View Full Version : Math Help Please

09-29-2011, 10:53 AM
Sorry in advance for the length that this will be:

We are doing RightStart Math and so far my son has been doing pretty well. Today was his first review sheet. It covers the basic concepts of grouping, exactly what we've been doing every day for the last 5 weeks. When you ask my son, what is grouping he will tell you fine. He explains that we count better in 5's and 10's and his arithmetic is doing really well.

BUT (and you knew it was coming) he got every single question wrong on the review. Every one. It's because it wasn't straight forward addition it asked about concepts.

Here's an example:

Draw 24 little circles so someone can tell how many there are without counting.

He just drew 24 circles in a line. The point is he should have grouped them in 5's so you could just count by 5's and add the 4.

I mean I don't know how else to explain it. He can do it on his abacus, he can do it in his head but he can't read the sentence and do it. Do you think he's not bothering to read past the "draw 24 circles" or does he have a comprehension issue?

Another question:

Write the number of squares (there are 37 squares grouped in 5's below) in Arabic and Roman numerals.

he wrote 16 for arabic and 18 for roman. But he knows this. He did it just fine 2 days ago.

I even asked him, How many squares are there, he looks and goes 37, I said why didn't you give that as your answer, his answer "Doh!"

I am just at a loss!!!!!!


09-29-2011, 12:14 PM
I've had similar problems with my ds14 over the years. Sometimes even now. If I think it might be an issue, I will have him read the questions aloud to me, and ask him what it means, or what do they want him to do. Sometimes having to explain it out loud forced him to actually *think* (gasp) about the question. :)

It's really been astonishing at times. He'll sit with his work in front of him, not writing for a long time. I'll ask if he needs help (he almost never asks me--justs sits there--argh), and he'll tell me he doesn't understand the question, or doesn't know what to say. I'll ask him to read the question, then to tell me what they want him to do or say--and 9 times out of 10 he'll tell me the correct answer. It drives me crazy. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere, but darned if I know how to repair it. It has gotten better over the years, though.

09-29-2011, 12:23 PM
I think we have a similar issue. DS needs everything to be in a tidy box or he just doesn't really see it (or if he does, he doesn't always trust himself). Word problems are a nightmare, so I don't give them to him anymore (for now). I think for him some it might be grown out of and some of it is the way he's hardwired. It was a big reason why ps wasn't going to work for him. His teachers didn't believe us that he needs information to be presented a certain way and weren't willing to work with him or us. He's very bright and it's not a comprehension issue with him at all; he just needs it in a box (with sports too, good coaches for him are hit and miss).

Sorry no real advice. I guess we're so used to it I'm not really sure what we do or when. How old is your son?

09-29-2011, 12:36 PM
He's 7.5, will be 8 in Jan. He was in tears that he got all of them wrong. And I'm exasperated because when we did the test verbally he got them all right. So I said for now we will do these verbally, and try to come up with a solution.

The other problem is he tries to think outside the box ALL THE TIME! I mean that's great in many things but sometimes 2+2 is just 2+2 and that's okay. So he makes things WAY more difficult than if he just "did what it says on the tin."

09-29-2011, 03:06 PM
Can you try it with M&M's? The act of drawing can be distracting for kids, I think. We keep either a Costco bag or M&M's or a Costco jar of Jelly Bellys for math. Bringing it out always helps subvert frustration because the kids know if they can do it with the candy, they can eat it. And then... miraculously, they usually can.

09-30-2011, 08:35 PM
That's sad he was in tears over it. Did you talk about what went wrong and help him see what had happened? Could he explain at all why he did it the way he did?

I'm normally puttering in the kitchen (or standing over my son with a whip*) while my son does his math, so I tend to glance quite often and see if he's got the idea or not before he goes too far. When he's making mistakes like the ones you describe, I'd try to playfully get him to explain his work, maybe saying "Wow... that's a lot of circles you've got there. How many do you have? Do you have a system so you can tell for sure how many you have?" and hope that he realizes his mistake before I have to prompt further.

Can you get him to read you the questions outloud before he does them? Or do it verbally and then get him to write the answers down for practice? I'm using RightStart mathematics partly because I like that so much of it can be done verbally, and I started using it before my son was writing much.

