View Full Version : Algebra Meltdown

Accidental Homeschooler
09-02-2011, 03:54 PM
We had a huge meltdown yesterday over algebra. My dd was a straight A student in ps and in the gifted program and was reduced to tears yesterday because she does not understand simplifying. I should say that she didn't "get it" after five minutes of trying ("It makes me feel stupid"). That is was upset her I believe. She has so much invested in her identity as one of the smart kids that she wants nothing to do with anything that she is going to have to struggle with:(. I was feeling really bad for her until she tried to blame me for not explaining it right. Really, I am so glad we are hsing. If we accomplish nothing else she will be able to tackle things that are difficult for her without falling apart and giving up.

09-02-2011, 04:11 PM
Yeah, I was in the GT program in my school district. I've never seen a group of more insecure people in my life. I agree; it's so important to learn that lesson before hitting adulthood.

09-02-2011, 04:29 PM
Batgirl, you are SO on the money. I tell ds9 that he does well because he tries hard and doesn't give up. He used to call himself stupid if he had to work at anything after being pulled from a ps gifted program. My mistake for letting him know that he was gifted! I have the same problem as OP sometimes in math. Tuesday was a nightmare. Today, though, he was a different person. He figured it out and did all the problems I asked him to do....with no drama. I swear I think his day-to-day mood has to do with the mmHg of air pressure outside and the moon phase. No, REALLY!! lol

Bcn :)

09-02-2011, 05:14 PM
Oh I SO feel your pain. My son truly, deeply in his heart and soul, believes that every.little.thing should come easily to him just because *most* things do. It's been a major struggle in our homeschooling, but it's also one of the big reasons that homeschooling is the right path for him. He knows he wouldn't be able to melt down in a classroom and he has the freedom to do so at home, but oh it is so hard to deal with. I've struggled with his perfectionism for years already; unfortunately I still have no advice. :(

I do find that making jokes out of situations helps--like when he starts to tense up because he's unsure, or something went wrong, I can say in my silly voice "Oh no! Not that {reduced to it's most basic simplicity}! Why it can NEVER be fixed!" and then he'll usually start to see that not getting it right or whatever really isn't the end of the world. Of course, he's only 8 so silliness still works. I don't know what the arsenal will be when he's older.

(( hugs and sympathy))

I am so familiar with the blame game: "I wish daddy were here to explain it!"...ugh. Daddy would tell you to buck up, dude! :)

Stella M
09-02-2011, 06:46 PM
Don't you just hate perfectionism ? It's so distressing for the perfectionist and those who deal with him/her...

My advice isn't algebra specific. I regularly try to choose something I find very difficult and do it so the kids can see me do it, and verbalise my whole thought process along the lines of "wow, this is hard, i feel so dumb, but maybe if I give it a try, but what if it's no good, oh well, whats the worst that can happen blah blah on and on" all the time actually doing the thing I'm so bad at and acting pleased when I finish it, even if I'm still really bad at it. Then I will often reflect upon the process aloud as well. total overkill, but they are getting the message.

I figure they need to hear and model on a voice that can defeat or at least argue with the inner critical voice.

09-02-2011, 09:33 PM
Wow DD is the same way. She's so used to things always coming easy that if she struggles for more than 60 seconds on something it's in her word "THE END OF THE WORLD" this said while shouting with tears streaming down her face and trembling lip.

If I say it's not I get the usual "oh MOM" but you're so right that it's something you have to learn before you're an adult. It's simply not possible to be good at everything or to have everything come easy.

My DH says it's my fault that I expect too much. Unfortunately he expects to little. I was sort of hoping we'd cancel each other out to alas no. And I'm with Melissa, err Sadie, Melissa - Lady with Vacuum - I try to show her how I struggle to write an article or let her know that the report I'm working on is difficult and I'll keep struggling through and do the best possible job I can but what if it's not enough and oh woe is me.

She gets that at times I'm being over dramatic but I probably created the insecurity at some point so hopefully she'll also get we're only human!

09-02-2011, 10:04 PM
DD was put into the T&G program at ps in K. Boy, do I regret that. She beats herself up for not understanding whatever the first nano-second of learning it. And then, the meltdown ensues. I really sucked at Algebra in high school and so I am gearing up now to prepare to teach it to her. I've already bought the first winnie cooper math book and am buying the other two also. I'm hoping that TT keeps me from going gray.................LOL

09-02-2011, 11:10 PM
Curious if you mean simplifying fractions or grouping like terms?

algebra is a really big transition for a lot of kids (apparently). this was hard for me to understand because I did algebra 1 as independent study the summer between 7th and 8th . . .but for my son, its been a big big deal. we finally got the singapore books, which started with a really good review of basic math. It turns out there were some things he just didnt know. Including most of how to do math with fractions. He still struggles, but its a LOT better. I have to be really, really patient with him, and walk him through problems until he gets it. He had been in gifted classes in grade school, and specail ed classes in middle school, but really, the school's math is just SOO awful! I occasionally bring in another resource - a khan academy video or some other on-line source to help, if he gets really stuck. Like i found a virtual balance beam for helping him understand the idea that you have to do the same thing to both sides of the equation.

anyways, you have my sympathy

09-03-2011, 06:39 AM
She has so much invested in her identity as one of the smart kids that she wants nothing to do with anything that she is going to have to struggle with

She sounds a lot like my ds. We've been working with him the last couple of years to get past that. You might want to read this: http://michaelgr.com/2007/04/15/fixed-mindset-vs-growth-mindset-which-one-are-you/

The fixed mindset person believes talent is static..smart people are smart, just because. They tend to avoid any challenges that might make them struggle. Their identitity is so wrapped up in looking smart that they feel anything less is a challenge to their identity. This is my son right now.

