Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Post Holiday Math

We are in day 2 of a 2 week holiday break.  Day 1 was a holiday and I have a hard time convincing anyone to do any math.  My kids sat around all day having fun, eating, chatting and helping with chores.

Math starts today.

Daily math is a prerequisite of the kids doing anything fun.  The kids say, "I don't want to do anything fun and I'm not doing any math!"  Then they read, do crafts, engage in an imagination-building-problem solving activity like Legos in order to not do any math.  It's quite amusing to me when I walk by their room, and they are sitting there reading for hours, and they look at me like 'Ha, ha, I don't have to do your stupid math, I'm just going to read.  I win.'

Reading is way more important than math.  The jokes on them and I'm not telling.

Daily math started with the simple thought, "If a child becomes a strong reader and thinker because he reads daily, how is he going to become at STEM?"  The answer was daily math.  Around third grade, I thought "There is way to much homework to do each night.  We'll just do daily math on the weekends" and that's where we've been ever since except summer and breaks.

Math contains more than math, of courses.  It contains anything I think they need to succeed at the time.  This usually contains math.  On Saturdays in the summer, this can be math, vacuum the basement, practice your instrument and do a reading comp question, fix the toilet, replace light bulbs. 

This year, the April MAP test is on our radar and I'm becoming slightly more organized with daily math.  We overdid vocabulary between SSCC and 2nd grade and haven't done much in this area other than define and discuss any unknown word found in reading or reading comp.  I am reintroducing vocabulary as part of math.  With a vengeance.

I like the MAP.  It has a lot in common with the COGAT.   The cognitive skill set is slightly different, but in both cases there is an advantage that can be gained from working on these skills simply because school doesn't really teach cognitive skills.  Doing lots of practice, ala Kumon doesn't help at all, and learning algorithms ala Singapore sets up a train wreck (like ending up in the 90th percentile or less - I never really defined what a train wreck is but that's it).  The problem with any program at all is that the child can get ahead and doing well, and the parent thinks that success has been obtained.  The clock is ticking.  Any time a child is practicing or applying or using things taught, learning may or may not happen, but skills building is not part of the deal.

I remember when my goal was simply to cheat my kids into a GAT program.  What actually happened was that we just ended up spending a lot of quality time together and I learned how to be a parent.  The long term formula for academic success is Cognitive Skills + Interest + Will.  At this age, and in the succeeding years while we caught up, it was all Cognitive Skills at the expense of Interest and especially Will.  You can burn a kid out with daily math every day every year, so I tried (and failed) to take some years off.  To compensate, I completely changed the approach to my formula of Baffled + Spending Time on the Question not the Solution + Get it Wrong + Check the Work.  This created an environment of Zero Expectations and No Progress, and in that environment magic happened.

Somewhere along the way, 'Will' came back, most likely because of chores or instrument practice, and I'm doing my best to stay as far away from 'Interest' as I can so as not to ruin it.  A child can only develop interest in a vacuum that does not include the parent.  Unless the parent is super sneaky.

I'm thinking about 'Interest+Will+Skills' a lot because for the older child, my goal is that he does really well in AP Language Arts and/or History, with assumed A's in math of some kind.  All of the math education is pointing in that direction for this child.  I found that at one of the selective enrollment high schools in Chicago, a child can take Calculus as a freshman, followed by Linear Algebra/Multivariate Calculus, a course that's no longer on their website which I will demand be reinstated, and AP Statistics, and assumed A's in AP Language.  This is 4 years of college credit math.  We're going for it.

The only way I can possibly think of achieving these goals is to do something creative, unusual, and different.  Something that is more looking at things from a fresh perspective than hard work.  Hard work is not going to do it.


  1. My 2nd grader has finished up to Reading Comprehension Level D (4th grade level), understanding text fine and answering most of the questions. Now the question is do I get Level E and keep doing what we've been doing OR switch to another book e.g., Comprehension Plus and if so what level (C or D or...etc.)?

    1. One of the struggles is I don't know how to pick the right level for my child and I don't want to end up ordering every possible level.

    2. I like to look at the broader picture. I want my children to be overall successful, especially academically, and I want them fully prepared for high school/college, and I want them to develop interests along the way. When we got 2 years ahead, I took 2 years off. In 4th grade, I slowly turned up the heat in math (like spending a bit on 8th grade math and then jumping into algebra) and by 7th grade, I want to have made a lot of progress on SAT reading comp. To get there, this is what I did in the reading space besides lots of reading of great books: Absolutely nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Think about that for a while while I think about an alternate response with some more advice.