Monday, September 22, 2014

Math Facts With a Kid Who Hates Review

One of the things that is so very challenging about Mad Natter is that he is an extremely quick learner - who abjectly hates all things to do with "review."  Add in the fact that math is one of those subjects you have to master before you move along, and it gets extremely tricky very quickly.

So, I've got a kiddo who blazes through everything in front of him as though his pants were on fire, the only way to extinguish them being to go as far and as fast as possible. Review goes nowhere, and it certainly doesn't go there fast.  This causes a huge problem. Largely because it means that if he does two problems, he figures he knows it and is ready to move on - whereas I need to watch him do another two, just so I can be sure he has it. We ran into this problem with Right Start math; he hated the review, so we just went through lessons as they came, and kept on moving on, right up until he needed to build off a skill he hadn't mastered. We moved to Math Mammoth and have seen a lot more success there. It's still a bit of a problem, though - how do I get him to do the review he needs to do to cement the skills, while still challenging him?  If I do all the problems on all the pages, he gets bored and revolts. If we do two or three, there is a risk of him not actually retaining that skill.

I've come up with two different things to try that seem to really help around here, and keep the actual revolting to a minimum. First, pre- and post- testing. Math Mammoth comes with editable tests, thank goodness. I can mock up the chapter tests ahead of time, allowing me to use those mock ups as pretests. If Mad Natter can score 85% or higher on the pretest, we skip the chapter outright. If he scores between 75% and 85%, we do remediation - we work strictly on the areas that were giving him trouble. This way, he doesn't spend weeks at a time stuck in a chapter on extremely basic addition due to lack of memorization or pencil-holding, but he also has instruction time on the areas he's weak in.  Once we're in the chapters, it has been as simple as being his scribe.

Mad Natter's fine motor skills lag behind his cognitive development. His average written number is about 1.5" tall, even on paper designed for letters half that height. This is extremely frustrating for him, so I just took it out of the equation. He has separate handwriting practice, I'm not going to push him for handwriting in all subjects if the handwriting isn't necessary for the subject. And so, Mad Natter will oftentimes do his math work sitting on my lap, with me writing the answers for him, and checking with him that I've done it right.

It's not a perfect system, but it works out for us. It might not develop his handwriting as quickly as having him write on his own, but it cuts out the amount of time screaming about how awful math is, and how much he hates doing math and how awful a mother I am, and how much he hates school, and he wants to go to The Public School - and then he realizes what has come out of his mouth and backtracks. Twenty minutes worth of drama over 7+5=.  I think I'll pass. Especially if it means that my little guy is still enjoying his math work, even if he swears he hates it before we start (when your choices are watching YouTube or working on math, who doesn't hate math?).