By Jove I think he’s got it
OK…So being a right brained learner, Jason is not good with rote memorization. It just is not one of his strengths and it frustrates him. So I have been looking for ways to help him with his math facts. He does fine with the smaller numbers (e.g., 2+4, 5-3 etc) but gets stuck with the higher numbers (e.g., 8+7, 14-6 etc). He has no problem understanding math concepts (like adding/subtracting negative numbers) but when it comes to remembering his math facts he struggles. We have continued on with math, but not knowing these facts slows him down and also has started him thinking that he is "bad" at math. I tried showing him different ways to figure them out, including grouping by 10s (e.g., figuring out 14+7 by adding 3+7 to get 10 and then adding 10+11 to get 21), but nothing seemed to really stick. I had just gotten the Home Educator's Guide for the Singapore Math program that we have been using and one of the first things that it had was an overview of the many different ways of adding/subtracting (counting up, number line, grouping to ten etc). I figured that it could not hurt, so I showed Jason…not sure what it was (probably that they broke it down somehow more graphically) but it clicked. He totally gets it now. It is so cool…instead of looking at a problem and trying to guess what the answer is, he has a method he can use to figure it out. What is great about this approach is that it utilizes his strengths (puzzle solving and logic) rather then his weakness, memorization.
For example…to figure out 14-8 he subtracts 8-4 to get 4 and then subtracts 10-4 to get 6. I will have to ask him for more examples, because I can't really remember how he does half of it. LOL! But what counts is he knows! Basically he breaks the equation down into smaller equations that he can do easier. And he is completely able to follow it. There have been a time or two when I really could not follow what exactly he was doing (he still talks out loud as he figures it) but I kept quiet and he came up with the right answer.
I found previously that a similar approach worked when it came to adding double and triple digit numbers. Breaking things down into 10s and 1s really helped. For example, to add 34+55, he breaks it down into 30+50 and 4+5 to get 89. And we actually realized that he understands negative numbers because he would solve a problem like 54-26 as 50-20 and 4-6 to get 30-2 or 28.
The neat thing is that I can see that the light is back on…he sees that he can do this stuff now. He sees it more as a puzzle then this mysterious thing where he was just supposed to know/remember the answer. I can see him manipulating the numbers in his head and he is getting getting faster at it each day.
I have to say…I am not big on formal "curriculum" but Singapore Math has really been a wonderful resource for us. It is really great for explaining concepts to him in a way that he understands. One of the reasons that it works for Jason is that it is very visual…it starts with the "real life" concept…pictures of objects and talks in English about combining them (they call them number stories). It shows several different ways of figuring out an answer and then gradually introduces the symbolic notation. It also seems to be able to explain things in a way that makes sense to him much better then I can! I swear, when it comes to math, we speak two totally different languages and Singapore seems to be able to bridge the gap. I know that I learned this stuff by rote memorization (which luckily I am good at, but even now I still count on my fingers periodically to double check myself). I am so glad to learn that there is a way besides flash cards to figure this stuff out.
And actually I have been starting to use some of these "tricks" myself lately instead of using my fingers….