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View Full Version : 2nd grade math struggles--HELP!



Rocky
03-10-2014, 01:44 PM
I really need advice.

DS is almost 8 and is just finishing Singapore Math workbook 1B. It seems to me that he doesn't really understand the concepts and does a lot of guessing. Sometimes his answers are correct, sometimes not. Today we spent almost 30 minutes on one problem: Mary has 11 books. She has two more books than Sally. How many books does Sally have? This should not have been so hard for him! He has done number sentence problems like this many times over the past two weeks, yet he absolutely did not understand how to solve this or write it as a number sentence. Pretty much every day we run into something like this--something he just doesn't understand no matter what. I try manipulatives, pictures, everything. I fear he is moving on without mastering any of these concepts. It seems like he is faking his way through this and some other things he's supposed to be learning.

I am starting to doubt my ability to HS him. He has been diagnosed with ADHD (but doesn't take meds) and I feel like he also may have some sort of LD. Should I have him tested for LD? Should I get him a math tutor? His other subjects are going OK but not great. One drawback of homeschooling is that I can't see how other kids his age are doing since we are in a bubble here. If he was in PS, I'd know more or less where he fell among his age group. Without that, I feel like we are working blind. I know it's not a competition, but what if I'm not teaching him what he needs to learn?

Norm Deplume
03-10-2014, 02:20 PM
Note: I am neither an expert in homeschooling, nor in child development. Just some ideas from my head here.


Today we spent almost 30 minutes on one problem: Mary has 11 books. She has two more books than Sally. How many books does Sally have? This should not have been so hard for him!

My son doesn't like number sentence problems. They don't inherently make sense to him. I sometimes wonder if it's a right brain/left brain thing. Like the numbers live in one brain, the words live in the other, and it all loses something in the translation.

My gut instinct would be to re-write the question: Mary has 11 pennies. She has two more pennies than Sally. How many pennies does Sally have?" Then give him pennies and see if he can make it work. It may feel more concrete when he is working with the same object in his hands as the words on the page. Less abstract thinking needed.

HoustonHomeschoolers
03-10-2014, 02:44 PM
My son had problems with it too and his math teacher (in public school) to circle the numbers, underline the action and then rewrite it as a problem...leaving out all the other details.

I can't really show it on here, but it seemed to really help him weed out the important details. If they flip it on him, he still gets confused sometimes, but it was really helpful to just remove all the extra info.

I don't know if it is helpful for you to beat yourself up about this. If we are looking at "what ifs" then "what if the school was too busy to explain it to him the way he learns, so he started failing and feeling bad about his abilities".

Also my son has ADHD and I time limit things that are frustrating. He shuts down. If a problem is too difficult for him, I have him move on and do the easy ones first. He usually comes back to the harder ones and does them. But not always.

This is a long process and what might make sense to you, or kid A, is going to be illogical to kid b. and so on.

hockeymom
03-10-2014, 02:46 PM
Note: I am neither an expert in homeschooling, nor in child development. Just some ideas from my head here.



My son doesn't like number sentence problems. They don't inherently make sense to him. I sometimes wonder if it's a right brain/left brain thing. Like the numbers live in one brain, the words live in the other, and it all loses something in the translation.

My gut instinct would be to re-write the question: Mary has 11 pennies. She has two more pennies than Sally. How many pennies does Sally have?" Then give him pennies and see if he can make it work. It may feel more concrete when he is working with the same object in his hands as the words on the page. Less abstract thinking needed.

Good idea. Some kids do best with concrete action.

Another thought is to take the extra story words away. What is the question really asking? Write out what you DO know--11 and 2. Explore their relationship--what happens if you add them together? What happens if you subtract? Which one has to be right in this case?

Sometimes a little faking ones way through (experimenting) may not be entirely bad. You'll go over these concepts again, and maybe looking at this time as an introduction allows for a bit of "making up as he goes along". Can you take a break, work on something else for awhile, and come back with fresh eyes? Just having that initial exposure under his belt may allow him to truly get it the next time around.

dbmamaz
03-10-2014, 02:54 PM
Orion really struggled with word problems for a long time. I often just skipped all the word problems and focused more on him learning the math. Later as the math became easier, we might try one or two.

