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Help! Want to rip my hair out over math


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I am trying to do Saxon 8/7 with my soon to be 8th grade dd.  She gets it after weeks of repetition, but I am losing it.  She forgets most concepts and needs the constant repetition to actually learn it.  If we miss a week, it takes her a week to remember weeks of material she had previously understood and problems she was consistently getting right.    She doesn’t test as having a learning disability (professional testing)but her computation skills test at around 3% on standardized tests.  She tests really poorly in math and I know her computation skills aren’t that bad.

 I “can” teach her and have the skill base to teach up to Algebra 2, but the constant frustration on her part and the constant yelling inside my head has got to stop.  I have no problem with her not being great in math, but I do need to teach her math.  My goal for her is to make it possible for her to take college algebra in college if she decides to go to college as that becomes some sort of requirement with most degrees.  I have a feeling it will take two years of pre-algebra for her to get it.  I’m not confident she’ll get to algebra 2 in high school.

How do I get off the hamster wheel I find myself on?

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Have you tried a more big picture approach to math?  This sounds like someone who looks like they are understanding the concepts but who is actually memorizing procedures.  

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33 minutes ago, EKS said:

Have you tried a more big picture approach to math?  This sounds like someone who looks like they are understanding the concepts but who is actually memorizing procedures.  

Yes, that's what it sounds like to me as well. 

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10 minutes ago, EKS said:

Have you tried a more big picture approach to math?  This sounds like someone who looks like they are understanding the concepts but who is actually memorizing procedures.  

This was my first thought as well.

I understand completely why Saxon, with its very tight spiral, would sound appealing for a student who needs a lot of repetition. OTOH, due to all the repetition and review, the program tends to dole out new procedures and algorithms bit by bit in an unconnected manner making it hard for a student to see the big picture and actually conceptually understand the "whys" that connect and support all the seemingly disjointed rules.

This can lead to a learner viewing math as a long list of arbitrary procedures that need to be rotely memorized. It is the difference between a student looking at a problem like x squared times x squared and having to "remember" that the rule says to add exponents, versus a student who conceptually understands exponents and intuitively just "sees" x squared times x squared as 4 x's multiplied together. The first student is going to have to separately memorize how to add, subtract, multiply and divide exponents, how to simplify them, raise them to a power, not add them if they are unlike terms, etc...that is a lot of "arbitrary" rules to keep straight and implement at the right times. The second student won't have to memorize any of them, because they will be able to figure out any situation by falling back on the fundamental idea of what an exponent is. 

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3 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

This was my first thought as well.

I understand completely why Saxon, with its very tight spiral, would sound appealing for a student who needs a lot of repetition. OTOH, due to all the repetition and review, the program tends to dole out new procedures and algorithms bit by bit in an unconnected manner making it hard for a student to see the big picture and actually conceptually understand the "whys" that connect and support all the seemingly disjointed rules.

This can lead to a learner viewing math as a long list of arbitrary procedures that need to be rotely memorized. It is the difference between a student looking at a problem like x squared times x squared and having to "remember" that the rule says to add exponents, versus a student who conceptually understands exponents and intuitively just "sees" x squared times x squared as 4 x's multiplied together. The first student is going to have to separately memorize how to add, subtract, multiply and divide exponents, how to simplify them, raise them to a power, not add them if they are unlike terms, etc...that is a lot of "arbitrary" rules to keep straight and implement at the right times. The second student won't have to memorize any of them, because they will be able to figure out any situation by falling back on the fundamental idea of what an exponent is. 

Yes, I've seen this a lot. 

Something I see sometimes is that this can seem like it's working in elementary math, because realistically, there are fewer things to remember, especially if the word problems are all relatively simple. So you really CAN remember all the standard algorithms and the rules for fractions and decimals and percents -- after all, you're given quite a few years in which to memorize it all. 

But then you get to middle school and high school, when suddenly the list of rules is VAST. And if you're not used to connecting it all to a smaller set of main ideas, memorizing all the things (Exponents! Variables! Algebraic manipulations! Graphs!) can seem incredibly daunting. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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When I get frustrated, sometimes it helps me to ponder how a school professional would handle it. My ds has an IEP, and I hear you on the labels going in and out. If she were in school and this happened, what would happen? Seriously, what would happen? 

Getting through Algebra 2 sounds astonishingly good and almost surprising given what you're describing. How is she with word problems and life skills level math? I'd be way more concerned about life level math than algebra. Just saying. 

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9 hours ago, bethben said:

I am trying to do Saxon 8/7 with my soon to be 8th grade dd.  She gets it after weeks of repetition, but I am losing it.  She forgets most concepts and needs the constant repetition to actually learn it.  If we miss a week, it takes her a week to remember weeks of material she had previously understood and problems she was consistently getting right.    She doesn’t test as having a learning disability (professional testing)but her computation skills test at around 3% on standardized tests.  She tests really poorly in math and I know her computation skills aren’t that bad.

