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Is BA5 really harder than 3&4, or are EF deficencies just catching up with us?

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My ds9 (almost 10) did each quarter of BA3&4 in roughly 4-8 weeks. Made it through both years of work in under a year, despite doing it concurrently with Singapore. But BA5 seems to be kicking his butt, and I just cannot figure out why. It's taken him over a year just to get 5A and 5B done. When I sit with him to see what's going on, he seems to struggle with keeping things straight in his head - but he's never had this problem with math before and the kid reads math textbooks for fun on a regular basis. He keeps making little mistakes (being off by 1 counting terms in a sequence, doubling instead of halving, etc.), and he says he gets overwhelmed by the problems (that don't seem that difficult to me, but do have several steps), and he writes NO work down, despite my nagging reminders that he needs to show me at least *some* work on problems that have more than one step. Today he was totally confused as to what work I expected from him with a problem like, "An arithmetic sequence of 30 terms begins with 19 and ends with 89.. Find the sum of the terms in the sequence." And he did it correctly and all in his head. But he couldn't explain anything about his answer ("I really don't know how I got that number. I'm confused and don't know what I was thinking now.") and he wouldn't write a thing down. 

He says BA5 is just way harder - is this true for others? He is 2E (ASD, ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic), but he was so motivated and advanced for a while that I really have no idea what to think. I wonder if his EF/ADHD issues are just catching up to him, but I'm not sure how to help him, if that's the case. He was the kid studying multiplication facts for fun at 4 yo and exploring the twin prime conjecture and prime number theorem at 7, much to his father's chagrin. I don't think he's changed in his love of math - but he sits for a full five minutes sometimes doing a problem in his head that would only take 20 seconds to work out on paper, and it's driving me (and him!) batty.

Any thoughts?

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That is the rub...you have to learn to write out your math, and you must be organized. I think this is a challenge for any 9/10 year old much less one who is 2E. Also, in BA5, we only did th first 2 books before my son asked to move one to PA. I didn't let him go straight to AOPS PA because of those issues. We took a side step and did Jousting Armadillos which was worth it simply for the discipline on working in a book that wasn't as fun, learning to read a text and learning to work solutions on graph paper so that anyone can understand your thinking. We started by refusing to accept his work if no work was shown. This made AOPS PA much easier for him. I'm pretty sure that contributed to why he was able to work through it in 10 months self-teaching. The math wasn't the issue, the EF skills required to move on were and my ds doesn't have 2E issues...just normal boy issues. I had decided that this was going to be when I would work with him on this discipline. I just did not want to continue to let him to do when it just gets that much harder the farther along you go. It's something that is easier IMO to learn now. It probably helps that my son likes competition math, and it's pretty hard to do that if you are really organized and writing out your work. Oh yes, legibility is something we have really be working on as well. He was making errors because of sloppy math. 

It's hard...I wish you all the best as you figure out a path forward.

Oops. I didn't answer your question. I thought it was harder. BA5 covers a lot of algebraic thinking and pre-algebra topics. You are also forced to think a lot more abstractly about math since it is delving into algebraic thinking. So kids's brains are not quite ready to think that way. You might want to consider just taking a break and doing other stuff for awhile. We really liked using Zaccaro and Hard Math for Elementary.

Edited by calbear
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I do think it’s harder, but probably not that much harder.  My dd slowed down some, but from 4-8 weeks to over half a year is a pretty dramatic change.  It sounds like your ds has great mental problem solving skills, but he has finally hit the point where the questions are too complex to keep all the parts straight in his head, and so his aversion to writing his work out is inhibiting his progress.  This doesn’t sound so much like an ADHD or EF issue as a smart kid struggling with actually needing skills and tools others have needed for a while.

Edited by Michelle Conde
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DS10 is on the last section of BA5D, and it definitely went much, much slower in 5 then 3 & 4. Like your son, I think a lot of it is that he thinks he can still do it all in his head, yet there are so many more moving parts that it slows him way down. If he would just write everything down, he would go so much faster! I spend the majority of my time saying, "Write it down!" over and over.

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He sounds very similar to my DS#1 (also 2e: ASD, ADHD, dysgraphia, mood disorder then/ "just" anxiety now, but no dyslexia), who did BA 3 and 4 in one year, then hit a wall in BA 5. BA 5 appeared to be *much* harder than the earlier levels to me at the time, but then there was no such wall when DS#3 got to the same point, so now I think it's only the normal amount of harder that you'd expect going up a year in grade level. I believe DS#1 had such difficulty because of those other "e"s, particularly the mood issues and dysgraphia.