Singapore is considered one of the more rigorous math programs. I really wonder if its not the right fit for your son. Maybe something more straightforward like math mammoth or even saxon . . . or right start, if he's more visual and needs more hands-on?

Rocky
03-10-2014, 04:36 PM
My gut instinct would be to re-write the question: Mary has 11 pennies. She has two more pennies than Sally. How many pennies does Sally have?" Then give him pennies and see if he can make it work. It may feel more concrete when he is working with the same object in his hands as the words on the page. Less abstract thinking needed.

I definitely tried this. I rephrased it a bunch of different ways, drew pictures, used things he likes (replaced "books" with "DS games") etc. I even gave him the answer, i.e., if Mary has 11 books and Sally has 9, how many more books does Mary have than Sally? It didn't matter how I phrased it, he just could not answer.

I know it sounds like I worked him into the ground in school today, but I honestly didn't. I gave him 30 minutes of math work to do first thing this morning, and during his 30 minutes of math, he got stuck on that question and could not continue. So I tried to help him figure it out so he could move on in his workbook. Ended up spending another 30 minutes on that one problem and stopping school for the day.

farrarwilliams
03-10-2014, 04:49 PM
Is it possible he just got stuck? One of my ds does this all the time. He gets confused at the start and then he can't get beyond it. It doesn't matter that I'm there breaking things down because he's not even hearing me - he's only hearing his initial stuck response. I usually have to literally have him leave and come back in order to unstick him because the voice in his head that is scream, "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS PROBLEM!" is apparently really loud, even when it's a small misreading and I'm sitting there repeating the procedure. Even if he can do it at other times.

Can he ever do it? Is it subtraction specifically? Word problems specifically? Perhaps... is Singapore just not the right program for him?

It's possible that there's a real issue and you might want to get testing done... but really, my first impulse is to tell you to drop Singapore and try Miquon + Education Unboxed for awhile. It did WONDERS for my frustrated by math ds when he was 7 yo. It completely transformed him to a child who, when upset with schoolwork, now asks to do math or algebra to calm down. And we started in a similar place where he was simply not getting some basic stuff.

sunshinet
03-10-2014, 04:55 PM
I used to change the subject of these types of problems to baseball and he would always get it. Loves baseball. But, seriously sometimes just the names can be the distraction. What if you did away with Mary and Sally and used your names or friends?

Rocky
03-10-2014, 04:59 PM
Singapore is considered one of the more rigorous math programs. I really wonder if its not the right fit for your son. Maybe something more straightforward like math mammoth or even saxon . . . or right start, if he's more visual and needs more hands-on?

Ah! I am so confused by all this. We decided on Singapore with DS7 because it was supposed to be the slow-going "fun" one. I'm using Mammoth with DS9 and it seems extremely rigorous and dry, with no hand-holding at all. Singapore is full of color pictures and has so few problems on each page. I had no idea it was considered more rigorous than other math programs.

When I was researching math curricula, I seem to recall reading that kids who don't do well with Singapore might do better with Saxon, and vice versa. So I'll take another look at Saxon.

I feel like DS7 struggles when manipulatives are involved, but I don't know what that tells me.

Lately he's been worried that his brain "doesn't work right." He has been trying to describe to me what his brain is doing--he'll say like, "Sometimes I think of something and then--poof--it disappears from my brain and I can't remember what it was." The best I could figure was that he was describing ADHD-related attention issues. It doesn't seem like anything major to me, but he's obviously really worried about it.

Rocky
03-10-2014, 05:00 PM
I used to change the subject of these types of problems to baseball and he would always get it. Loves baseball. But, seriously sometimes just the names can be the distraction. What if you did away with Mary and Sally and used your names or friends?

I did, and this usually help me too. I changed everything and tried to phrase it a million different ways. He just could not answer correctly.

dbmamaz
03-10-2014, 05:01 PM
does he like the color pictures, though? is that important to him? idk, math is a hard one sometimes.

Rocky
03-10-2014, 05:04 PM
Is it possible he just got stuck? One of my ds does this all the time. He gets confused at the start and then he can't get beyond it. It doesn't matter that I'm there breaking things down because he's not even hearing me - he's only hearing his initial stuck response.