 I “can” teach her and have the skill base to teach up to Algebra 2, but the constant frustration on her part and the constant yelling inside my head has got to stop.  I have no problem with her not being great in math, but I do need to teach her math.  My goal for her is to make it possible for her to take college algebra in college if she decides to go to college as that becomes some sort of requirement with most degrees.  I have a feeling it will take two years of pre-algebra for her to get it.  I’m not confident she’ll get to algebra 2 in high school.

How do I get off the hamster wheel I find myself on?

Let's take a deep breath. This sounds very frustrating but I think it's possibly an over reaction to look at a 7th grader struggling and begin to panic about what they'll do in 5 years.

My first question how long has she struggled this way?

What's one topic or skill that she just absolutely gets?

How are her math facts?

How long have you been doing Saxon?

How did you place her in Saxon?

How are you using Saxon?

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9 hours ago, PeterPan said:

When I get frustrated, sometimes it helps me to ponder how a school professional would handle it. My ds has an IEP, and I hear you on the labels going in and out. If she were in school and this happened, what would happen? Seriously, what would happen? 

Well, the three years she went to school, I re-taught her math nightly.  For fourth grade, she turned in homework, failed every math test and was awarded an A+ because paying attention in class was a good portion of the grade.  In 5th-6th, she was put into the lowest level math class and was given all the new teachers who didn’t know how to teach math.  The known good math teachers taught the advanced students.  So, in my public school experience, they basically ignored that she struggled and hoped she passed.  The only suggestion was to get her a math tutor when I asked how they could help her.  But, considering only 1/3 of students in my state test at grade level math, this is no surprise.

 

2 hours ago, Gil2.0 said:

 My first question how long has she struggled this way?

What's one topic or skill that she just absolutely gets?

How are her math facts?

How long have you been doing Saxon?

How did you place her in Saxon?

How are you using Saxon?

She has always struggled with math.  It took years just to memorize addition and subtraction facts.  I stuck with Saxon for the early years and used math u see concepts.  Flash cards, songs, fun books...for some reason multiplication facts were easier for her to memorize I think due to skip counting songs.  She’s been using Saxon for 1 1/2 years basically since she was sent home from public school for covid and I told her math teacher that khan academy videos were not working for her and I wasn’t doing them anymore.  Then last year we homeschooled again.  She still has trouble with subtraction with regrouping I believe only because she’s a messy writer with math and “just wants to get it done”.  When I organize her mess, she can do them no problem.

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1 hour ago, bethben said:

Well, the three years she went to school, I re-taught her math nightly.  For fourth grade, she turned in homework, failed every math test and was awarded an A+ because paying attention in class was a good portion of the grade.  In 5th-6th, she was put into the lowest level math class and was given all the new teachers who didn’t know how to teach math.  The known good math teachers taught the advanced students.  So, in my public school experience, they basically ignored that she struggled and hoped she passed.  The only suggestion was to get her a math tutor when I asked how they could help her.  But, considering only 1/3 of students in my state test at grade level math, this is no surprise.

 

She has always struggled with math.  It took years just to memorize addition and subtraction facts.  I stuck with Saxon for the early years and used math u see concepts.  Flash cards, songs, fun books...for some reason multiplication facts were easier for her to memorize I think due to skip counting songs.  She’s been using Saxon for 1 1/2 years basically since she was sent home from public school for covid and I told her math teacher that khan academy videos were not working for her and I wasn’t doing them anymore.  Then last year we homeschooled again.  She still has trouble with subtraction with regrouping I believe only because she’s a messy writer with math and “just wants to get it done”.  When I organize her mess, she can do them no problem.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually doesn’t quite understand subtraction with regrouping… it’s not uncommon with struggling math students.

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1 hour ago, bethben said:

She has always struggled with math.  It took years just to memorize addition and subtraction facts.

So, to be fair, the memorization is actually not all that related to ability to work with concepts. They are different tracks.

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You need a math tutor.

And I'm saying that because you need someone who can assess your daughter individually and see where there are gaps in understanding, without having the emotional connection and history you have with teaching her.  You need an outside perspective.

I work with kids for free the first time we meet.  We play games, I watch how their brains work, and I keep it really low key and fun so they're more relaxed.  I give all of my info to their parents when I'm done with that first impression as well as some ideas on what they can do and approaches they can use.  If they want to hire me, fine.  If not, they have more tools.  But one session of having an outsider go through several different areas (procedural, applied, conceptual understanding, inference) gives them more tools on how to approach underlying issues.

