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Best visual math for my son?

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Somewhat of a spin off of a thread in the general board. I am wondering about what math you would recommend for my 11 year old son.

For starters, he has Sensory Processing Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, some fine/gross motor issues due to a hypermobility disorder, and I strongly suspect some executive-functioning issues. He is the proverbial absent-minded professor 🙂 He is extremely artistic and creative, and while we have not pursued formal psyco-ed testing for him, having a daughter on the spectrum who has, and we know is 2E, I strongly suspect he is 2E with a gifted IQ as well (it runs in the family). Though, though his area of strength is definitely more in the artistic/musical/language arts realm.

He is an extremely visual-spatial learner, he thinks in pictures (he absolutely excels at games like chess and visual logic games since he can "see" the strategies), does well with visual cues, and is definitely a whole to parts learner. He grasps concepts fairly easily - so he only has to be shown a process once or twice to truly understand it, however he struggles with remembering his math facts, which slows him down. He also struggles with critical thinking/problem solving, especially when presented orally or without visual representation. So, give him a straight forward word problem like "Jane bought 3 pencils at 25 cents a piece, how much did she spend?"  is fine. But once you start mixing operations so he has to figure out what operation to use, or when they are worded in more abstract ways so that you have to search out the information, he struggles. He is a very literal child. 

He can do the four processes, including early long division. He understands perimeter and area, adding/subtracting/comparing fractions with like denominators, just surprised me a few minutes ago by converting an improper fraction to a mixed number, understands decimals to tenths, can multiply decimals but not divide them yet. I'm sure there's stuff I'm forgetting.

He absolutely hates pencil and paper math which is largely my own fault - I was a typical insecure new homeschooler when we started out many years ago, who pushed formal academics on her child before he was ready (we started at age 4). I also pushed traditional kill n drill workbooks (CLE) for years before realizing that really wasn't what was best for him. So we've spent the last year or so floundering around, trying to find what is the best approach, something that will help him not hate math. We tried Life of Fred, and while he LOVED the story,  I didn't really feel that he was gleaning actual math from it, and they discuss such advanced abstract concepts that he found the questions hard.

Again, the biggest thing that I have found that really helps him, is it HAS to be visual - pictures, videos, demonstrations etc... Also, while as I have stated, he hates traditional math, he really enjoys math when done online and in more of a game format.  Go bowling and ask him to keep score? Forget it. But he'll go on the computer and play Prodigy for an hour or go on other math game sites and play no problem.

So what would you suggest for him? For the last couple months I've just had him playing Prodigy, and using Reflex math for facts (though our free trial ran out so back to borin ol' Xtra Math). We are trialing TT 5, which he is enjoying. I've also looked at BA and MUS. Thoughts?




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I think you might be a little vague in your expectations. Do some placement tests, but it *sounds* like he's relatively close to pre-algebra. At this point, you can decide if working on facts is important to you and make a path for the rest that gets him through the topics necessary for him to go into pre-algebra. From there on will be a different sequence for what he did for elementary anyway, and you'll have the challenge all over again of being hands-on and exploratory and making the language more clear.

As far as the facts, look at Ronit Bird. She uses visualization completely and efficiently. If you have an ipad or device to run ibooks, you could do her Dots ebook and get through it in short order, then play positive/negative turnovers, and boom you'd have addition and subtraction facts nailed. Then you could do her multiplication ebook and have those.

Ironically, my ds with SLD math is much better at learning math facts than my dd with an ADHD diagnosis and no SLD labels, go figure. I think it has to do with the spacing of the mini-columns and not my teaching. I could be wrong, but that's what I think. I think you can guilt yourself too much and sometimes you just move on. If he's functional with a calculator, you could give him one and move on. Now I love RB's stuff and like I said I'd do it. But nothing I did REALLY made a radical difference with my dd. She just has that low processing speed, slow to learn by rote kind of personality.

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Cuisinaire rods and activities for learning facts outright, then bribe--new Lego set (or whatever) once he has a certain level of proficiency.

C-rods can help you visualize nearly anything. My son used them, then started having them sit on the desk. Then he eventually just pictured them in his head. I am guessing at this age with that kind of visualizing skill, he could learn them all super fast with c-rods and some interesting activities, such as factoring with them to do multiplication/division.

Education Unboxed is a free site that has a lot of ideas for these sorts of things.

Knowing facts helps with "big" math too--2 x 4 and 2 x 4000 are just different place values with the same facts. I think it's worth an effort. 

For word problems, I would get the Singamore Math Process Skills in Problem Solving books. Look at samples online and start as low as you need to go. They teach you to draw models to help solve the problems. Later you can use variables to do some of the same stuff, but the bar models are good at helping you set the problems up efficiently.

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Have a look through CSMP and see if that will work for him. His challenges sound similar to my dd's, so maybe the solutions are similar too.

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