Friday, May 2, 2014

Getting It All Wrong

It's spring break for my 5 year old, and that means double the math!  I won't be able to pull this off in a few years, but since there's virtually no work in Kindergarten, he can work nights and weekends and play the rest of the time.

I came home from work and found one page at 75%, not a bad effort.  On the next page, he missed 100%. So the first page I was kinda proud, and kind of disappointed that I wasted money on the workbook.  But on the second page, I was super duper extra proud with extra smiley faces.  I looked for treats, but couldn't find where I hid his Easter candy.  After he fixed all of his mistakes, all 100% of them, we watch 1/2 of one of the movies that I bought for last week's trip (to the disgust of the mother in line ahead of me at the Target).

Well, enough rambling.  Time for the Most Important Test Prep Tip Ever.

The reason this little guy got to 100% wrong was that little by little we inched our way to the point where a) he did the workbooks on his own without my help until it was too late and b) he worked his way through the easy stuff to the point where he get's things mainly wrong.   If you are reading this in October or November (or even December), you have to jump right into this point and deal with the crying and yelling.  If you are following along in April, you can spend a few months inching toward this.

Jumping in or easing in isn't really a big deal to the kid, but easing in allows the parent to learn how to sit there while the kid complains or whines or stalls or gets distracted or wanders off and still make it an effective test prep session with super hard material.   Also please note that this is the test prep off season, so we're doing academic math, but this basically applies to everything except for Flotsom.   And even Flotsom.

To get to 85%, you child can do the workbooks.  To get to 99%, he has to get them mainly wrong.

When you start seeing test prep material, maybe as early as September if you're bored, more likely later, you'll see advanced visual spacial matrices and think that somehow this will determine a smart kid.  But this is only the muck he'll have to wade through.  The real test will be the barb wire and the obstacles he'll have to dodge and climb over.  The matrices are just the excuse.

At 99%, the kid will have to figure out problems he's never seen before, extrapolate from examples, get things wrong and recover.  All of that was on the page of 100% incorrect.  The fact that kids learn 5x when they make mistakes was only a bonus.

There were months where I basically had to sit there with the workbook doing all of the problems myself.  It was workbook hell, if you ask me.  I'm not saying this is easy.

If you are plodding along with some reading or some critical thinking workbook or some math, keep the end goal in mind.  99%.   If you can work toward 100% wrong, you're half the way there.  Does this make sense to anybody?

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