Monday, March 10, 2008

An F for Math

W. went to Sylvan on Saturday for his assessment. Mr. Schmitty took him because when it comes down to W., well, you just never know how he'll be. He might be wonderful, which he was, or he might be completely unmanageable. I've been so emotionally distraught lately, so dad going was the best idea.

The counselor at Sylvan said W. did really, REALLY well and that he is VERY smart. This I know. He is VERY smart that is why it is so frustrating and upsetting to see him having such a hard time with his schoolwork lately.

I am still looking for a psychologist. Unfortunately the one I found did not seem to ever be in the office. Red flag. So I am researching others, checking that they participate in our insurance, confirm they are taking on new patients, and hoping that the next appointment they have is a little sooner than W.'s 18th birthday.

Now I would like to hit on one of the apparent problems W. is having in school. Math. The Math program in our school is absolutely horrendous. It's called Trailblazers. I understand the whole concept behind their way of teaching, I really do. The creators believe that every child learns things differently, that their way of thinking differs from one to the next. For example, I, like many of you probably did, learned how to multiply by memorizing the times tables. According to the idea of Trailblazers, not all children can memorize, so multiplying is difficult for some. They teach different ways to compute the math problems all resulting in finding the answer. I get that.

What I don't understand is how teaching different ways at the same time isn't confusing in itself. I also don't understand how concentrating on finding estimates for an answer is better than teaching how to find the exact answer. This is something they do quite often. I also am completely beside myself when I see that one day they are working on 3 digit addition, the next day fractions, the next multiplication, the next division, and so on and so on. And what ever happened to starting on page one on the first day of school and proceeding page by page until you get to the end? No, they will be on page 10 one day, page 211 the next, then back to page 76.

Why does the Math have to change anyway? I learned it just fine. But now I can't even help my son because if I try to show him my way he gets totally mixed up. It's a losing battle.

Here is an example of a division problem my son had the other night. The first way is the way I learned how to divide. The second is the way they have taught him.

Now my way, is more compact and takes a lot less time. You need to know your times tables, which seems to be a problem for a program that doesn't teach basic skills. I use flash cards and such at home to teach the times tables, but if he isn't using them in school on a regular basis, he doesn't seem to retain it. I do as much as I can. I am a very hands on mom with schoolwork, but I must ask, what are the teachers being paid to do if I'm teaching him the basics?

The Trailblazers way. Quite interesting and a heck of a lot more time is taken to come up with the same answer I did. Do you see how the first is 100? I asked W. how he knows what to use. He said, "Anything that is lower than the number 786, just pick any number." HUH? Eeeny, Meeney, Miney, Mo?! Hence where I used the number 8 to give you an example. Does anyone else see what I do? Please don't tell me I'm just stressing about nothing.

I have heard that by the time the kids hit 8th grade they are lost. The teachers even will comment and roll their eyes ~ just as long as they are out of earshot of the principal, who is the ninny one that got this program into the curriculum in the first place. Does anyone else use this new age way of doing Math? Trailblazers, remember the name, if it comes to your school, boycott!

You have been warned!


Marshamlow said...

I have been a private math tutor for more than 20 years. I have been successful with every single student who thought they were horrid at math, every student except one, my daughter. Can't help her at all.

When I tutor I do spend about 80% of the time listening and only 20% talking. I have to figure out what is going on in the student's head in order to find a way to guide them through the obstacles. I have been frustrated about math as a parent during my daughter's elementary school years too. I don't like how they skip around and then the very next year they seem to cover all the same things again.

Annie said...

I'm in trouble if Miss E and J are taught either way! I would do that division without the trail of numbers underneath - at all! Like you - I use my times tables to compute that in my head. That's a simple sum made very complicated if you ask me lol!

Your previous commenter's situation reminds me of my own. In my secondary school maths I was terrible - and my father is a math teacher - he just never had the patience with me - but he has abundant patience with kids to whom he is not related.

Justice Fergie said...

ay yi yi! i had enough trouble with math growing up that i don't need my kids to learn an entirely new system that i can't comprehend! that's nuts. and, like you said....why does math have to change anyway?

good luck with w.

Shelli said...

Holy moly, this is not what I want to hear now that my son is entering school! Why in the world does math have to change anyway?

I was terrible at math as a little one, I can only hope that my D has his Dad's math skills....

Laura said...

I certainly do not get that new math....yeek...I may be in trouble!!!

Good luck to you on that!!!!

Hope things are settling a bit...

EE said... eyes started glazing over at the sight of the other division problem.
I think I'm taking my son to Sylvan this summer.

debawriter said...

Man, I was bad at "regular" math and if you had thrown that at me as a kid, I'd have dropped out of the sixth grade and just gone on to be a writer.



Queen Goob said...

I just threw up....math does that to me. Luckily, my kids were taught "regular" math (thank you Baby Jesus, A-men) because I'm so horrible at math I haven't had a checking account in 12 years. (no joke!)

Jen said...

I stared at that new math problem for about 5 minutes and I still don't get it. I would be in serious trouble if ony of my kids brought something like that home. I barly understand old math, the new stuff looks impossible!

Bonnie said...

Okay that new way to do math made me say, "WHAT THE HECK?" I just took a college math class and I still don't get it. Good luck with you son and math. I would love to know how you feel about sylvan. have 6 year old twins that need a lot of help and it is something I have thought about.