Friday, October 18, 2013

Math Problems



For a variety of reasons that I will save for another day, both kids are home this year, enrolled in a virtual charter school.  So far it is working out well for all of us, and both kids seem to really be enjoying themselves with Caden having just signed up for an elective pen pal (okay so I called it “the people send you mail club”….minor detail) and Ryley starting Chinese I this week. 

There is one little thing, though, that seems to be posing a series of challenges for us………math word problems.  Our first one went like this:

Johnny has 6 marbles
Who is Johnny?
Just a boy in the story, Caden.
Okay.
and Susie has 3 marbles
Who is Susie?
Just someone in the story, Caden.
Um, okay.
Anyway Johnny and Susie put their marbles together and now have how many marbles?
Wait, I got marbles.  Can I get my marbles?
Not right now pal. So Johnny and Susie’s marbles…
Why did they share marbles?
I don’t know pal, it’s just a math problem.
Do they get their marbles back?

I have no idea if they ever got their marbles back, but I just about lost mine, so I had a few conversations with his teacher who gave us several suggestions to try.  The first one was to substitute names that he knew into the story, but he wasn’t having any of that because he hadn’t seen person x who he knows give person y who he knows anything, and because we didn’t have documented proof, he wasn’t buying the story.

Suggestion 2 included working his name into the story.  Now he absolutely knew for a fact that he hadn’t given anyone marbles or Wii stars, or Mario figures, or crabby patties, or Pokemon cards (yep suggestion 3 was to substitute items that he knew and loved into the problem). 

Meanwhile, in therapy we have been working on the concept of minding your own business when conversations are happening around you.  And thus the following….

So person X has 3 of something you care about and person y has 5 of something you care about and they put them together.  How many things that you care about do these people that you know have?

And there was silence.

I thought maybe he was processing the problem so I gently probed, Caden what is your brain thinking about?
Lunch.
Um…well we will worry about lunch after our problem.  So how many do you think they have?
They not talking to me so I mind my own brain.

And with that, his teacher decided that for now we will just cut the word problems down to the math facts that he really needs to know for first grade and we’ll worry about the story portion later in life—I suspect she is hoping that that time comes sometime after he has another math teacher. 

Interestingly, she recently suggested that he can probably test out of 1st grade math—while we were assuming it was because he is so bored by the concepts/facts that they are learning now---I am starting to wonder if she just realized that it is only October and she’s already out of suggestions and is ready to hand the torch to the 2nd grade teacher a little early.