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View Full Version : "Buddy" math: when do you let go?



fastweedpuller
09-21-2016, 01:43 PM
We've dealt with all kinds of math phobia in this house. DD has mild dyscalculia (and like everything with this child, it's not full-blown and imminently problematic). She's simply had difficulty with some aspects of math, which, of course, has led her to throw the math-baby out with the proverbial bath water ("I just don't like math" "I am not good at math" etc.). It manifests itself with the inability to quickly recall even easy math facts, like multiplication or quick addition/subtraction problems, especially mentally. Math, therefore, has historically been a foot-dragging subject here.

But I have recognized, too, that she understands math concepts, really quickly (she's actually really smart if I can say that without sounding like a braggart my-special-snowflake freakmom), so we've moved her steadily forward and have NOT hammered math facts to death. I have met some resistance of this from the hubs, not that he advocates torturing her, necessarily. I am of the school of "she'll get it when she gets it," I guess. I also make accommodations (cheat sheets: PEMDAS, times tables, etc.) and let her use a calculator if the math is especially torturous.

We have always, however, done what I call "buddy math" (not that I made up that term, I probably learned it from here somewhere). We read the lesson together, I ask her if she has done something similar to it before, and THEN we proceed to solve a problem or two before I set her free to solve the rest of the problems. I also really try to hit the idea of spiral math pretty hard with her (we go over the operations with percents/fractions/ratios/GCF-LCD whenever I think she's starting to lose the concept of "how" something works) so we do go off-script for days at a time if the book's lessons gloss over something.

So my question of you parents with kids older or more math-gifted than mine is this: when did you pull way back and let the kid try to handle the lessons AND the problems all by themselves? I am wondering when to step back and let her, basically, fail or fly. Yes, I am a bit gunshy about letting up, as I don't want her back to the cycle of "I suck at math" if she's called to stretch her abilities too far...we've been there, it takes a lot of work for her to regain her confidence. But she's getting older and is better able to take stumbles without it turning into something more dramatic.

FYI: she's in 7th grade and doing algebra with the Arbor Algebra products (http://arboralgebra.org/) which she loves (they run prealgebra through some geometry with their Jousting Armadillos-Crocodiles & Coconuts-Chuckles the Rocket Dog series, which follows Harold Jacobs' Elementary Algebra as its guide; they, as you can kind of tell by their titles, are fairly engaging for this age group), and it's my plan to continue the series (completing it maybe mid-late 8th grade?) before embarking on high school work (online, maybe?).

farrarwilliams
09-21-2016, 03:08 PM
The Arbor books are so cool, aren't they?

As far as I know, Denise Gaskins of the Let's Play Math blog originated the term "buddy math."

I don't think you ever back off teaching and helping. I mean, at some point, once a child has mastered a topic, you may want to test for understanding without being right there intervening (allowing a child to use "cheats" like having PEMDAS posted on the wall wouldn't count for me as an intervention by you). I like the Arbor school book tests myself, actually. But at what point should a student not need instruction? There is no point, IMO. I mean, some kids do thrive by working independently, but I don't think that's most. Even calculus students need teaching and help to learn.

I'm curious how you buddy math with the Arbor School books. I couldn't figure out how to do that with them honestly. There simply weren't enough problems for me to do many myself. I mean, I like the way Linus breaks down the initial problem or two in the set to utilize a discovery method (it's almost like he's buddy mathing that one for them), but then the sets are just so small - six problems or eight or something most of the time. It's not enough that I feel like three is enough practice, honestly. I ended up pulling out our Dolciani Pre-A and finding problems there, but they're so different that sometimes it was tricky.

fastweedpuller
09-21-2016, 03:32 PM
Yeah, thanks Farrar, that's what my experience has been too, which is why I mentioned my detours. I pull my other algebra books down (extracurricular study books like Fisher's No-Nonsense Algebra, Barron's Algebra the Easy Way and a college math book called Introductory Algebra (Bittlinger)) and do the same thing you do to search/find more problem sets. Sometimes we hit some of the same road blocks you mention (things don't quite line up). But sometimes those other books are even easier.