You may well be right. Since we'd been in school for less than 30 minutes when this happened (just starting our day), it didn't occur to me that he could already be stuck. That usually happens here with fatigue or frustration escalation. And I don't understand how he gets stuck on a problem when he's done many just like it before with no problem whatsoever. That's what makes me think he's not getting the concepts.

I'll look at Miquon + Education Unboxed. I don't know anything about those.

Rocky
03-10-2014, 05:08 PM
does he like the color pictures, though? is that important to him? idk, math is a hard one sometimes.

He's a big comics lover so I figured Singapore would appeal. But you're probably right that we need something new. I personally find Singapore to be hard to teach, so something new would be fine with me. Except for the fact that I already bought the next Singapore books for him. :(

farrarwilliams
03-10-2014, 05:16 PM
Seconding that - especially for first grade - Singapore is harder than most programs. I think MM is actually a lot more gentle in the early grades, though it is dry, that's for sure. I'm not a Saxon fan. It's really drill and kill and also pretty dry. But I think the idea behind Saxon is that kids will understand 11-2 (a la your original example problem) when they've done it a million times in practice. So going from parts to whole, while SM is more whole to parts (understand the concept now practice it).

But I'll say again... consider Miquon! I think some kids who struggle with mastery (like Saxon, MM and Singapore) will do better with spiral. Though Miquon is weird, I'll admit that.

Norm Deplume
03-10-2014, 05:19 PM
Is it possible he just got stuck? One of my ds does this all the time. He gets confused at the start and then he can't get beyond it. It doesn't matter that I'm there breaking things down because he's not even hearing me - he's only hearing his initial stuck response.


My ds does that too. If his head starts to tell him he can't do something, there's very little chance that he'll be able to open up his brain and let the info in. Sometimes we just give up on that thing and try it again another day.

Accidental Homeschooler
03-10-2014, 07:01 PM
Are you using the home instructor's guide? Singapore is A LOT more than the text and workbook.

Anna18
03-11-2014, 03:54 AM
My seven year old daughter simply refuses to sit still while doing math, forget about not understanding the questions or getting them wrong. She becomes all fidgety and starts squirming in her seat the moment her maths notebook is in front of her. I don't think this is an AD disorder or any such thing because this behavior is solely reserved for maths and maths alone!

I seriously can't figure out how to ahead with it. Could it be just a subject problem, like I am thinking? Or do I need to take it seriously too and consult a doc? Help! :-(

Rocky
03-24-2014, 04:23 PM
My seven year old daughter simply refuses to sit still while doing math...I don't think this is an AD disorder or any such thing because this behavior is solely reserved for maths and maths alone!

Sounds like what they used to call "math anxiety." Some kids are afraid it's too hard or they can't do it, so they panic.

Rocky
03-24-2014, 04:38 PM
My Singapore problem continues...

My second grader just finished 1B and is moving on to 2A. I have the Spectrum test prep book for 2nd grade, though, and a lot of the math seems to be stuff he didn't really do in Singapore 1A and 1B. Now I'm worried he won't be able to do the math on the CAT test. I know the Singapore books don't align with grade levels so I have no idea if DS7 is behind. ?? If Singapore is supposed to be "harder," why isn't it covering some of the basic second grade math stuff that's in the Spectrum book?

This has been a tough year for us--last year was a breeze. But this year DS7 is struggling with almost every subject and DS10 is sloooowwwwww and is going about half the rate he should be going in every subject. I've had to let some things slide for a while so we can make progress in fundamentals like math and language mechanics. I just feel like there aren't enough hours in the day anymore. I hate teaching to the test, but that's what I feel like I have to do in order to make sure my kids are working at grade level. I'd really like to make sure they know at least what is being taught in pubic school.

Accidental Homeschooler
03-24-2014, 04:54 PM
My Singapore problem continues....

