View Full Version : undoing "fuzzy" math

02-16-2012, 06:32 PM
I knew we were going to have to go back and review a lot of math with my son, but I had no idea how bad it would be.

This morning we did a simple story problem of 15x4. All of their math "reasoning" and arrays, and estimating has created a child who automatically does things like draw 4 circles with 15 dots each to solve this problem. :Crying:

We had to go over just stacking it up and doing the multiplication, or thinking through 15+15 is 30, which is 15x2, so 15x4=30+30=60. He kept being like ooooooh I see!!

then we talked about using those same skills for 18x2, thatthe best way is to stack it up and just do the quick and easy math, or without paper you think through it......
We know that 15x2 equals 30, and 18 is 3 more than 15, 3x2=6 so the answer is 36.

Yesterday to solve 6x6 he was drawing an array of 6 stacks of 6 squares.

I haven't bought a math book yet, I downloaded a unit with lots of games and word problems, and have just been using worksheets and the small whiteboard to review his math facts. But with as much work as we have to do in math I feel like I really need one.

I just don't know which one to buy. I have looked at all of them and not been able to decide which is best for this situation.

I plan to go back to the beginning of multiplication and try to re-teach it in a way that doesn't create a ton more work.

I would prefer mastery over spiraling, and minimal use of alternative strategies such as arrays, manipulatives are ok when introducing a new concept. Nothing too colorful or distracting, and a use of colors that takes into account the way your eye moves across the page.

02-16-2012, 06:52 PM
I have used Saxon Math from the start with excellent results. Kids memorize their math facts and the way John Saxon wrote the program, the student learns something then practices it a bit every day until it is second nature. This is a great program. I get it at a discount from www.rainbowresource.com I guarantee this will work for your son. I have worked with homeschooled for kids of all backgrounds for 20 years and never had a failure yet when using Saxon Math in the classes I teach homeschooled kids or students being tutored privately.

02-16-2012, 07:31 PM
Corbin just got done with multiplication with Math Mammoth, very good and he understands it well. It's in the 3A book.

02-16-2012, 08:20 PM
That's not really fuzzy math to me... it's solid reasoning. He's just missing that procedural piece so that it becomes automatic. I've heard about how some public schools make the children draw these models *for every single problem* up into some really high numbers, which is obviously absurd. But I'm guessing that a kid who got that approach won't be behind once you teach the algorithms and help him learn to do mental math and chose different strategies. I'd prefer that to a child who, for example, knows how to "carry" with column addition, but has no idea why you do it.

How old is your child? Sounds like 1st or 2nd grade math?

A quick rundown of the math programs you'll hear mentioned most among secular types:

MEP Math - free, goes through high school, slightly spiral, UK program (so all the measuring is metric), very conceptual

Miquon Math - cheap, K-3rd/4th only, older program, relies heavily on Cuisenaire Rods as manipulatives, spiral, very "discovery based"

Singapore Primary Math - long running math program from Singapore, where the kids have really good math scores, emphasizes problem solving and is sometimes considered a little tougher than some other American programs

Math in Focus - similar in concept to Primary Math (based on another Singapore textbook), but looks more like an American school textbook

Saxon Math - for a long time, the most popular math program for homeschoolers, pretty traditional, will remind you of how you learned math (if you learned before New Math or somewhere it didn't strike)

Math Mammoth - 1st-6th grade only, cheap, emphasizes mental math, very focused on the worktext so it can feel a little worksheety, moves very incrementally but is a really solid program

Right Start - uses tons of manipulatives and games, emphasizes place value and borrows from Asian style math, very hands on with less worksheets

02-16-2012, 08:48 PM
I think one thing to remember is that there is no quick way . . . kinda like showing your kid the potty once didnt potty train him. You will have to keep suggesting he tries other methods over and over until he learns that they are more effective. and yes, he isnt doing it WRONG, he just needs to branch out and learn what other methods are more effective. With my son, often he'll tell me how he solved something and I'll say, "Oh, i did it THIS way" and he nods and says thats cool.

02-16-2012, 11:51 PM
I agree, it is going to be a long process, when he was working on I it let him finish and then asked if he wanted me to show him a way easier way, he is painfully slow when writing or drawing, so the simple math problem took forever, and with his total lack of attention to detail there is huge room for error in drawing and counting so many individual items.