He also wrote nothing down but answers for BA 3 and 4. He got stuck for about 2 weeks on one 4-5ish-question page in 5A where he finally started writing down *some* work, but not in an organized, logical way or showing even half of his steps. Even now, his work looks like chicken scratch, is all over the page, work from one problem melds with the work from another, etc. He spent a little more than a year on BA 5 and then hit another wall in AoPS Prealgebra, which covers most of the same topics as BA5, but in a more mathematically generalized, less kid-friendly way. We ended up stepping away from AoPS PreA for many months to give him a frustration break. Altogether he spent 2.5 years on the shared concepts of BA5 and AoPS PreA. 

I'd like to say that things are all better now, but honestly, he still struggles more than he ought to because of his impulsiveness in answering, his poor written work (though it is quite beautiful typed out in LaTeX!), and his inattention to details. He's moving at a "normal" rate now and will probably cover Intro to Counting and Probability and the second half of Intro to Algebra this coming year as a 6th grader, which perhaps isn't what you'd expect from a kid who loves math as much as he does and who was so advanced when he was little.

Edited by Cake and Pi
Had to fix the time frame. I can't subtract ages very well, lol!
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We didn't use BA, so I can't comment on that, but I can relate to much of what you're saying.

At about ages 9-10, my daughter was doing maths that had too many steps for it to be feasible to do all in her head any more.

She had the idea that it was somehow cheating or showing a weakness to jot anything down. She's always been a perfectionist too, so the thought of writing down something that was incorrect was really really really stressful for her. This was quite a rough patch, but we got through.

Hang in there. It does get better. My daughter is 13 now and actually does a great job of showing her working when I insist on it. She'll still do most in her head (she's doing areas between curves at the moment - integration) and just jot key bits to remember a lot of the time, but maturity has kicked in. If I say that I want a particular problem written up fully, she'll do it beautifully. This would have resulted in a full meltdown a couple of years ago. Progress 👍

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Special math notebook with special fancy graph paper?  Special pencils just for math?  Or does the Fancy Stationary Approach only appeal to Autistic girls (aka me)?  (I loved math sets and lab reports and anything I could make super visually organized.  Probably a girl thing.)

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With your ds's dysgraphia, would it help if you scribed for him?  He could think out loud and you can write down what he is thinking in an organized fashion.  

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19 hours ago, 4KookieKids said:

and he writes NO work down

This is the problem.

Maturity is realizing that you need to write stuff down. 

Of course, then it takes practice to figure out exactly what needs to be written down.  

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My kid still didn’t write anything down for BA5, nor did she need to. It wasn’t until Algebra that she started needing to do this. At that point, I modeled problems from every section for a while, showing exactly what I would be writing down to do the problem so that I could follow along in my own work when the problem was done. I would then scribe for her as she talked the problem aloud. Then I would sit with her for a couple problems, gently pointing out issues that were making her life harder (many related to dysgraphia, like not using the lines on the paper to guide where to write the numbers). Once she successfully wrote a problem out, I’d leave her to work independently. After a few chapters, she had gotten the hang of it, so I was able to let her return to being independent.

That said, we also switched to her writing most problems on a whiteboard, because the lined paper was actually making things harder for her in most cases, as keeping things on the lines required so much of her due to the dysgraphia that it was difficult for her to focus on anything else. She’d write it all out, check the answer. If correct, she’d erase and move on. If incorrect, she’d call me over and walk me through the work on her board to find the error. We’ll attempt to move back to graph paper or regular lined paper in the future, but that was not a hill I was willing to die on.

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18 hours ago, daijobu said:

With your ds's dysgraphia, would it help if you scribed for him?  He could think out loud and you can write down what he is thinking in an organized fashion.  

I do this frequently, showing him kind of the "main" point to write down so that he can follow his work later. But I've also been doing it for the last two years... 😛
I'd hoped it would sort of come naturally after enough modeling, but to no avail yet! lol.

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My older DS was 8/9 when he did BA 5 and he didn't write much down at all. It has gotten slightly better through PA this past year. Slightly. We will see what happens this year, as he is taking Intro Algebra, C&P, and NT.  He is also 2e and has typing as one of his accommodations in his 504 plan, so I just see him moving more and more towards using Latex long-term. My method has been that, as long as he gets it right, I haven't cared how he's done it, but if it's wrong, he has to go back and show me his work in his math notebook. I just don't understand him any other way. Then, we try to puzzle it out together. I did find portions of BA5 challenging, to be sure. I know that my older DS is soon going to be out of my league in math. I looked at some of the NT stuff, and had no idea what I was looking at in that class.

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My DS is finding it a little harder, but I think that's because most of it he's had only a general exposure to prior to BA. Fifth grade+ math topics I've found harder to practice more naturally through life/play before tackling it more formally in a math program. Maybe the same thing is affecting your son. 

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