Friday, December 5, 2008

When It Doesn't All Add Up

YAY! More good news - I got permission to take one kid and teach her math. Pray for "Kayla". She is so sweet and so kind, but she struggles in math. Our school has a math curriculum which I do not agree with at all, but they (administration) love it. Most parents and teachers find it confusing and unusual. Kayla is in sixth grade, and really, she does have some serious problems in math - but this curriculum doesn't help her. The curriculum is all about understanding the concept. So they teach many different ways to do a problem so you "see" the concept. Well, Kayla doesn't see anything! She hasn't since second grade, and all this "do the problem this way... oh, and now change to that way.... oh, and now another way..." has gotten her totally confused and demoralized. In sixth grade, she still can not consistently figure out how to multiply two digit numbers!

I have tutored Kayla in fourth grade and was asked to again now.... I tried.... I really tried. Then I went to the principal and said I would be willing to take her for the first hour every day and tutor her, but ONLY if I can take her OFF this curriculum, put her into a normal curriculum, and put her back in third grade math. She will likely never understand all of the "why" of the concepts, but given a consistent way to do a problem, she can do it right. Hopefullly, if we continue to be consistent and she can actually see a page that she CAN complete and understand, her attitude towards math will improve from "there is no hope for me" to "hey, I get this", and we can make progress. I don't think I can catch her up to her grade level, but I am fairly confident that we can make significant progress.

But you would not believe the opposition I had from administration to the suggestion of taking her off the curriculum! It took me a few weeks of talking to get to that point.... you'd think the very fact of Kayla not being really up to third grade math despite being tutored for several years and getting help at home would be enough to make them willing to try anything! The problem with the tutoring is that is has all been aimed at getting her to keep up with her present class. Umm.... that was fine when the difference was a year or two in skills, but now we are approaching a four year gap, and she CAN'T keep up, no matter how hard we push. How can she? All her math book tells her, day after day, is that she is stupid.

Time for a change. So, today, I am thrilled to have permission to teach "Kayla" math. She is excited, too. Can I ask you to really pray for her? We have so little time to be able to make a significant difference in this. I believe she can do it. Pray for confidence, a willingness to work, and for her to be able to grasp concepts. Pray that we can quickly progress through third grade this year and begin on fourth grade math soon.

I enjoy teaching. I enjoy watching the results. Two years ago, I spent an hour a day with a struggling ESL reader and took her from C-A-T is what?? in second grade to a decent reader. Now, when I am in that class helping and I hear her read, I smile.

I just like things that show fruit. I think one of the hardest things working in the people group we work in is that fruit grows so slowly... so it is fun to do something that does show results.

4 comments:

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

I feel ya girl! My girl struggles a LOT with math! She has since Kindergarten! It was beneficial to me that I was able to homeschool her for 4 years, and find a curriculum I really liked! It helped a lot! But - she is back in school since we are on the field, and doing "okay", and yet she is struggling once again. And problem is - she's become independent - so when I ask if she needs help - almost always the answer is no. Sigh...

Ellie said...

Struggling kids are hard to help. I have an easier time helping other kids than my own... I have one who struggles with spelling and has been getting 20-30% on tests for years. He typically only reads the first half of a word and guesses the rest - interesting results in spelling!

This year, I am trying to put in about half an hour a day with him on that... it's helped. He got a few 75-80% which is great! But even those come with GREAT effort...

Math is just something my kids were born good at, so that has not been a struggle for them so far.... but Kayla, well, ... She is so bright in language, acting, writing, anything actually except math....

But this curriculum is the worst ever, I think! My dad, who is an engineer, shakes his head over it.

jpierce said...

Yes, I am a retired teacher and I totally understand that many children can't learn math with the broader understandings method. Iknow it would be better if they "saw" all the relationships and could do the problems in many ways, but for a slower learner in math they just need one way that works. And maybe some of the bigger understandings will come later as they did for me in math methods classes. It is so sad that teachers aren't given the right to modify the methods when they see the need. Kayla is lucky to have you! JP

Becky Aguirre said...

Oh, fun! I get great satisfaction with helping kids get better grades! I will be praying for you and her...hopefully you can get her to a "breakthrough" point where things start making more sense...I think I agree with your assessment of the curriculum, sounds confusing. I come from the point of view that you use whatever approach it takes to get the kids to understand, trying different things until you hit on something-one approach can be too limited for all the different learning styles, too many can be confusing if they don't match up with the kids!