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Her reasoning/problem solving skills are lacking.  Per her standardized tests, other than math, the only places she tested low were in those logical/reasoning type skills.  It shows up in her general life also.  We are constantly teaching her on cause and effect. 

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1 hour ago, bethben said:

Her reasoning/problem solving skills are lacking.  Per her standardized tests, other than math, the only places she tested low were in those logical/reasoning type skills.  It shows up in her general life also.  We are constantly teaching her on cause and effect. 

Any examples from general life? 

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3 hours ago, bethben said:

She still has trouble with subtraction with regrouping I believe only because she’s a messy writer with math and “just wants to get it done”.  When I organize her mess, she can do them no problem.

I recommend intensive support in being neat and painfully high stakes for sloppiness. It's the only thing that works for older students who willfully screw themselves over by being messy, but lack the maturity and self-restraint to do it well without prompting.

Ultimately "Take the time to do it right, or take the time to do it over." is the only thing that got the results that I was looking for.

 

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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

Any examples from general life? 

Just from an hour ago.  She wants watermelon.  So she grabs the butchers knife because she knows she’s going to need that and then while holding the knife, she gets the watermelon out of the fridge which is a two handed procedure.  So, we have to tell her to put the knife down and then get the watermelon.  She’s 14.  

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Just now, bethben said:

Just from an hour ago.  She wants watermelon.  So she grabs the butchers knife because she knows she’s going to need that and then while holding the knife, she gets the watermelon out of the fridge which is a two handed procedure.  So, we have to tell her to put the knife down and then get the watermelon.  She’s 14.  

I will say that being on autopilot and doing stuff like this can be pretty compatible with being able to do math, from personal experience 😂. But I see what you mean.

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Sounds like major EF/attention to detail issues.

For Math-- I would go with a traditional program --it hangs on one topic and each lesson builds on the previous lesson.

Saxon teaches within the 'review'.   After lesson 30 or so the 'review' problems start combining pieces from previously unconnected lessons.  There are NO examples or lessons for the students-- the problems just gradually morph.  Just the placement of a subtraction sign seems like no big deal for an adult-- but for the student it can be a major change to the problem! 

 

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10 hours ago, bethben said:

Her reasoning/problem solving skills are lacking.  Per her standardized tests, other than math, the only places she tested low were in those logical/reasoning type skills.  It shows up in her general life also.  We are constantly teaching her on cause and effect. 

I spend a lot of our math efforts on word problems. Evan Moor, Teacher Created Resources, etc. have grade leveled workbooks of just word problems. Right now we're working through a little workbook that works on the *language* of word problems and how you know what they're asking you to do. 

https://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Struggling-Readers-Problems-Resources/dp/0545207177  

https://www.amazon.com/Daily-Word-Problems-Grade-6/dp/1629388602/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=daily+math+word+problems&qid=1627006556&s=books&sr=1-6

Remedia has a variety of math workbooks that I'm looking forward to trying with my ds. 

https://www.amazon.com/Bargain-Math-Sue-LaRoy/dp/1561750042/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=remedia+math&qid=1627006615&s=books&sr=1-3

Reality is that the application, the ability to do a word problem or know what to put into a calculator to solve his real life situation is going to be important for my ds. Doing computation himself won't be. And my ds' IEP team says the same thing, which is why I asked what they would do. They don't like seeing his computation scores low, but they love that his word problem scores are pretty close to grade appropriate. And they comment that over the long run, that's what will matter. 

My ds is not headed for college, so I'm just being pretty realistic about his needs and what is important. Sigh. 

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7 hours ago, bethben said:

Just from an hour ago.  She wants watermelon.  So she grabs the butchers knife because she knows she’s going to need that and then while holding the knife, she gets the watermelon out of the fridge which is a two handed procedure.  So, we have to tell her to put the knife down and then get the watermelon.  She’s 14.  

Remind us, you said she's diagnosed with ASD? This is normal for my ds. There is testing now in the IQ testing for fluid reasoning. I haven't seen it, but there's that and also the Test of Problem Solving. But literally, what you're seeing with the math and in real life with the watermelon are intertwined. You're not crazy there, totally totally agree. My ds literally needed instructions on how to wipe up a spill!!!

Have you worked on sequencing? I keep buying simple games (like what Timberdoodle sells) because sequencing for problem solving is such an issue. 

So maybe back up, and think real life. What is really, really important? What does her employment really look like? Has she tried holding a job? Are these problem solving difficulties (like the watermelon) showing up in her work? For my ds, who is ASD2, they definitely affect employability. Anything novel can flummox him. It can result in inappropriate behaviors, because he can't problem solve simple things like I'm standing where you want to walk. And people can say oh he's just a rude boy, but it's problem solving. Whether it's math or a work scenario or carrying things or whatever, it's the same root deficits.