My daughter is definitely of the growth mindset. They believe they can "get smarter' through tackling challenges and learning something new. They embrace difficulties since they know they can learn from them; it's not such a blow to their ego.

I think the labels of "smart" or "gifted" does kids more harm than good. Perhaps start commenting more on the effort your dd exterts than on the results. This doesn't mean to not have high expectations on the results. But something along the lines of "Wow. You really struggled over this work and managed to tackle it. That effort really paid off!" might start to let your dd know that struggling is OK.

Hope this works.

Accidental Homeschooler
09-03-2011, 08:58 AM
Curious if you mean simplifying fractions or grouping like terms?

It was grouping like terms when both addition/subtraction,multiplication/division and exponents were present and with multiple variables.

09-03-2011, 09:16 AM
I hear my DD in this as well. She's gets frustrated easily when things don't come easily. Her go-to complaint is that, in PS, the types of math problems were much easier. They'd be given an explicit example, then do a worksheet of 10 identical problems. In our HS, she's asked to figure out what the problem looks like, and then figure out what operation to apply. It drives her nuts and solidifies my resolve that we're doing the right thing. So we slow down, try to make it as relevant to her interests and sense of humor as possible, and forge ahead. I tried explaining to her that the reason the PS gives such easy work is that they have to make sure that every child in that classroom can keep up, whereas in our HS, we can work to her abilities. She said she understood, but I'm sure we'll be talking about it again soon. :)

Accidental Homeschooler
09-03-2011, 09:20 AM
And thanks all for letting me know that my dd is not the only one who is fearful of looking like she might not be smart afterall. I think you are all right and it has a lot to do with the gifted program at school. How does a kid, who is getting big strokes for something they have no control over, avoid that trap? And the thing that really burns me up is that the program in out district is an hour a week. It did this damage in an hour a week, which isn't even enough time to provide true academic challenge. We have tried to praise effort with both our dds but when they are getting the message somewhere else that they are special just because of their standardized test scores it sort of undermines that message. When they get to walk out of class and leave most of their "not gifted" peers sitting there it just sets them up to think that what makes them special isn't what they do but what they are. I wish I had figured this out but I was happy when she got into it. I was hoping it would make school more interesting and provide some challenge. But at least we can address it now and hopefully it isn't too late. I feel like it is going to be kind of a balancing act between providing appropriate challenge so she can learn how to push through the frustration and not totally demoralizing her. Most things do come easy for her and so she hasn't had a lot of practice coping with frustration and now we can deal with it.

09-03-2011, 09:46 AM
Don't be too hard on yourself. I was glad when my DD got into T&G, too. Looking back I instantly think, well that was stupid (of myself)--LOL Here at this ps, the damage was done in about 90 minutes/week................I'm so glad that I bought TT, I think that they are really going to help when the math becomes harder (or god I'm hoping!!) As of right now DD is really enjoying them and I know I will need something to save my sanity.

Accidental Homeschooler
09-03-2011, 12:01 PM
Don't be too hard on yourself. I was glad when my DD got into T&G, too. Looking back I instantly think, well that was stupid (of myself)--LOL Here at this ps, the damage was done in about 90 minutes/week................I'm so glad that I bought TT, I think that they are really going to help when the math becomes harder (or god I'm hoping!!) As of right now DD is really enjoying them and I know I will need something to save my sanity.

Thank you Olive. I have been feeling pretty stupid. I checked out TT and it looks great. We may need to switch for older dd (we will see how things go next week), but when my younger dd is at TT's starting math level I think we will give it a try.

09-03-2011, 12:11 PM
Some kids are just perfectionists no matter what their outside influences are, though. We never had DS in a gifted program (admittedly, only because one wasn't available) but he's always had an inner drive to get things right the first time. At 3 years old he informed my parents that his goal by the time he becomes a daddy is to know everything in the world. He meant it.

So I agree, don't be too hard on yourself--you did not do this to your child, she is what she is. What you can do (hopefully) is help her through it, and by having her home with you are in a perfect position to do that at least to some degree.

09-03-2011, 01:06 PM
Not only is this Hurricane, this was me when I was in school. Gifted program, teacher's pet, spelling bee champ 6 years running. It really bred in me the idea that I had to be good at everything. Higher math wasn't one of those things. Most of the top students in our school took algebra 1 as freshmen, algebra 2 andgeometry in 10th, trig in 11th, and calculus in 12th. By 10th grade, even though I was getting As, I knew that by the time I got higher up I'd be struggling, so I deliberately chose in 10th grade to take just algebra 2. I wouldn't be as likely to get As in calc. So I avoided it well ahead of time.

I agree with everything everyone's said. Nothing to add except that I know what it feels like from the inside.

09-03-2011, 02:45 PM
Same for me, Mark. I had quite the shock when I went to college as a physics major and went from all A's to B's and C's. I had never learned how to study, how to work and struggle to learn.

While we are homeschooling for academic reasons, my goal as a homeschooling parent is not to raise "smart" kids, but to raise kids who know how to learn, even when it may be difficult.