I guess I am not saying, necessarily, that I am going to go off in a corner and let her do school by herself (though some days that is quite tempting). It's more like I feel I am really her math crutch. She doesn't "need" me with her other stuff the way she does with math. Is this something she might grow out of? Maybe. I do hope so, anyway. But I think maybe she's just not that interested in the topic (math) at all, at least not enough for her idle curiosity to kick in the way it does in science, say, or history, where she'll gladly, randomly, pick up the encyclopedia and absorb what's on the page. Or go explore something on Crash Course or whatever. Not math!

farrarwilliams
09-21-2016, 03:49 PM
Yeah, I think I would have been better off in my math career if someone had buddy math'ed algbera II and up for me. I would have gone much farther, much faster, and been much happier. I think some topics are such that you develop pegs for them (this is an old concept of developing knowledge - pegs to hang the new information on). So history is definitely like that. Once you have enough background information, you can start diving into anything and learning it because it builds. Math builds too, but it's a skill, not a content thing. Some people are good at picking up skills independently, but I don't think most people are. I think every new math topic is, in a way, a whole new thing. It's all algorithmic.

Mariam
09-21-2016, 04:12 PM
For us, there is an ebb and flow. DS is like that when he thinks that he is not good at math (or anything for that matter) and then he can't do it. I show him how to do a couple of problems, the light-bulb goes on and away he goes.

Sometimes he asks me if he can do it on his own and sometimes he wants me there. This semester we have a new deal going on. I teach MW and originally I was going to do work with him on the weekends, but DS completely rebelled. So I made a deal that he could do some work on his own. I make sure that he can easily do it without supervision. He is so proud of his progress now. He will show it to me when I get home from work. Now he doesn't want to do it that way all the time, but he is now demonstrating a little independence.

inmom
09-21-2016, 04:56 PM
I guess I did a version of "buddy math" all the way through high school level courses. Up through middle school we would sit together, I would show them some example problems and explain the concept. When high school rolled around, I would set up topic notes that they would have to use their text to complete. These also had some partially worked out examples. My son was able to do these mostly on his own, but my daughter liked me to sit with her and help her when needed to complete these. Each lesson took about 10-15 minutes. I figured I was their math teacher at that point,so....teach them math. It also helps that is what I did/do as a profession as well.

My son still calls me for math help once in a while, now that he's in college. Mostly it's to talk out concepts or problems. I mostly just go "yup" or 'uh huh" on the other end of the line.

I don't think buddy math is a bad thing at all if it's just to give your daughter a bit of direction, IMO.

fastweedpuller
09-23-2016, 03:19 PM
I will say the timing of my question is funny, considering I am at my boss' house working today, and she just told me how much she pays for her son's (8th grade) and her daughter's (10th grade) tutors, via Skype...her kids are in boarding school, too! On top of their helicopter parenting. On top of tuition. Yeah. $90/hr. 3 hrs/week. Each.

okay, I will continue to be the kiddo's math and whatever else she needs buddy!

I agree, if I had had a math buddy, it sure would've made high school easier...

Mariam
09-23-2016, 04:50 PM
$90 / hour?!? Obviously I am in the wrong profession. Or I need to start picking up side work.

inmom
09-23-2016, 04:57 PM
I'm in the right profession but obviously not charging nearly enough!! Is the boarding school on the east coast by chance?

fastweedpuller
09-23-2016, 07:49 PM
Cranbrook, Carol. Going rate $75 to 100 depending on the class or if it's test prep!

Elly
09-25-2016, 09:46 AM
$90 / hour?!? Obviously I am in the wrong profession. Or I need to start picking up side work.

My friend in the sf Bay Area paid around $125 for her daughter to have PSAT tutoring (basically to give her an idea of what it was like; they couldn't afford more). I have been charging $50 to tutor at the University level :O

Another way to think about the question is why do we have such an emphasis on doing things alone? I'm questioning this with my university teaching. We have to assess students, so their coursework must be individual. I've never done any work alone - all my published papers are collaborative.