If she's not diagnosed, maybe that's the actual step. I would be much more concerned about employability than which math. College does not guarantee employability when someone has these kinds of disabilities.

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10 hours ago, bethben said:

We are constantly teaching her on cause and effect. 

Again, this is something you expect with spectrum.

I don't know if that has been on your radar or not, just saying.

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Have you done math u see?  You said you used the concepts, but the actual program might work well?  I know I just posted this to someone else, but you can do more than one level in math u see this year to catch up to where she needs to be.  The concepts might be much better internalized if she uses the manipulatives and really works with a concept over and over again, only moving on once mastered.  She might do well watching someone else teach her.  For my Strugglers seeing a video makes a big difference, as well as keeping it all hands on.  I see them for pretty cheap on Facebook marketplace all the time.

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No, she doesn’t have asd.

10 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Remind us, you said she's diagnosed with ASD? This is normal for my ds. There is testing now in the IQ testing for fluid reasoning. I haven't seen it, but there's that and also the Test of Problem Solving. But literally, what you're seeing with the math and in real life with the watermelon are intertwined. You're not crazy there, totally totally agree. My ds literally needed instructions on how to wipe up a spill!!!

Have you worked on sequencing? I keep buying simple games (like what Timberdoodle sells) because sequencing for problem solving is such an issue. 

No, she doesn’t have ASD.  She was adopted at 2 1/2 from China and has “trauma brain”.  In a classroom, she could be diagnosed as having ADD because she’s half paying attention.  She was constantly scanning for perceived danger.  She was always trying to make sure her surroundings were safe. If you add this with problem solving issues, her first instinct is to beat up the next door 7 year old neighbor up for throwing a rock at her rather than walk away or ask his parent (who would do something about it—it’s the bad apple kid in a very kind family) to intervene.  She also was hitting/kicking kids who misbehaved in class so she could control her world and feel safe when the teacher was not addressing the misbehavior.  If you met her, you would think she’s a sweet girl which she is.  Get her into a situation where she doesn’t feel safe and you will see a fighter (which is bad and good at the same time—we do talk about when is an appropriate time for action all.the.time.  Bad problem solving skills here also).

I have thought about math u see because the problem set seems so much easier.  I have to think about that one and call a rep and talk it over. 

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23 minutes ago, bethben said:

No, she doesn’t have ASD.  She was adopted at 2 1/2 from China and has “trauma brain”.

Have you looked for an OT who is trauma informed? There's a lot of new research coming out right now. The interventions for trauma and ASD overlap. Google trauma and interoception. Trauma results in dissociation and decreased interoception. They've also shown trauma affecting social emotional learning and narrative language. I got trauma counseling as an adult for my childhood experiences, and the counselor had me doing bodywork. Kelly Mahler is doing workshops right now on interoception and trauma and how to do intervention for it in school settings. 

Fwiw, I wouldn't assume there's not autism. The problem solving skills you're describing and difficulty with cause effect sound like significant EF issues. You could have layers here. It's super easy to miss girl autism, and I can see how it would get missed if everything got assumed as being caused by trauma.

https://www.kelly-mahler.com/product/an-interoception-based-approach-for-supporting-traumatized-learners/  Here's a webinar Kelly Mahler is doing on trauma and interoception. She has more on her website, maybe some articles or blog posts. 

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36 minutes ago, bethben said:

Get her into a situation where she doesn’t feel safe and you will see a fighter

That kind of stress and raising of cortisol levels affects learning, absolutely! Stress shuts down learning. 

37 minutes ago, bethben said:

we do talk about when is an appropriate time for action all.the.time.  Bad problem solving skills here also).

Solving each situation won't solve the bigger problems. If her trauma has caused dissociation and decreased self awareness (mine did, very common), she doesn't have the input from her body to solve her problems better. Working on self awareness (interoception) is the key, because it puts her back in the driver's seat for her emotions. It makes her body more predictable, because she's getting signals earlier and starting to see patterns. Then she'll realize what she needs to do to stay feeling better, so she can be less stressed, so she can learn better.

It's very hard to be in "green zone" and ready to learn (Zones of Regulation) when your body is frequently yellow zone and fright/flight. 

So it's not a distraction to say working on interoception could help the behavior to get her more in ready to learn where things will stick. Your level of frustration seems so high in your post, I'm just wondering if something like that would be the connector. 

Girls have so much ability to fake it and mask. None of what I'm talking about is saying she's not nice or lovely. I mean, nuts, I was that way for almost 40 years. But people who really knew me, really knew me, knew something was off. It was the dissociation from the trauma. Well that and my really quirky social thinking, haha. But the dissociation on top of that was just too much to bust through. I was like a ghost to the world, flitting through, observing. I started doing the trauma bodywork and became a participant. 

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