Friday, August 21, 2015

Admitting my Weaknesses

For years I have been struggling with the problem of math instruction; I even took an algebra class on Coursera to try and help myself get back up to speed. I quickly found that this wasn't going to turn me into a good math teacher. All it did was remind me how little I really remember. EM seems to naturally pick up math with little or no instruction, so he hasn't needed much from me. But JT has the same struggles I do with math and that hasn't been a good thing. 

For the last two years, JT had been using Thinkwell for his math learning. I only needed to jump in to correct the worksheets and <Hooray!> the answer keys were provided. This year he did not want to continue with Thinkwell so I had to find a Geometry text book that he could use. We found a good fit with an old Harold Jacobs book published in 1974. But guess what? Only selected answers in the back of the book! After a week or so I realized I was out of my league. It was time to pass the torch to someone who knows what they are doing. Hooray for former math major husbands!

I'm not sure if it will continue to be true throughout the year, but for now, I think JT is doing better in math than usual. Part of the reason is that he is finally receiving appropriate math instruction. For years I've fallen victim to the fallacy that all gifted kids are naturally good at math. Even though I knew he was struggling, it just felt like he should be able to do this by reading the book and working harder. I still believe working harder would help him, but now I know he needs more direct instruction. My husband is a good teacher. He isn't a teacher in the professional sense, but he does teach classes at our church, both to adults and children, and he's very good at helping people understand the material he is presenting. When I asked him to take over math instruction this year, he agreed to do it with the caveat that he might not be able to do it at the time JT was used to, but it would get done by the end of the day. So far, things are working very well and I am far less stressed out because kids are not coming to me with math questions that I can not answer. Instead, I got to do some art with EM today.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed by schooling, the fun things tend to get pushed aside. This week we made time for a little watercolor work. We printed out templates from the Woo!Jr site, cut them out, traced them on to our watercolor paper in pencil, then went over the pencil with a Sharpie marker. We added the veins and then started painting. EM chose an oak leaf and I did an elm.

EM is using Thinkwell this year for his prealgebra course. This is his first year away from Singapore math so it's a little different for him. When he used Singapore, I'd do a little instruction if he needed it, but that was rare. If he ends up having any questions this year, I'll just send him off to talk to his Dad and I can get on with the things I am good at like art projects, history, science experiments, and literature.

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