Elly

Free Thinker
09-25-2016, 12:33 PM
We are also using C&C and Jacobs for Algebra 1. I am meeting daily to discuss any issues, and I am also making my own notebook for her to read and copy. C&C has them making notes in a math notebook, and DD just couldn't figure out how to do that, so I am doing it to show her what all needs to be included in her notes. So far, so good! I agree w/ Farrar that I can't seem to find a way to do buddy math w/ C&C, it's like the lesson IS the problem, so I sort of work ahead of her, and then go over what I think she needs to know before starting. I will say that while I love C&C for some things, we are very much skipping back and forth. We got about 1/2 way into chapter 2, and I decided to go back to Jacobs to get more practice. We are moving forward in Jacob's, and I'll go back to C&C later. I didn't think C&C had near enough problems, when you take out the teaching problems. My DD also didn't always like the discovery method and prefers to just be told what it is she's supposed to be learning (thus my notes, so she can read those before starting).

Were you switching to Jacob's, too, or just doing Arbor School?

Mariam
09-26-2016, 09:08 AM
I wish I had "buddy math" when I was in school. Math was definitely not one of my strengths. It wasn't until I got to college, where I had really helpful and understanding instructors that it all started to come together. I had really low confidence in my ability to do math at all. When I went back to school, I enrolled in the local community college. I started back with Algebra 1 because while I scored higher on the placement test, I knew I would get lost quickly and it had been a few years since I had taken any math. I lucked out and had two great teachers in a row. They were adjuncts and yet they really took the time with students to make sure we understood the work. I was going at night and they would show up an hour early for office hours, claim a table at the cafeteria, and there would be a small group of us getting extra help with our work. It was my best experience with math ever. This was before online classes and I am so thankful for them. If I had taken it online, I know I would have never gotten through it. The irony is that when I got to college level math, it was so un-memorable, that I know I passed, but I don't remember the instructor and barely remember the content.

Mariam
09-26-2016, 09:24 AM
Another way to think about the question is why do we have such an emphasis on doing things alone? I'm questioning this with my university teaching. We have to assess students, so their coursework must be individual. I've never done any work alone - all my published papers are collaborative.

Elly

In my field, we do quite a bit alone. There is some collaborative work, but mostly we do work solo.

What is interesting, is how much the students resist working in groups. For most people, work is collaborative. Very little is done on your own. I think that there are a couple of things in play, one students think that life is more "boot-strap" than collaborative and two, it is simply convenience. Why have someone else slow you down? There is also that emphasis on grades, which students are upset at doing a group project and having a slug receive the same amount of credit as the rest of the group. This is were reality needs to step in. Sometimes there are people at work where you have to carry their weight too.

Teaching is one of those solo endeavors though. Most colleges won't fund truly collaborative teaching, such as team-teaching a class.

fastweedpuller
09-26-2016, 10:11 AM
I know, Mariam, I think math, especially, reveals its secrets only through the skilled hands of caring teachers. Ugh. How I ever got through calculus I will never know.

Yes I think I am scratching something deeper when I ask the question about "buddy" math. So much of homeschooling is a shared learning experience: I swear I have to learn as much as she does in order for me to be abreast of what she's doing. It's a good thing in one way (the slow-down help way) and maybe not so good in the other, real-world way of "this is not necessarily the way the rest of your life will go/the way the world works" in terms of competition, college, etc. I am not, or not really, giving her the whole experience, no can I, of how school works. My hope is that community college classes do that for her with the lesson/note-taking format, and maybe with a bit more maturity an online class might do too. We are so not there yet though.

There is no way what I do can be done alone (architecture). Buildings do not spring out of the heads of architects fully built. And though I am good with a hammer, there is no way I would ever contract what I design. It has to be a team, even for the tiniest of projects.

We have done quite a bit of the "show me how to do it" with math, which has been good, though slow. For example I will have her read the lesson then try to teach me how to do it (sight unseen) by walking me through the steps. Mostly it works, she is able to articulate the specific steps of the language of math (she acts as my brain when I write something). She doesn't necessarily enjoy this process, though; I think she's worried she'll look dumb because she hasn't quite completely mastered the lesson. I want to keep doing this, though.