He was halfway though 4th grade, they were starting long division! We are going back to the beginning of multiplication, he doesn't have his facts down well, and when I showed him a 3digit x 3digit problem he was mystified about why I had a 3rd row with a second zero....he was like we have never had a 3rd row even with 4 numbers!?!?

They use the pictures with even large numbers too, using cubes, squares, rods and little squares. I get that using arrays or pictures can be really helpful especially in the beginning, but once they have the basic idea down I don't at all understand why they would require them and openly discourage them from using the old fashioned algorithms, even for large numbers.

I knew he was struggling in math, but he went to the resource room everyday in math class and never had any homework, and had Bs on his progress and report cards??

I am keeping math sessions short, and doing it in bursts throughout the day so he doesn't get frustrated and overwhelmed. We are also using our small whiteboard like a slate instead of whole worksheets of problems. I tried borrowing his math book from the teacher so I could keep some continuity, but it is confusing, jumps around from topic to topic like crazy and is too busy.

02-17-2012, 12:06 AM
I use RightStart and I will say that while it is hands on, it does focus on mental math. It is actually a mind's on sort of curriculum. Using your mind to "see" the problem. And not Asian in that it uses an Asian abacus, but Asian in that when learning the numbers they say things like 3 ten 5 for 35.

02-17-2012, 12:41 AM
I think you might like Math Mammoth. It always begins with the pictures of the ones, ten rods, hundred squares, etc. then takes that and shows different ways to think about it conceptually, finishing with the more old-fashioned algorithm. It's incremental. It's also really cheap. :)

It sounds like you ds must have been using the program this poor girl was using (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YLlX61o8fg).

02-17-2012, 12:56 AM
And a lot of this....

I never learned any of this, and while math is not my strong point, I use it a lot at work, and feel like I have a good grasp of understanding basic math up through high school algebra....
But it took me forever to be able to help him with the lattice method, and the partial quotient stuff, as well as carrying first just doesn't make sense to me at all. I also don't think they were doing much of anything for long enough for it to stick.

I also don't see that it has worked for him at all since he still struggles with the basics and has no real understanding of what he is doing or why. (and yet had had pretty good grades in math???)

I totally support being able to think through problems, and have reasoning and mathematical thinking, but without a good grasp of the basics that works, you can't really have any of those things.

02-17-2012, 01:21 AM
Don't worry to much. Math is tough for many kids. I think the best method of learning math is reviewing. Don't hurry to learn too much new knowledges.

02-17-2012, 01:41 AM
Ugh. Everyday Math. Hiss.

I actually totally get the way Everyday Math teaches multiplication. For some problems, that's a much easier algorithm and one you can do more easily in your head (or, at least, I can). And it eliminates the weird confusion some kids get about the whole "putting in a zero place holder" business. When I was teaching middle school remedial math, I actually taught that method to kids who were struggling with multi-digit multiplication. I think it's very intuitive. But the whole division lattice thing is so not intuitive to me. I have seen it before, but I seriously cannot make my brain even understand what the heck they're doing.

02-17-2012, 01:58 AM
I am totally lost when I watch it, and it just looks like so much extra work.

I admit I can't at all make sense of the lattice method either though, even though I can sort of see in theory how it would work, I am not able to do it. But then again my teacher was a 9yr old with math problems LOL.

Long division is one of those things that most people don't do in real life, and short division is much easier and takes up less room, but I can't even imagine why the Everyday Math method is thought to be better than the traditional one.

I shudder to think about what their fraction and decimal lessons would have been like!!!

02-17-2012, 02:02 AM
Oh wow. I have heard of "Everyday Math" before, but I hadn't seen the processes. I had to stop watching before they were done with the problem, and I have a headache now. The traditional method seems much simpler to me.

OP, I'm sorry your son is struggling. I might be too if they taught me that way, LOL!! We've just decided to go with Singapore (switching curriculum in the middle of our first year hsing already) and it's a good solid program, although the other programs listed are also very good, it just depends on what looks appealing to you and what will work for your kiddo.

Good luck!!

