October 10, 2010

Math Breakthrough

For some bizarre reason, I forgot that my oldest child will learn anything more happily if she's learning it from a story book.

That applies to math. And in fact, I have a resource book that lists all the children's books that teach a particular math concept, listed by math concept. So, when you know you're going to be doing double digit addition you can look that up and find out if your library has any of the sixty odd children's books that teach double digit addition.

It is a helpful resource.

In my attempt to make math more appealing and fun for my oldest, I gathered a variety of resources. However, the major breakthrough for me and her happened because of A Fair Bear Share. A Fair Bear Share is all about place value. I have struggled to help Miriam understand place value for two years now. Yes, they introduce the topic in kindergarten in all the math curriculum I've seen. Yes, I think that's outrageous. Back to the point--trying to teach Miriam the concept of place value has been like beating my head, and her head, against a brick wall. And yet, I never let up. No wonder she started to dislike math last year.

This year, however, I had already decided that we were going to skip over concepts she didn't get easily and revisit them when she was older. I believe firmly in brain development playing a large role in when children "get" concepts and I was bound and determined to not let a textbook decide when Miriam should or should not learn a concept.

So patterns and place value were totally out. I wasn't going near them with a ten foot pole.

But then I grabbed a bunch of math books from the library to glance through and see if I liked them and Miriam found them. When Miriam sees a book she reads a book. She was reading A Fair Bear Share when school was supposed to start so she begged me to read it to her rather than have to put it away until after school.

So I did. And place value all of sudden clicked for Miriam. By the end of the book.

It was amazing.

And it was language arts week so we weren't even going to do math that day.

After the book, when I could tell Miriam was getting the concept, I grabbed a bunch of cubes that come in sets of ten. I piled some in front of her and asked her what the most efficient way of counting them would be. I gave her hints and she carefully counted them into groups of tens and then one group of ones. Then I asked her to figure out how many there were. She immediately started counting them by ones over again. I stopped her and reminded her that she knew how to count by tens. So she counted the groups of ten by tens, and then counted the three or so in the group of ones. When she realized what she'd done and how fast she'd been able to count all those cubes--you should have seen her face. It was priceless.

We practiced that a few more times. Then I got her math book and we flipped through pages and did every single practice problem we could find that had to do with locating numbers in the tens place, or ones place, or hundreds place. We also did all the problems that used base ten squares to have her count things. She got it.

All because she can't help reading books with cute pictures of bears.

Really, it was a little miracle for both of us. A reminder to me that she can get it when she's developmentally ready and it is presented in the right way. A way that matches her and her strengths. And a reminder that there is no need to rush. She'll learn everything she needs to at the right time for her.

A reminder to her that she used to love math.
Here are our other favorite math books so far. One More Bunny has the cutest illustrations. More to the point, it is about adding one. All my children loved it. I had my four year old figure out how many bunnies there would be if you added one before I let the older two say the answer. They nearly burst waiting for Emeline--but it was good practice for all three. Can't emphasize enough how cute the pictures are. I put this on my list of must own just for the picture of the bunny in the swing. You'll know which bunny I mean when you see her.

Quack and Count is about grouping the number 7. So one page will have the duckies in a group of 5 and a group of 2. Another page will have the duckies in a group of 1 and a group of 6. As a little side benefit, there are three little ladybugs hidden on each spread. We had a lot of fun reading this book together and finding the ladybugs.

After we read it, I got out my counting cubes again and Cowen and I practiced making different groups that equaled five. He didn't really get it at first, but was starting to by the end. Miriam already knew this concept, but I drilled her for two days after we read the book on the addition so now she's a pro at 4+3 and 5+2 and 3+4 and 2+5.

Cute book.

Happy math reading.

Hope you are all having your own little learning miracles.

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