A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mixed Numbers

Last week 9 year old informed me that she was "the most improved students in her class".
Oh yeah... I thought to myself sceptically... But I settled for a neutral, "Really?" instead.
"It's true. My teacher said so... She said I was one of the most improved students in class." (Okay... one of the most... that had a ring of truth to it)
Must be all the maths we've been doing at home... I thought. So I decided to tease this out a bit. "So do you parents get any credit for this improvement."
"I give you 90% of the credit." was the rather too quick response.

Maths isn't her strongest point and that's probably true of a lot of kids. But the beauty of Maths is that they can be trained into it. Not in the same league as Pythogoras or Pascal, mind you, but enough to get through school and into some kind of gainful occupation after that.

Like it or not, some kids do need pushing. Some can get by with a nudge and others probably need something akin to kick in the rear end. But the main issue with maths is that the foundations need to be laid properly, otherwise it's an uphill battle.

In reality there is no lack of resources. Educational software, free websites with activities, dead tree editions of practice books, games, flash cards.We're presently using a number of books from the Kumon* series which I tumbled onto from the Book Depository website. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the organization publishes practice books from kindergarten upwards. And here was I thinking that they were just a tutoring school.

The main thing I like about the Kumon books is how fairly mundane the activities are. It seems to be about repetition and drilling... as well as building on fundamentals. Pages and pages of sums to be worked through in monotonous, unimaginative fashion. Just the way I learnt maths thirty plus years ago.
True to form, 9 year old resisted the extra work at first but persistence has paid off. The penny has finally dropped for her to the point she's at least got the basics and is gaining more confidence about the harder stuff.
For us, we can see where she's at and can direct our energies more purposefully. I also use a couple of books from the Excel series which used to be sold at Angus and Robertson bookstores.

Our school has bought into the Mathletics programme and that has a competitive aspect to it which the children like. 9 year old likes it but she's not willing to go beyond what's easy or doable. Unfortunately, she doesn't believe in challenging herself.

From our experience, it's become obvious that parents really need to take charge of their children's education, whether we homeschool them or not. It's not enough to leave matters entirely to the school because it can't give your child(ren) the extra attention that they need.

*N.B. These Kumon books are published in the United States so they may contain imperial measurements depending on the book's content.

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