02-17-2012, 02:35 AM
Right now I am waffling around between Math Mammoth and Singapore. Math Mammoth seems very well explained to me, and I like that it goes incrementally. From what I understand though I will need to add in things like measurements and very basic fractions for everyday life separately. I have also heard nothing but good things about singapore math, but from what I understand it is more challenging, and that worries me a little bit!

I think I am going to back to the very beginning of what is considered a 3rd grade level with him, and review like crazy, and also throw in even earlier review from homemade stuff on basic addition and subtraction.

02-17-2012, 02:38 AM
By the way....I am so glad I have a place to talk this stuff out. We have had a great start, but I am still so new, and he is complicated to teach even without the crappy instructional methods they were using!

02-17-2012, 08:59 AM
One of my ds uses Math Mammoth. You don't have to add fractions or measuring. There are extensive parts on each. That's really weird. I guess I would agree that I didn't love some of the fractions section... But it was a minor quibble. My ds doing MM also uses the Singapore Challenging Word Problem book and I think it's the perfect supplement.

02-20-2012, 03:12 PM
I was looking at the skill specific workbooks, not the ones with a full years worth of lessons :o

We have been doing bigger number addition review and basic multiplication and speed drills using skip counting, but without a timer because then he freezes. I just verbally walk him through it keeping the pace as fast as possible.

02-20-2012, 04:29 PM
if i just want a few pages of one kind of problem, i just look for free ones on line.

02-20-2012, 04:35 PM
I think the MM blue series is worth it because it's really teaching the topics. If a kid missed it and needs to build a conceptual framework, they're really good. But for extra practice, I like the free stuff too. I usually use worksheet works.

02-20-2012, 05:08 PM
I am using free worksheets, or just making my own right now for review, but he really needs a full logical program for his math skills. I also need it to help my teaching skills!!

I really like Math Mammoth, MEP looks interesting but I don't think it would be best with how he thinks and works. I am also working on doing the division tables right along with the multiplication, I am hoping this will help him not only see the direct correlation, but possibly help cement both sets of facts for faster recall.

02-20-2012, 06:03 PM
Our 8 yo is doing a math restart with Mastering Mathematics. Very basic, old-fashioned memorization-based math for the four operations broken into small sections. Each section is memorized and practiced thoroughly before moving on. It is not secular, but the religious content is barely there and very easy to skip. In fact I haven't seen it be part of the main stuff the student sees at all. I have only encountered a few very dinky religious things in the teacher's manual.

02-20-2012, 06:52 PM
have you checked out timez attacks for multiplication?

02-20-2012, 06:59 PM
I don't think anyone else has mentioned it, but we happily use Math-U-See. It's black-and-white, but the material is covered in a DVD. You can purchase manipulatives or not, as you desire, and it is a mastery curriculum. I have used it with DS since he came home and plan to use it all the way through calculus. He started in first grade with Alpha and is now 2/3 of the way through Delta, which is their division book.

02-21-2012, 12:44 AM
I am using both Singapore and Math Mammoth with my son (1st grade). I use Singapore to intro the topic and MM for practice/reinforcement. I like both of them and he likes both too. He LOVES the Singapore Challenging Word Problem book too. Singapore and Math Mammoth are both great and teach math in easy to digest tidbits, slowly easing into the mental math aspect of it. Like starting with pics that have the work partially done, then pics that need the work done, then no pics but space for you to draw your own, etc. I like that MM is designed to due as much or as little practice as your child needs. They may need a sheet or two to reinforce the concept or they may need 10 - and those 10 are not 10 sheets of exactly the same thing, it switches it up and explains it in different ways so that if one way isn't clicking, maybe way 2 or 3 will. My son is NOT mathy and loathed math at first (to the point of crying with MUS) but now he really enjoys math and is developing some confidence in himself and his math skills. It is amazing to watch that lightbulb moment and have him get SO excited over it too.

Also invest in an abacus. Neither of these programs really use one. I just bought one to help with regrouping and it making a HUGE difference. We pull it out along with our mini dry erase board and use it for our problems (rather than counting pictures). He told me today that sometime he can see it in his head and use the abacus in his brain (for the simple problems). We've only been using it for a little over a week!! YAY! It definitely helped the regrouping lightbulb flip into ON mode :)