* (Just kidding about the whip. No whips.)

10-01-2011, 02:50 PM
Poor kid :( Perhaps you could sit with him and take each question one at a time, work through it orally and then have him write the answer? That way at least he won't have the frustration of finishing the review only to find that everything was wrong. I have found, sometimes belatedly, that my son tends to read the first part of a question and assume he knows what is being asked without reading the rest. Needless to say, he gets really irritated when I tell him he needs to take another look.

With the grouping, what if he modeled it FIRST and then draws the model? I don't know what to say about your second question. I mean, was it just carelessness on his part or is there something else going on that caused him to be so far off? I think doing the written review is useful just for another way to do the math, written vs. orally. But if it's causing that much stress I wouldn't hesitate to continue doing it orally.

10-01-2011, 03:04 PM
Is it possible he was just having a bad day? some days my kids seem to just not be home. I feel that way sometimes, too, kwim!

10-03-2011, 04:38 PM
Sorry you are both frustrated. When my oldest dd got to higher mathematics, she needed to read everything out loud in order to grasp concepts. We would:

1. Have her read the book aloud
2. Explain the process aloud
3. Do the work (feeling free to talk herself through it)

10-03-2011, 06:10 PM
We have the exact opposite issue here. My son grasps concepts and ideas WAAAAY before he can do the actual math. He absolutely loves word problems and is doing algebra this year (he just turned 11). His mistakes are always simple computational errors.

I would definitely continue to do his quizzes orally.

10-05-2011, 02:27 AM
We did the exact same review sheet at the weekend. I sat with him, in fact I did the writing on the first problem for him -- the one about which strategies could you use? There was no way he was going to be able to get that into words and onto the page. Then the circles one, I handed him the pencil and paper, let him read the question, but before he started writing anything, I asked him to explain what that meant -- what was he going to do? He got the idea, but still managed to draw one group with 6 circles, and only put 2 in the last group which should've been 4. I just pointed it out as he was doing it: "how many are in that group? are you sure that's right?" before he got to the point of thinking he was done. Same for the Roman numerals bit. He wrote the correct H-A number (but numbers backwards and in the wrong order so it looked like 73) but then wrote 28 for the Roman. Again, I just asked him to check it.

If I'd left him to do it without supervision, there's no telling what he'd have done. I think he is getting the concepts, but somewhere between reading the problem, thinking about the strategy, figuring out the answer, and getting it to the paper, he gets lost. I just try to keep him on track as best I can.

Good luck. I know how frustrating it is when you know they know it, but they apparently can't demonstrate it.

I'm curious, also, since you're at about the same point as us in RS, are you doing the practice sheets often, and how does your DS handle them? They're simple, and B should know the answers to most of them, but he can seriously sit for 45 minutes to an hour doing ONE sheet of 20 simple problems. That is whether I'm writing for him or not. And then sometimes he can make daft mistakes like saying two different sums have the same answer. (8+7=15, then a few problems later, 6+7=15) He's just not *thinking*.

10-05-2011, 02:35 AM
My dd has been doing RS also, and she doesn't understand what they're asking when they ask her to draw something so that you can tell how many there are without counting. I really, really don't think that's important. It's so specific to RS that it's basically irrelevant in real life or any other math curriculum. It's interesting and all, but really, do you go around grouping things by fives in your life? I don't. :)

The rest of it, I would assume my dd needed me to sit with her and make sure she was paying attention. My dd will be 8 in May, so almost your son's age. There's no way she could read and follow directions for a test or anything else on her own. I have to make sure she does every single thing properly. It gets frustrating, but it's the only way to make sure she does what she's supposed to do.

Corrigan, with respect, I think the grouping by fives is absolutely critical. It's what the whole foundation of RS mental math is based on. We may not sit and group things in fives, physically, in our real-life world, but when adding, I know I tend to group/round up items to 5s and 10s to make calculations in my head easier. Being able to "see" 5s in your head helps, which is why RS uses the abacus with beads colored in groups of 5, and emphasizes all the other methods of building this in your child's head.

I'm with you on the reading and following directions, though. My son is exactly the same.