Homemade is always better because it goes in the order they learned it and they remember where on the page that fact,formula, or reminder is. I have a crib sheet at work that I can picture in my mind I have used it so much. 

 

One last idea I would buy a binder and put a copy of the crib sheet and some sheets of previous work after it. by the end of prealgebra it creates a "memory" of what they learned so they can refer to it quickly and reference previous principles to refresh their mind. 

 

Finally you are likely going to not let this kid take more than 3 weeks off with math. It needs to be all year round until they graduate because math leaks out of the best of us and more so for students that struggle. 

Edited by exercise_guru
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Is your ds truly forgetting everything he ever knew before when he gets to a new sort of difficult problems?  Or only things that were not totally mastered?

 

I think some forgetting of old things is common even with people who do not have math LD, tending to be worse if tired, hungry etc.  But also tending to be worse for things that are shaky in the first place.

 

It sounds like your ds had mastery up to end of 6th grade material and then may have gotten shaky after that (pre-algebra?).  More recent trouble may also have added to emotional distress about math which could also be adding a lot to the problems.  (And your own fears that he won't be able to graduate high school, go to college etc. may also add to his stress as well as yours.)

 

If he can get anything out of Khan Academy videos, Sal Khan can be made to replay/ thus explaining over and over without ever sounding annoyed, worried, or frustrated.

 

I still think going back and getting mastery at pre-algebra level will help him with algebra.  It may also help his confidence to feel he can succeed.  You could also have him make up problems for you to do, where he will grade you (which means he still needs to figure out the answer).  My ds at least loves doing this.  Especially if I have some struggle with it.

 

And I think for algebra you should use an easier program like perhaps MUS or the type of program exercise-guru mentioned.

 

Break up the learning for algebra so that he first is mastering slope, before he gets slope-intercept, and then is mastering slope-intercept with positive slopes, etc.

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Also thought of something else could you find the textbook or materials he used at school last semester. Maybe you could buy it second hand cheap so that you understand what they taught and what stuck and what didn't.  Maybe he remembers more than you realize. Hopefully he saved all of his homework. 

Edited by exercise_guru

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