I’m now tutoring another sib in my nephews-and-niece group of delightful kiddos. This young man is a third grader who is currently failing math. I think a good pseudonym for him is Brainiac, but I’ll go with Isaac (he’s a science fiend!). His school just developed a PEP (Personalized Education Plan) to document their attempts to bring him up to speed in math.
Careful evaluation is crucial for effective instruction. When I told Isaac I needed to figure out how he solves math problems, this sweet youngster did something that few kids are capable of: he explained every single detail of his unreasonable reasoning. In fact, I had to curb his explanations a bit because the problems quickly became obvious and we would still be sitting there, listening to his serious voice outlining mathematical disasters. Isaac has memorized bits and pieces of all grade level algorithms without understanding what he’s doing.
Here’s a good example of how Isaac has translated regrouping into a parallel universe!
Isaac knew he that the 6 was “too little,” so he crossed out the 3 and made it 2. The 7 was also too little, so he repeated the process. Eventually he created 9 – 9, which equals 0, of course. He was pleased with his effort and we kept moving onward, not necessarily upward.
I haven’t finished my assessment but we’ve already begun working on strategies to eliminate counting on fingers, as well as some confidence-boosting work. My estimate is that it will take 6 months to correct math reasoning errors that probably started in kindergarten or first grade. That’s an optimistic estimate, based upon his powerful work ethic, his solid real world math skills, stamina, and desire to fully participate (even at 8 PM!). The greatest hindrance will be the new algorithms tossed his way; they are likely to need untangling as well. A second major issue might be auditory processing deficits. They are a familial disability that all these sweet kiddos have to one degree or another.
Stay tuned for Isaac’s launch into the universe of REAL math!