4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B

4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B
Most of the Four me (and you) fam

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The sum of all parts

4A's generally done pretty well in math. A few hiccups here and there, but no real problems. Numbers are black and white, objective, literal. In grades K-2, numbers worked the way her mind worked.

By this I mean, that numbers are objective, in that they always add up to the sum of their parts. If you add 33 plus 6, you are always going to get 39. Always. No matter what. "Always, no matter whats" are what make an Aspie's literal mind happy!

Inferences or ball park numbers are harder. For an Aspie, mine specifically, why the hell would one want to ball park 33 plus 69 into 100, when we know that it's actually 102. By way of illustration... Me, "4A, estimate the sum of 33 plus 69." 4A (after adding them together), "It's actually 102." Me, "I know, but if you were trying to ballpark it, what would you get?" 4A, "A ballpark is where someone plays baseball, and the answer is 102." Thank you. Understand?

If you have school-aged kids, you've heard about "the new math." References to "new math" are really about Everyday Math, which is the way kids are taught math these days. In a super-simplistic, non-educator nutshell, new math teaches the kids how to work with or manipulate the numbers so that math because more intuitive or fluent or organic.

So, instead of memorizing a bunch of facts, like we used to do, the kids are taught to think flexibly about numbers. An example. You can memorize that 9 plus 6 is 15. You can also add it up and carry the one. That's the old way, what we used to do when we were kids (are we that old?!?). Apparently, we all weren't getting what we needed out of old math. I figure they're about right because I can add, subtract, multiply, or divide my way out of all kinds of shit with a calculator, but do NOT ask me to do it without one. Can I get an amen?

The new math way of adding 9 and 6 goes a bit like this. Its generally accepted that +10 facts are super duper easy. So, if, from the example above, I know, because it's easy, that 10 + 6 is 16, then 9 + 6 becomes easy, too. I can just think of 10 + 6, know that it's 16, know that 9 is one less than 10, so then know that 9 + 6 should be one less, too, so it's 15. Follow that? if so, you are actually smarter than a second grader. Congrats.

The math (and all, generally) concepts get harder in third grade. More so than years prior. The kids are expected to function on a greater inferential and abstract plane. And, kids need to get it, get it quick, and get it right. Standardized statewide testing starts in the spring. Hurry up.

Our Aspie is just about failing math. Overnight. Almost failing. Virtually overnight. What the heck happened?!?!? I sit here and watch that kid do her homework every single night. I check her work (and her answers are almost always correct and quickly deduced).

That, my friend, I can answer.

This new math flexibility business mixed with a non-flexible Aspie brain is the answer.

Don't get me wrong. New math ROCKS! My NT first grader can work and flex with numbers like nobody's business. He loves it! It makes math fun and easy and extrapolate-able.

For my Aspie, new math requires flexibility. With her neurological wiring, flexibility is not something that comes naturally to her. (Remember, as an aside, that she can be taught flexibility, but it takes a long time and a lot of support.)

Back to the answer.

In new math, to allow greater flexibility and intuition with math, kids are taught multiple ways to solve a problem. So, they can figure out two-digit subtraction by carrying the one, using base ten blocks, visualizing a number grid, and a host of other methods. This "several methods" business is death for an Aspie. Literal creatures that they are, why would they need multiple ways to solve a problem when one works? The extra is just extra. Unnecessary. Confusing.

Here's an example.

On a recent test, 4A flat out missed how to assess place value in a decimal to the thousandths. She had done all the various methods during homework and handled them just great. Presented with it on a test, she was stymied.

She's been asked to place numbers in the following spots: ones, tenths, hundredths, and thousandths. It goes like this...7 in tenths, 9 in ones, 6 in thousandths, and 2 in hundredths. That should look like 9.726. My Aspie keeps on doing this: 6.279. You know why,right? Because she's leaving the "th" off of those number words. Why?

For weeks, the children have been learning how to assess place value with decimals. Name comparisons: 1/10 is one-tenth is 0.10 is 10/100. They've been assessing place value by shading boxes, too. So, 1/10 is one out of ten boxes shaded in a 10 box grid. In essence, 4A has learned several ways to give meaning to and assess or figure place value. Again, she handled these all fine on homework...because they were taught and "tested," via homework" one method at a time.

She knows all of the various methods and can do method A when instructed to do method A. Method B when instructed to do method B. And so on.

She needs to be told HER way to solve the problem on a test. I sat with her and told her HER way. Then I gave her 12 (TWELVE!) practice problems and told her to use "her" way to solve them. She aced every single one. I tried again this morning just to make sure it wasn't a matter of the recency of information to blame. Same result. Tried again this afternoon after school just to triple make sure. Same result.

This means that she knows how to do the problem, BUT she is confused by which method to use on exam because of the multiplicity of methods presented. Dr. Steve has warned me for years that this was coming. I see now exactly what he means. The multiple ways business stymies her. Because there are so many options that work, she doesn't know which option to use....because the test doesn't tell her. Is the light bulb turning on here for you, as it does for me? She is literal. She has to be told what to do because she can't flex abstractly to determine it on her own. She's not stupid or confused about the skill. She is, however, confused about what they want her to do on the test because they haven't TOLD her what to do.

Here's another example. Akin to the ballpark method of inferring, she missed filling in numbers on a number grid. And she knows every single number in order and can tell you greater and lesser and all of that. Know why she missed it? She said the number line was too small. The end points differed by 100 numbers, so she tried to draw 100 tick marks on that 4 inch line. Bless her heart.

So, I showed her how to chop it in half to anchor the middle and then quarter it to anchor the quarter marks. Then, I had to reinforce her with a LOT of pebbles and patience to then eyeball the number. Eyeballing is not what Aspies are about. But, with reinforcement, she did it. The NT kid can do it because he sees the number line in his mind or can estimate that 433 is closer to 400 than 500 and intuitively then place 433 somewhere to the left of center on that line. An Aspie can't see things in the abstract. She knows that 433 is closer to 400 than 500, but if you want her to show you where, she's going to try to find the EXACT location.

This poor kid knows how to do these skills. All of them, but her grades can't and don't reflect her knowledge. While this doesn't matter, it does affect her confidence and her willingness to try in class and on homework. She feels like a failure.

The sum of the parts here, then, is not adding up. I know why its not adding up, but now her team has to figure out what to do about it. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Tell me how it goes. I sell the math program she is using and I have access to the best consultants available. I would be MORE than happy to hook you up with some of them. Let me know. Call me if you need to talk - 410-836-8413 (home) 443-938-2892 (cell). I can see how this approach would be confusing for her.

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