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Math Assignments: Is this normal?

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My 5th grader (11) and my 4th grader (9) are both using Singapore 5A for math.  (Just the normal workbook.   Not the IP or CWP.)

 

Daily, they miss more than half of their problems on their math workbook assignments.    I am wondering if this is normal?   If not, what can I do to correct it?

I always grade their math right away and have them fix any problems they miss.   And they typically can always fix them.  (Sometimes it takes a few attempts.)

 

 

Additional Information:

  • They understand the math.   They are just making mistakes.  (Example:   Subtracting incorrectly.   Forgetting to add the digits that they carried when multiplying.   Writing too sloppy.  Etc. etc. )
  • This is not a new problem.   This has been ongoing for years.  Looking back on their past workbooks, they are missing more than half the problems each day for YEARS.   (And then then they go back and fix until 100%.)
  • My fear is that I have done something inadvertently to cause (or allow) careless work in math.   If they are both doing the same thing, that probably means it is an instructional problem....right?   Where did I go wrong, and what can I do at this point considering we might have some deeply ingrained bad math habits.  :)
  • I don't think the problem is specific to Singapore math.   I've tried giving them worksheets from math mammoth, and the same thing happens.   
  • They even do the same thing with easier problems.   For example, I even had them go back and complete the 4th grade math mammoth review workbook just to try and get them used to not being careless with easier problems.   Daily, they still missed about half the problems and would do their math assignments twice.

My concerns:

  • Wasted instructional time:  Today, for example, my 11 year old spent about 60 minutes to do 8 long division problems (with remainder).   He got 3 of them correct.   My 9 year old got 4 of them correct.    That is less than 50%.   So we graded the page and I had them fix the incorrect problems.   They spent about another 45 mins fixing the math problems.   Because they are getting so many incorrect, they essentially have to do their math assignments twice every day.   That makes for a LOOOOOONG day for them.    (And I am only assigning 8 problems!)    I was hoping that fixing their math everyday and redoing it would eventually teach them to be careful and try their best the fist time, but that doesn't seem to be working.  (After years of trying this same approach, I think I need to try something new.)    In the past my theory has been that they just need more practice.   So I have assigned them more problems of the same type.  But the same thing just keeps happening day after day after day.
  • Future math classes:  Someday, they might need to take an outside class for math.   I am worried that poor math habits will effect their grade.   Imagine if they get a 40% on every homework assignment?

 

Any other ideas on things I can do?   

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Honestly, in grades 4 and 5, this was/is normal for both of mine. We work through them together and correct the mistakes. It's painful for all of us BUUUTTT I think it's more a maturity and frustration issue than a math one. DD came out the other side much more confident than her peers and I suspect DS will be the same. She's having zero issues with algebra concepts.I just think Gr 4/5 are a tough slog between shoring up procedural mastery (multiplication/division) and adding new concepts/terminology (algebra and geometry); it's a lot.

Edited by Sneezyone
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I just realized I accidentally posted this on the high school board.   

 

So sorry.  It has been a long morning slogging through 2 hours of long division problems with two grumpy kids.   I think need more coffee!   

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I just realized I accidentally posted this on the high school board.   

 

So sorry.  It has been a long morning slogging through 2 hours of long division problems with two grumpy kids.   I think need more coffee!   

 

I didn't even notice. :lol:

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I do not think "more problems" or easier problems will help with careless errors that are not linked to conceptual misunderstanding. Careless errors are actually most common when they're sure that they understand everything well and are therefore trying to do math with half their brain. 

 

When they are doing math, are they doing it in a quiet environment with few distractions? 

One thing that helps many people is doing math on gridded paper or turning lined paper sideways to line up the columns.

You might also put "fixing problems" at the end of the day, during what would otherwise have been free time. 

 

As far as outside classes, there is often partial credit, so they won't be scoring 40% ... although you are actually right to continue working on this. But I think it's something like training preteens to clean up or bathe or all the other things that are just part of adulting ... it just requires continued effort and some kids struggle more than others. 

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When my DS has gone through phases of being careless I have him do LESS problems or harder problems. Like just 2 even. I just tell him "We're going to do a few problems, but focus on being careful." I don't stress about arithmetic errors if I know there is good conceptual understanding and tend to think its a product of work bring too easy and not requiring concentration. But half wrong is too many so I would scale back but expect close to 100% for those few problems.

 

 

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An incentive chart helped us with this issue.  Same kind of careless mistakes.  We started giving a sticker on a chart for perfect assignment (the first time).  Once the chart was full, she earned a trip to the store to buy something.  This took care of the issue, but we had to use those charts for a couple of years.  

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At this level of mathematics (arithmetic level), there are almost always ways to require the student to check their answers. For long divisions, for example, I would require that they multiply the quotient by the divisor and add the remainder to see if they end up back at the dividend. If not, then they should find their errors. And this needs to be done before the assignment gets turned in and graded.

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What Kinsa said. I'd require them to check their work either how she explained it or even by casting out 9s (which is usually quicker).

 

If it doesn't check, they need to redo the work to see why.

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Are they doing too many problems that are too repetitive?  As another poster said, it might be too easy and boring, so their brains are checking out a bit.  

 

When my daughter went through a similar phase (with Saxon), I did cut back the problems some, but I also, at the suggestion of people here, had HER start checking the work herself instead of me doing it.  For some reason, that cut down the careless errors significantly.

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It might help to sit with them while they do the math for a little while (I realize this is not fun). Watch them as they work the problem and point out a mistake as soon as you see it (oh look, you switched the 2 and the 1 there, wait a minute, what is 6x7 again?). I had to do this with my daughter until she got the hang of watching for her own careless mistakes. I had to constantly remind her to watch her spacing and keep things lined up and neat, as sometimes errors were due to sloppy handwriting. It did seem to help her start to catch her own mistakes later. She probably still hears my voice in her head, lol.