So, I am not trying to be super Singapore cheerleader here. It is not for everybody. No one program would be. But if you are just using the text and workbooks you are not doing Singapore math. If you are using the home instructors guide and doing the games and the manipulatives activities with the text and workbook and it is not working for you then ditch it. I think different programs use different sequences. I feel fairly confident that we will eventually cover everything if we stay with Singapore, but I assume that is true for most math programs. I also think that jumping from program to program (which our local ps actually did) will leave some gaps. It sounds like you like Spectrum so maybe that is the way to proceed. Good luck finding something that works for you.

farrarwilliams
03-24-2014, 06:52 PM
Which Singapore edition do you have? I think it's probably true that there are a lot of CC topics not covered by SM some years. Just because it's a bit "ahead" doesn't mean it covers more topics, you know? It's covering other things more in depth and skipping a lot of the little things that are required of kids little by little each year. Math sequences aren't the same. By the end of elementary math, both sequences will have covered all the things that need to be covered, but not necessarily at the same time. I don't know specific examples, but think of it this way. You could cover something like time over and over a little every year. Or, you could do telling time once when they're in 1st grade and then not again until 4th grade or so when you can actually do things like elapsed time at a decent level without struggling with it too much.

If you don't have to worry too much about the test scores and have a wide margin for what you get, I'd just say, hey, this will cover some things we haven't done and I don't expect you to get those right. You can even skip them entirely and just guess on those. We're only doing this for the state. I know how you're really doing in math. And then take the scores with that grain of salt.

Rocky
03-24-2014, 07:09 PM
It sounds like you like Spectrum so maybe that is the way to proceed.

Spectrum is simply "test prep" as far as I know. It's a workbook of sample tests similar to what kids would be getting in public school, and similar to the test my kids take at the end of the year. I only use it to let the kids practice before they take the CAT test at the end of the year, and to help me see what it is they'll be tested on at the end of the year (since the Spectrum books reflect CC).

Rocky
03-24-2014, 07:19 PM
I don't worry one bit about what ps is teaching beyond numeracy and language arts. The rest of it varies too wildly. As long as I know dd CAN stream back into ps if she wants to, the same as any child moving in from far away, I'm good.



Yes, this is my thinking exactly. I don't care what they're teaching in PS, but in case my kids for some reason have to go back to PS, I don't want them two years behind their same-age peers. Math and language arts are the two that matter in that regard. However, we have invested a lot of time in learning history this year--it's waaaaaaaay more than they'd get in PS. DS10 could probably pass a high school American History course right now. So this is something we spent time on because the kids love it and because I personally think it's important. However, it's time taken away from math and language arts. So now that I see that my kids are behind and/or struggling in math, I wonder about the time we spend on history. Sigh.

I am probably going to have to extend our school day, which I didn't want to have to do. I think we'd need about five hours a day to get all the work done and we've only been doing about three hours a day. But once we're spending five hours a day in homeschool...how different is that from the PS school day? You always hear people say kids in PS don't learn that much, half the day is wasted with lining up, handing out papers, etc., etc., but I am finding that it is extremely difficult for us to keep up with grade-level work in a short school day.

I don't worry about how my kids score on the tests, I just want them to know the material they're supposed to know. When I flip through the test prep book and think, "Jeez, we didn't cover this, we didn't cover this, we didn't cover this..." I get panicky. Maybe I should try a packaged curriculum of some sort next year to give me a better idea of what to do each day and how much. I've been doing an a la carte thing, choosing this and that and cobbling it together. Maybe this is not the right approach for me.

farrarwilliams
03-24-2014, 07:29 PM
I agree that Spectrum is definitely not a full curriculum.

Just because you didn't cover it doesn't mean they'll struggle overmuch if they had to go back to school. Again, if they have a real understanding of the math material in Singapore, they'll be 100% fine. It's one of the best programs in the WORLD. Just because it has a slightly different sequence, they'll recover. Really.

Rocky
03-24-2014, 07:46 PM
Again, if they have a real understanding of the math material in Singapore, they'll be 100% fine. It's one of the best programs in the WORLD. Just because it has a slightly different sequence, they'll recover. Really.

I probably should have started a new thread for my latest math panic since it's hard to remember what my initial concern was in this thread. But I started this thread a while ago due to the fact that DS7 doesn't seem to be understanding his math. Even after finishing Singapore 1B, he is still having major problems with the addition/subtraction word problems (There are 7 mangoes in one box and 10 mangoes in the other box. How many more mangoes are in the second box?). I'm happy to just skip over these word problems that he can't seem to grasp, but I'm worried that he needs this knowledge to move forward.

farrarwilliams
03-24-2014, 07:55 PM
He probably does. And word problems is definitely a thing on tests. But switching may help or not for that. Some kids just need more time.

