Proud teaching day – B has my Math mind!

I love Math; it was my favorite subject in school.  But it can be a complicated subject.  The phrase, “It’s all Greek to me!” is a perfect description of Math for some people.  In my opinion, the single most important factor in a student understanding Math is the teacher.  I was fortunate enough to be taught by some spectacular Math lovers who wanted all their students to understand  and be successful at Math.  The best ones I learned under didn’t use the textbooks to teach us how to do problems; they taught us their own way on the board.  And if a student didn’t understand that method, the teacher would pull out a different method and see if the student clicked with that one.  No one was left behind or out of the loop.  I was so inspired by these caring, excited teachers that I wanted to teach Math, too.  (Why I didn’t is a whole other story….)

We love, love, love our Math curriculum, Life of Fred.  It’s literature-based, meaning B learns about a subject through a story.  Math is brought to him through the adventures of a 5 year old boy, Fred, who is a Math professor at Kittens University in Kansas.  This series answers the most asked question of Math students, When am I going to use this in real life?!  Although some of Fred’s story actually takes place in the classroom where he teaches Math, most takes place outside of it, in “real life”.  Math is needed and used at the bank, the grocery store, telling time, booking a vacation, paying admission to a museum, planting a garden, decorating a room, everywhere!  Life of Fred shows B over and over the importance of Math in “real life” and entertains him with a story.  He is learning and having fun.  The goal of this Math teacher.

I’m one of those people who don’t like to “show my work” with Math if I can do it in my head; and I do a lot of Math in my head.  Over the last 4 years, I’ve given B examples of how I break big problems down into smaller steps that he can do, instead of being overwhelmed by a complicated Math problem.  B can easily add, subtract, multiply and divide with 5s, 10s and 100s and I’ve tried to show him to break things down into their 5s, 10s and 100s and multiply or divide something by 2 to help solve a problem.

For example, if Sam made $450/week how much does he make a year?  I can’t do $450 x 52 weeks in my head, but I can do $450 x 100 weeks = $45,000 and $45,000 / 2 = $22, 500 earned for 50 weeks.  Now I only need to add 2 weeks of $450 to $22,500 to get my answer of $23,400.

I also use rounding.  I can’t do 18 x 7 in my head.  But I can round 18 up to 20 and do 20 x 7 = 140 in my head.  Then all I have to do is subtract the difference between 20 and 18 (2) multiply that by 7 (14) and subtract 14 from the 140 to get the answer 18 x 7 = 126.  For years, B’s looked at me like I’m crazy, but evidently it’s been sinking in.

This morning we were working on exponents* and he had the problem x∧3=64 (x to the 3rd power equals 64) and he had to solve for x.  He automatically said it couldn’t be 1 b/c that’s 1.  He did 2∧3 in his head and got 8.  He did 3∧3 in his head and got 27.  He started to do 4∧3 in his head.  “Four times four is sixteen.  Sixteen times four is…wow, that’s a big one.  I can’t do that one.  But I can break it out to a ten and a six and multiply ten by four, which is forty and then multiply six by four which is…(his eyes rolled up in his head, his mouth moved silently and he clicked the tips of his fingers together) twenty-four.  Forty plus twenty-four is….wait, forty plus twenty is sixty and then I just add the four and it’s sixty-four.  So x is four!  What?  What’s wrong, Ma?”

I had my mouth hanging open and my eyes bugged.  He pulled a “me”.  He worked out the problem exactly the way I would have!  “That’s the way my mind works!  I’ve never seen you do that before!”

“I know,” he replied.  “It really helps me so I don’t have to write it all out.”  He shrugged his shoulders up to his ears, gave my a grin with his eyes squeezed shut and said, “I love you!”

Since B is getting older, this school year I’ve ensured that at least half of his schoolwork is done independently, so we don’t always sit down together for Math.  This week was busy and filled with outings and visits so this morning we stayed in our PJs, on the couch and worked together.  He’s been using my method for a while and I didn’t realize it.  (I’m tearing up now, as I type this.)  This is one of those moments I wanted to experience as a Math teacher.  I am so proud of him, so happy for him, and elated in his love of and skill for Math.  The hubs and I made this beautiful mind and I had a hand in B learning to use it efficiently.  I called the hubs at work to tell him; I was so excited I had to share.  He got excited, too.

As a parent and as a homeschool teacher, I sometimes worry and doubt if I’ve got this, do I know what I’m doing.  Today’s Math lesson was a wonderful gift to me.  B’s got this and so do I!

* According to the SOLs for public school students in our state, exponents are not taught until 6th grade and B is a 5th grader.  I just wanted this known because some people worry that the student-led learning of homeschooling (which is what we practice) may prevent children from “keeping up with” the public school system.

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