Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Problem Daughter

I've always assumed that little girls should be perfect in their behavior and their grades, and that little boys should be rotten little rebels like I was and like at least one kid I know who shall not be named.

I am approached by many people asking "what do I do about this problem?"  I also keep tabs on my longitudinal study that began with my Kindergarten summer math camp.   "How's it going with your child?" I ask, and the parent correctly assumes I mean grades.

To make things more interesting, the kids with problems are always girls with immigrant parents or grandparents, and almost always from Asia.  The only underperforming boys I deal with are either doing sports 15 hours a week or we've already fixed the problem.

The gender gap has finally been completely closed with the next generation.  Girls are hitting the 4th grade train wreck, and it's continuing into later grades.

The solution is of course to stop subjecting girls to simple, routine math problems that are boring.  "Simple, routine math problems" describes school curriculum until about 6th or 7th grade.  In the later grades, math becomes much more challenging and requires a set of skills that are not developed by the earlier curriculum.

The best curriculum for grades 1 -4 is called CMP math and comes from Michigan State (go Spartans, at least math wise).  It still falls pretty short and will not prevent the 4th grade train wreck.

The solution I propose is three fold.  First, the parent has to adopt the right skill set when approach homework, especially math.   Secondly, the kids have to approach math in the same way.   Finally, the child should be focused on a curriculum that requires exercising these skills, and this curriculum is not a math facts worksheet or the routine application of formulas.

Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets book sets the right foundation for this approach in the classroom and at home.   I've produced a slightly different approach for one-on-one parent supervision of homework and math studies that you should be able to read online in a week or so on Amazon  here without having to buy my book.  (So much for marketing).  Level 3 also describes these skills.

The coaching guide in these books is fairly long and detailed and takes up too much space to copy here.  The short version is to stop worrying about their homework and grades from day-to-day and starting working problems that require about 30 minutes each and are really hard.  The grades take care of themselves.



6 comments:

  1. I just purchased your Level 2 book and can't wait to get it. I was just wondering if you do any science/STEM projects at home maybe in the summer. My kids (K and 1) seem to be interested in doing "experiments" at home just watching youtube videos here and there but I wonder if I should look into these kinds of activities more and perhaps get a book to get some ideas??

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    1. Please read Level 2 introduction carefully. Either you forgot to mention your 2nd grader or progress is going to be slow until June.

      We do art, acting, and some writing projects during the summer. We did a lot of science before 1st grade, but it seems more like crafts to me. Mostly reading and math. Science shows up magically in later grades and no one was at a deficit from lack of exposure.

      One thing I did at these ages was to try to get all of the books from all of the illustrators who won an award. It was a very long list. Best thing I ever did.

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  2. What kinds of writing projects would you have? Daily journal maybe?

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    1. Daily journal, video game playing diary, songs, poems, 3 sentences about your favorite game, reasons why I should let you watch star wars. During one summer, I said I want 4 sentences on the topic of your choosing or I'm going to drop the V-Bomb.

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  3. Hi - is there a Level 1 book?

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    1. Not yet, although I have picked out the names for the main characters. I'm in the middle of a project for 3 and 4 year olds that I can't disclose, but it will be marginally big.

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