CrazyCatWoman
04-02-2014, 12:13 AM
He sounds a lot like my son. He would "get" things fine...until we moved on to the next set of facts or type of problem. Then it was gone...like he had never learned it at all.

For my son, Right Start Math was the answer. It starts with fingers (which my son at 7 had to think about how many he had.) It goes through the 5s and 10s with fingers, tally sticks then switches to an abacus. Which has been wonderful for my son because now he visualizes the abacus when adding, subtracting and multiplying. And I think that is what he needed - to visualize. The program also has lots of games, and honestly, I think that he knows his facts better and can do more mentally than his older brother and sister who did K12 math. Oh, the thing with the abacus is, that it is divided into rows of ten, with two sets of 5 in different colors. Which is easier to visualize than a set of 10 displayed with two sets of 5 or one long set of 10.

My son does have a diagnosed learning disability - dyslexia, with some memory issues. The doctor wanted to say ADHD too, but then he says that about everyone. It is not much of an issue for my son. (I have another who does have it and we do not medicate, so I know what I am looking at.)

And for reassurance for you, you are not the issue. The curriculum and the methods it uses are not correct for your child. Right Start might be the right one for him....or you may need something else. It sure did wonders for my youngest. But we had tried several others before we found that one. You will find what he needs at some point as well.

Penguin
04-02-2014, 01:53 AM
I'd second Right Start Math. Looking at the abacus is wonderful for helping kids to visualize problems, until they can start to use the "abacus in their heads" to solve them.

freerangedad
04-02-2014, 08:20 AM
I haven't used Right Start, but I can tell you that I wish I had spent more time with number lines and an abacus. I used a traditional abacus, and that was a mistake. I think the two-colored abacus provides a better visual for the grouping of fives and for an understanding of the base-ten system. My DD11 can do fairly complex problems (15X19, 15% of 90, etc) in her head, but will, in turn, not be able to tell me the difference between 8 and 7.9 (yesterdays problem). We still have to return to getting a grip on place values. Would of, should of, could of. :)

Oh yes, and stay patient. I used to wonder if DD would ever get it, but she now likes solving math problems.

Keiran'sMom
04-02-2014, 09:42 AM
Have you tried taking the "math" out of word problems. I know this sounds weird but I really struggled with word problems even into college. One of my professors offered to help me after the class. The first thing he did was give me a list of "key" words and what they meant. I wish I had kept that sheet. It helped me to see what was important. Next he had me breakdown what I thought was important. The names of the people, the objects they had and number, rewrite the question in terms I understood, and to explain to him what we were looking for. After only a couple of days I was able to do it by myself and eventually do it faster on tests. When faced with a really hard word problem I would just pull out the same method. It is sometimes hard to go from words to numbers for a lot of people, it helped me a lot to break it down myself using words I understood. Also having that sheet.
This site has a little chart with the same info, you could maybe print it out and go over the terms with your son.

Translating Word Problems: Keywords (http://www.purplemath.com/modules/translat.htm)

freerangedad
04-02-2014, 11:32 AM
[QUOTE=
Translating Word Problems: Keywords (http://www.purplemath.com/modules/translat.htm)[/QUOTE]

Good point. I had forgotten that was what got my DD over the word problem hump. We made our own list, and whenever she had trouble with a problem, I would ask, "How would you say this word using a math term?". It helped a lot.

ikslo
04-02-2014, 01:00 PM
Could it also be his reading level? I know when my son first did word problems, he understood what was being asked right away if I read the problem out loud to him. If I made him read it himself, his focus would be on the words in the problem, rather than the math itself. Even though I knew his reading level was adequate to read and comprehend the words, adding in math to the mix sent his comprehension flying out the window. So I would read it out loud one part at a time, and have him write his numbers/what he was hearing on the board (or paper, or whatever works), so that he could picture the problem and focus on the math. I have seen a huge difference in his ability to process the word problems in the last six months, and now he is able to read them to himself - and still figure out the math. (We finished MiF 1B a couple of months ago and are up to Chapter 4 in MiF 2B - so it sounds like we are around the same level as your son.)