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Helping son with math, teaching daughter to read
June 18, 2012 - Stephen Browne
My 10-year-old son did satisfactorily to quite well this year in all subjects (including spelling which surprised this indifferent speller) - except math.
He just barely squeaked by on math, though I did help him with his homework every night, an excruciating experience when it comes to math. He just didn't get the simplest and (to me) most obvious relationships between basic math operations, i.e. that multiplication is a lot of addition, and division is a lot of subtraction. He does better at basic geometry when he can see the shapes.
I'm hoping this is a breakthrough phenomenon, where it'll all come clear in a flash of insight some day. Sooner rather than later.
Maybe. I wasn't good at math either, but when I was in my 20s I got ahold of some self-teaching guides from the John T Wiley publishing company, refreshed my grasp of high school math and actually taught myself beyond what I'd finished high school with. I taught myself statistics, how to do quadratic equations, and the elements of more esoteric stuff like matrix algebra.
Of course I promptly forgot it all - if you don't use it, you lose it. But that's OK, I proved to myself that if I ever needed it I could re-learn it. More importantly, I proved to myself that I wasn't dumb.
So now we're doing math problems all summer, and I'm trying to keep up with the daily schedule in the face of lots of things that put practice off to "another day." We're currently three days behind, and my right hand to God but we're going to make it up tonight!
My daughter is entering first grade next fall and is already reading words. I think she'll be a reader by the time she enters first, or very shortly thereafter. Every night she brings out the Disney alphabet book I got at a garage sale and we review a couple of letters and spell out some words.
I'm curious about how she'll take to math. The prospect of my children facing the future without math skills is frankly pretty scary.
The last time I was in graduate school I took a heavy duty statistics course. I sweated bullets, but I aced it. There haven't been many accomplishments I've been prouder of.
Even if your profession does not require math, you ought to know something about statistics. An awful lot of political arguments are framed in statistical terms, and believe me there is nothing like familiarity with stats to teach you the truth of the adage, "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure."
Reading I'm worried about. I do more reading on the computer than I do on books these day. If I can't avoid slipping into that habit, how are my children going to learn to read book-length classics.
I wonder if e-readers will make a difference to them? I have one, but seldom use it except on trips. But there's an awful lot of stuff in the public domain that's absolutely free for download to e-readers.
Maybe the next time I go camping I'll take it along and finish Thucydides', "The Peloponesian War."
Or maybe not.
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