Too many mental tabs open today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Math

Last year someone told me that second grade was the hardest for parents of elementary school students when it came to homework. All I could think was those are some stupid parents, how hard can it be do some reading comprehension and math problems? I was pretty sure I could handle it. I should have learned my lesson when I lost it doing homework last year. It's only the second week and already I'm annoyed.

I know that we lucked out in the teacher department, K is thrilled with Mrs. M and so are we. She's tough but kind, she's teaching them when they think they're playing. I already have a stack of paperwork from her informing us of the progress they have made in the class so far. Today along with the mountain of homework was a letter saying that while she hopes all the kids do the homework they way it's assigned she understands that kids are kids. That it shouldn't be taking longer than 30 minutes to complete the days homework, that if your kid tries and can't do it parents should just sign it and let the child hand it in. She also states that while homework is important she knows that other things can come up and just try to get it done the next day. OK so I felt better but I still feel the need to make K do what is assigned. I looked through the schoolwork that came back and was surprised that K got 6 wrong answers on an easy math sheet. Then I looked and saw that she she didn't get them wrong, she left them out. I have a feeling that her lack of attention got the better of her. I made her fill in the blanks and put the sheet in her folder which goes back in the morning.

Then we looked over what she had for the week. It was a lot but properly managed could be finished rather quickly. That would require no fidgeting and a steadfast attention. My daughter has neither. We got through the spelling, reading and "all about me" project. Then she really wanted to do the math sheet, I was glad she wanted to keep going, we needed to get ahead, she might be on a job Thursday which will mean one less day to finish the mountain.

The math sheet was fun for K. She had to make a graph of how many tickets were sold by students. She easily got through the graphs, answered the questions and showed all her work. Then we got to the end. The final question was to estimate "around how many" tickets were sold. While I understand what they were asking I didn't know why this was necessary in 2nd grade. K didn't get it either. She added them easily and didn't understand why they wanted to know the answer closest to the answer. I told her it was like taking one step forward and then two steps back. That made it worse. I understand the value of estimation but not when you're teaching kids addition. If they get the answer, great, end of story. There's plenty of time later for estimating.

Maybe it's me, I had a similar problem last year when they used doubles and "almost doubles" to help teach addition. K was good at math and had no problem with her addition problems. Then they started to ask what method she used to get her answer. She protested and demanded a "I just added it" answer. I then had to teach her a whole other way to add in order for her to get through her homework. That felt like one step forward and three miles back.

I remember when I was younger and had a question about a homework problem, my mother would always say "I can't help, I don't get that new math." Huh? Of course I know now that she didn't want any part of homework or maybe she realized that she couldn't help me, either way, I managed by myself, I also managed to help my sister who was only 2 years younger. Apparently math doesn't change in two years and that "new math' excuse didn't work when I tried to use it.

So here I am, years later, sitting next to my child and doing my best to help her. What do I get? New math. Actually new ways of doing math. I'm not going to tell her that I don't know it but I am going to tell her that I don't like it. I'm happy that she can add the old way, I'll do my best to show her how to use the new way but only for homework. Today after doing all the work correctly she was asked to figure out "around how many?" I can't get on board with this and it pisses me off. When I was a kid 10 plus 9 equaled 19, not almost 20.

New math? Sounds like lazy math to me.

It's going to be a long year.

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