Monday, September 28, 2009

A Mathy Monday

Every now and then I just have to throw in a little mathy stuff.  It's good for you...like when your mom or dad gave you medicine when you were little.  I just read a business ad for a company that specializes in "testing and tutoring".  It played on the emotions of parents whose kids struggle with math.  It referred to the "failure chain" your child might be in.  Of course, they had the solution for you.  And they really might. Or not.

Math is probably the first time kids have to deal with the abstract in school.  Algebra, taught abstractly, is very tough for many kids to grasp.  One way to work with this at home is to keep math as concrete as possible in the beginning...and for as long as possible.  Most parents are so excited when their child can count to ten, and then later when they can count way high.  I remember one of mine getting a prize because he could write numbers in order until there was no more paper left to fill! I was excited and I still have the paper to prove it!

I would encourage you to even make learning to count concrete.  Calling out numbers means nothing more than having a good memory.  Attaching meaning to those numbers--now that is understanding. 

Try this.  Put some pennies, maybe 20 or so, on the kitchen table. If your child is very young, just use five pennies.  Have your child actually touch each one and slide it to the side as he says, "One penny, two, three, four, etc....".   Something else to try after this.  Stack up 20 or 30 pennies in stacks of 10.  On the other end of the table, spread out the same number of pennies.  Ask your child which is more...the stacked pennies or the spread out ones. Depending on their age, of course, you will get different answers.  Try having him or her compare pennies that are in a big pile to pennies that are spread out one at a time.

Obviously you want them to consistently realize they must count the pennies each time to find the answer.  The abstract question has become concrete.

A young teenage student trying to learn algebra who never got the concepts concretely will surely struggle now that it is all abstract. Just food for thought.


8 comments:

  1. ah, so THAT's what i did wrong back in math class - not enough pennies!!!!! thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Hee Hee. Could be. Take care.
    Sandra

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  3. I still can't get algebra. I can count pennies in my sleep, but have no clue how to help on high school algebra. I don't comprehend how concrete can move to abstract. My brain won't make the leap.

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  4. calculus 3 was killing me in college. do you have any good advice? (not that i will ever need it in real life)

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  5. This is a very good concept. I could never count the pennies correctly back then...

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  6. The reason Calc was killing you could have been several reasons. Could be your background was not as strong as your classmates and the instructor went too fast for you. Or perhaps you didn't have a good instructor. Or perhaps you didn't study enough. Most likely it was you background.

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  7. Oh. I am gonna read another blog. My eyes glazed over as soon as I read the word 'math,'and my mind flashed back to remedial classes, tutors, and the mortification I felt when my 4th grade class actually clapped b/c I got through reciting the multi. tables......now you know why I went into English.....

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  8. Math sucks for a lot of people. Like Rx. I would like to make all that go away for future math students. You are perfect just the way you are and, thank goodness, you went into English because it probably made you and even better writer...and we love that!
    Sandra

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Love to hear your thoughts! What do you think?