* Math: homeschooling kids with attention problems

how-to-improve-concentration-01In response to a question, here are some strategies I have found effective when teaching math to kids with attention problems.

1.  Make sure you complete adequate assessment so you have a solid idea of where to start instruction.  The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics offers an effective overview of the basic strands of mathematics instruction for all grade levels: numbers and operations, algebra (don’t panic- this includes sorting, classification, and patterns at lower grade levels), geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability.  They also emphasize the importance of problem solving and reasoning.

2.  Make the content meaningful.  If your child has musical interests, create authentic problems related to music.  For instance, you could compare the number of black to white keys on a piano, solve problems related to how many keys are not used when playing a melody, or determine how many two-note chords are played per minute.  Use proper names that trigger some association for your child (such as siblings, parents, and friends).  Make the problems humorous or include a competitive angle, depending upon your child’s characteristics; I find that kids enjoy problems portraying a bit of friendly competition with others.  (If you don’t know how to write effective word problems, use commercially prepared materials and adapt the questions.)   Remember to introduce kids to multi-step problem solving as early as possible.

3.  Make practice meaningful without being deadly.  Start with guided practice until the student demonstrates mastery, then practice over time for long-term retention.  Achieve higher levels of automaticity by using timed fluency of math facts, letting your child fill in graphs of progress.  Have kids complete the smallest number of problems necessary to gain competence and show retention.  Successful focus on 10 problems is far superior to desultory performance on 25 problems.  Avoid cluttered pages.  Avoid pages with so much content that your child is stressed as soon as they see the assignment.

4.  Make sure you include reasoning and interaction as your child works on math.  You could film your child’s explanations while problem solving and watch them as a review of skills, an assessment, or to coach younger siblings.

5.  Make time for breaks.  Home-schooling allows you flexibility in scheduling math when your child is most alert.  You may also provide more frequent breaks (and brain breaks) for a child who is easily fatigued or distracted.  Use a timer so your child can see when breaks will occur.

6.  Make effective use of technology and games.  Use online resources which allow for experimentation and use of manipulatives.  Math Is Fun, National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, and Illuminations are three of my favorites.  Some kids with attention problems may be overly distracted by certain manipulatives, but it is important to find those that work effectively for your child.  Consider creating a digital portfolio for the school year.  Your child can help decide which math work and videos to include (see #4 above).  Check out the websites in my Technology Cools section.

Are these suggestions helpful?  Do you have any other tips for readers?

* Multiplication.com update #1

learn a factIn my review of Multiplication.com, the website created by Alan Walker, I said I would begin this program with a student who is far below grade level in math.  In case you haven’t read the review of that site, Walker’s approach provides a visual image and rhyming words related to each numeral.  The images are then combined in a funny or interesting story using multiplication facts (so 2 x 3 = six has a related story called “shoe x tree equals sticks”).

The program begins with an assessment of multiplication facts and a review of the commutative property of multiplication.  My student, Khalil, does not recall any multiplication facts.  He remembers the zero property of multiplication about 50% of the time, when prompted.  He does not remember the identity property (multiplying by one) without prompting.  Khalil cannot identify the commutative property by name but understands the concept.

Here’s what happened: First, I showed Khalil all the facts he must learn, using a multiplication table provided in the teacher’s manual.  The facts for zero and one are grayed out, as are all the other repeated facts (due to the commutative property).  I had already highlighted a chart in a similar fashion but had not thought about eliminating the repeated facts.  When Khalil saw how few facts he had to learn, he was much more encouraged than when looking at the chart I had created!  Khalil memorized the associated names and pictures for the numerals in less than ten minutes.  He was not stressed by the process (as he is with a lot of math).  In fact, he really enjoyed it because he likes word play.  The only “sticking” point was that the number six seems to be associated with both “sticks” and “chick.”  I think “sticks” is a preferable rhyme, but in chicks are characters in some stories.  Khalil could play games with the memorized associations immediately.  He has only had one lesson, and only got to one multiplication fact, but he memorized that very quickly (and enjoyed saying it).

The author recommends daily sessions of 5 to 10 minutes per day.  He also suggests careful review if you have to add more content in one session.  I work with Khalil twice a week, so I will have to cover a lot of ground per session.  On the other hand, Khalil can practice these stories on the website at home, too.  Both Khalil and I are excited about this process and I look forward to more positive updates!

* This Is Not Cupcake Camp

This will clear your sinuses and help your kiddos learn place value at the same time! Great fun!

I'm Not Miss Beadle

Teacher Tipster (Place Value Song): http://youtu.be/ATgnG0M3S3Q

In first grade, we’re all about tens and ones these days. Understand, when you’re six or seven it’s a very complex concept. I mean, you’re still getting used to the idea that we always read from left to right. So next you find out that the placement of numbers matters, too? Oh, man, it’s a whole thing.

Enter Teacher Tipster. I defy you to watch this video and not wish for a moment to be a six-year-old in this guy’s class.

I gotta get me to the dollar store.

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* Making eight

A great way to consider subtraction, PLUS more super math conversations about math.

Talking Math with Your Kids

I am writing a book. In the process of doing this, I come across homework assignments that parents find frustrating, and that they share on social media. These almost always get me thinking, and they frequently lead to math talks with my children.

This past weekend was one such instance.

Worksheet: "The whole is 8. One part is 8. What is the other part?"

Talking Math with Your Kids is not a place to hash out the details of whether this is a well written question, or whether this was an appropriate homework assignment for this child. We can discuss that on Twitter if you like, or through my About/Contact page.

Talking Math with Your Kids is about taking opportunities to have math conversations with our children. In that spirit, I share the conversation we had in our house.

Out of the blue, I asked Tabitha (7 years old) if I could ask her a math question. It was maybe Saturday afternoon. We had…

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