Farrar and Free Thinker, I thought the Jacobs book that Linus models his books on was Elementary Algebra. Farrar you've got me thinking maybe it's Mathematics: A human endeavor?? Not that I really should pile on, but I am wondering, if I were to get one (and try to find the teacher's manual too) which should it be?

inmom
09-26-2016, 11:27 AM
It's a good thing in one way (the slow-down help way) and maybe not so good in the other, real-world way of "this is not necessarily the way the rest of your life will go/the way the world works" in terms of competition, college, etc. I am not, or not really, giving her the whole experience, no can I, of how school works. My hope is that community college classes do that for her with the lesson/note-taking format, and maybe with a bit more maturity an online class might do too. We are so not there yet though.

And FWP, that's okay. I think most ps kids are done a disservice with the sink-or-swim attitudes in some of the schools. For example, I'm working with a ps geometry student after school who is quite bright and should be understanding the material, if he had a decent math guide as a teacher. But the teacher slaps some stuff up in power point (in geometry!!!:explode: How does one teach geometry using powerpoint?!?) and crosses his fingers that the kids get it.

Your daughter is still young. Your supposition is correct. Some of these skills (note-taking, some class competition attitude, etc:) come with simple maturity and wanting to do so.

crunchynerd
10-03-2016, 08:58 AM
My friend in the sf Bay Area paid around $125 for her daughter to have PSAT tutoring (basically to give her an idea of what it was like; they couldn't afford more). I have been charging $50 to tutor at the University level :O

Another way to think about the question is why do we have such an emphasis on doing things alone? I'm questioning this with my university teaching. We have to assess students, so their coursework must be individual. I've never done any work alone - all my published papers are collaborative.

Elly

Wow...Khan Academy has SAT prep and practice, FREE. Every time I see those expensive gigantic books on the subject, then remember that more and more colleges are either not caring about SAT scores, or using the ACT, because of problems with all the redesigning of the SAT and how much trouble it has caused (at least for its image of usefulness, it not for any other reason) I just say to myself: Khan has it free.

crunchynerd
10-03-2016, 09:21 AM
MyDD12 is 7th grade and works independently, until she needs help, and then I help her. Sometimes she just needs someone to keep her on task, depending on how distracted she is that day. From what I have heard from other parents of girls this age, it's hormones, and it passes. In a year or maybe more, but it passes.

We also move around, changing with what is or isn't working for her at the time. She does well with Khan Academy until that stalls, then she seems to thrive with a textbook until that stalls. We change it around as needed. But with Khan, they now have the option of a sort of linear, lecture-then-practice format as well as just working on skills and mastery challenges, so if she has trouble with something from the book, she can go to the particular math topic, watch the video lectures, then try the practice activities, and if she STILL has trouble, I get in there and start intensively teaching and explaining and buddying.

As for my own math, I was always hindered at the computation level, even though my conceptual was way up there, and it really harmed what might have been an interest and ability to pursue a math or math-intensive career. I don't want that to be an obstacle for my kids. I have read both sides of the debate, read Wolfram and Devlin's criticisms of how math is taught as a bunch of memorized computational algorithms, and their differences over whether computational skills should even be taught, or whether that's what calculators are for, as well as writings by Liping Ma, and my take on it to date is that yes, teaching only computation and rules and steps to memorize doesn't teach anyone to truly wield mathematics as a personal ability and power...but lack of practical experience with even the best of tools, makes the theoretical expertise useless in the real world.

So.... boring as computation and knowing addition and subtraction, multiplication and division may be, they are like learning the alphabet. But I try to make sure that reasoning, real-world estimating and figuring, are in there, because rote and repetition really can and really do kill a person's willingness and ability to do quick, on-the-fly mental math and checking to see if an answer is reasonable.

One way I try to do that is have the kid give a ballpark estimate of about what the answer ought to look like, then write it down, then do the actual calculations and see how close they were. Then if they are really far off in either estimation or calculation, we can address the issue of either calculating proficiency or number sense, whichever it might be.

As for my own ability to do buddy math, I am relearning everything through Khan. It's for my own deeply felt purposes as well as to help my kids. :)

KellyCrabtree
11-14-2016, 09:30 AM
I could have written this. My daughter is 11 and dyslexic and I am constantly torn about how much to help, how hard to push. We are using an online program this year, because I realized that I cannot trust myself to keep moving on math skills. I definitely have some math anxiety that is being refreshed by teaching math to my child. So, I am reading this thread with great interest.