 

I agree that having to do the opposite operation math check on every problem is a good idea.

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As an Algebra 1 teacher I'd like to comment...

 

Each year I have several struggling students who were allowed to move forward because they 'understood' the material but were not able to consistently get the problems correct.

Johnny got a 40% on test 3 but he 'understood' the material and just made a zillion 'little mistakes'  he is OK to move on...  As algebra increases with complexity Johnny gets further and further behind... (must be the teacher/program...).

 

In my opinion, if they cannot get the problems consistently correct they do not understand! 

OR they do not understand how important it is to strive to get the correct answer the first time!

 

Math is about accuracy.  Sure-- students 'check out' from time to time (especially around puberty) but that does not mean they should get a free pass/reinforcement.  I think this comes under executive function skills...

 

How to 'fix' this-- well, that is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

 

I've had a few students who were truly bored get out of this phase by allowing them to work FEWER problems IFF  (if and only if) they got the assigned problems correct the first time-- if they missed a problem they had to work and get 2 additional problems correct (for each problem missed) before they could stop for the day or assignment.  This worked wonders...

 

Other students seemed to understand (they could parrot back the instructions/lesson)-- but they had not developed the number sense to continue moving forward. These students needed to slow down/stop progressing and were best served reviewing their weak areas.

 

 

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I'd recommend trying fewer problems. You might even say, if you do these five correctly you are done.  If not, you need to add on another 2.  Or whatever you come up with.  I often did this, but tried my best not to make any of it seem like a punishment.  I basically wanted to motivate my kids to be careful not to make careless errors.  If it really came down to not understanding the concept I might just still call it a day with the problems and continue on the next day.

 

 

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Other students seemed to understand (they could parrot back the instructions/lesson)-- but they had not developed the number sense to continue moving forward. These students needed to slow down/stop progressing and were best served reviewing their weak areas.

 

can you please let me know what you mean by the bolded?  That way I can know if this is the issue with my own kids.  Thanks!!   

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My 5th grader (11) and my 4th grader (9) are both using Singapore 5A for math.  (Just the normal workbook.   Not the IP or CWP.)

 

Daily, they miss more than half of their problems on their math workbook assignments.    I am wondering if this is normal?   If not, what can I do to correct it?

I always grade their math right away and have them fix any problems they miss.   And they typically can always fix them.  (Sometimes it takes a few attempts.)

 

 

 

Half seems like a lot to me. When I help out with math in the school, I would say most of the kids get most of the problems right most of the time. Sometimes there is confusion, but then they raise their hands. I would say at least half the kids get all the answers right all of the time--of course, this is a public school so the speed is slower to ensure that 100% of kids "get it", meaning that half the kids will always kind of be held back by the slower half of the class.

 

But what you are describing, if I saw that in a class, would be among the laziest or least accurate 10%.

 

Not saying this to be unkind, but you asked whether it's "normal". I do think that kids behave differently for their parents so if they have the skills for tests, it's possible that this is a behavioral and attention issue, not a math-comprehension issue.

 

Or you might be exaggerating about more than half?

 

Taking everything at face value I'd be concerned. Because I know my kids normally laze off for afterschool work for me whereas they can do the same work in school in a snap, I'm less concerned but would, like you, want to do something about it.

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It's not typical, ime, certainly not for kids who understand the material. Are careless mistakes common? Yes, certainly, but not to the extent of missing half of the problems. And they are taking a very long time to do the work. 

 

My first thought, and the easiest thing to address, is that they are goofing off and getting distracted. Do you sit with them? If not, that's the first thing I would change. I'd be at their elbow, making sure they are focused and working, and checking work after every problem (and during a problem, if I happen to spot an error). I would slow. them. down. Which sounds counterintuitive when they are already taking forever, but my guess is that the slowness comes from dawdling and daydreaming, while they are rushing through the problems. If their writing gets messy, stop them then and there, "I can't even read that. Erase and start over." 

 

You might need to separate them if they usually work next to each other. 

 

Do they have an incentive for not taking forever and doing things twice? They wouldn't have to do the problems again, of course, but some kids really don't care, if they are goofing off half the time anyway, and don't have anything special to do after. Can you take them to the park, help them bake cookies, play a game with them? The goal will be to have them fill their own time, but you might need to break the pattern and get them started. 

 

If memory serves, Singapore doesn't have an abundance of problems to begin with, but if the math seems quite easy for them, you could certainly try fewer problems if they get them all correct. It's certainly possible that they need to move forward to a higher level. 

 

Do you grade their work, beyond marking problems right and wrong? Maybe they need to realize that getting half of the problems wrong is a big, red F, y'know? Have them redo problems for half points only, and this adds to the idea that you might as well do it right the first time. Mark both a percentage and a letter grade. 

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How are your students' handwriting?  Poor fine motor can lead to numbers that look more like scribbles, that aren't lined up in straight columns.  

 

Would you consider scribing for your students?  Or maybe have them demonstrate solving a problem at the white board as they explain it to you?  ("Then I carry the one...")

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If my DD had a long set of problems, she gets quite a few wrong especially towards the last half of the problems - mostly silly mistakes.  I think it was just fatigue or possibly laziness, but having to go back and correct them wasn't helping in future lessons.  I made a deal with her - "if you can get half of the problems 100% right, then you don't have to complete the rest of the worksheet.  However, for every wrong problem, you much correct it and do an additional problem.  Occasionally she will get one or two wrong, but overall she will work diligently on half just to get out of doing the other half. 

 

 

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