Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Math Mess

To say that math for my kids on the spectrum is anything less than a mess would be lying. I will accept the blame, in part, because I switched programs so frequently with Austin in an attempt to find something that would work for him. Since we didn't know what we were dealing with back when he was little, I was left to assume there was a problem with the curriculum and the way he learned. Once we learned that we were dealing with autism spectrum disorder (along with the alphabet soup of labels he also received during that time), I got Math U See and did my best to stick with it, despite a lack of confidence in the techniques.

Well, this week for Sun and Fun, as Austin reaches another point in his math where he is struggling, I decided to give him a placement test for Saxon Math, just to see how the work he has done in MUS translates to another curriculum. It was much, much worse than I imagined.

He placed into the 4th grade level book as a rising 8th grader. The results sent me reeling, as you can well imagine. I had already planned to spend some time supplementing with the "Key to..." series (Fractions, Decimals, and Percents) so I went ahead and ordered those. But my plans for the future with math are all up in the air now. We simply cannot move forward into higher level math when he does not have a firm grasp on arithmetic and its applications. I don't know what to do. We'll work through the Key to... books, and then, I just don't know.

As for Reece, my friend Laura has lent me her Right Start math materials to look through. I know I do not want to use Math U See with Reece, judging from the results I have seen with Austin. I started looking at Right Start materials today (she has levels B and C... I would place Reece in level B). It's completely overwhelming to consider. It seems very involved, which is hard to contemplate since I have two older children whose lessons require much from me. It is also quite a financial investment.

But I can't help but wonder if it would be "the answer" for her. I have tried every other major math program out there. That's not an exaggeration... Austin was my guinea pig for math programs. Yet, I'm willing to invest the money if it means that she understands math. And I will invest the time as well. It's very important to me that the children have a firm foundation in the basics. I feel like I have failed in that area with Austin. I'm afraid that in my vain attempts to keep him "at grade level" I have sacrificed making sure he truly understands and is able to apply what he knows. I'm afraid I've figured that out too late.


Chef Penny said...

ok, I'm gonna be devil's advocate here. First, know that I love you like a fat kid loves cake. Second, if you feel that in your vain attempt to keep him on grade level that you failed then forget the grade level and go to where he's at. If it means going back to 4th grade then just do it. Don't second guess yourself and feel bad about it. just do it. What would happen if you took the rest of the year and went back to 4th grade math? Who says he has to do any higher math than algebra in high school?
In our house this means that Logan who is a 7th grader is doing 2nd grade writing. I didn't harp on it or think that I was failing him. I let it go and met him where he's at. You know what? He's doing better than I expected and is catching up fast.

Give it to God and TRUST that He will take care of it!!!!!
Love ya bunches!

The Glasers said...

1. I heard the coolest story at the CM conference. A very well respected person barely made her way through high school math. She thinks it started in third grade when she went way too long needing glasses and never caught up. In college, she took remedial everything for math and worked with a tutor. Finally, she took calculus (required for her major) and got an A in the course!

2. Some people are simply not math people. David is like that. Even though we used MUS for high school math, I tutored him through it. Precalculs and physical science were his only B's this year. He just does not have that bent, but he did really well in music, New Testament history, publisher, government, economics, and Spanish.

3. We are recommending Right Start (also Singapore) for the pilot which is totally unofficial, only for the families who helped build the pilot. We don't want any other children "suffering" through our mistakes! LOL!

4. I plan to try the Right Start Intermediate for Pamela and transition to Jacob's algebra.

Anonymous said...

It could just be that he has trouble thinking flexibly about math and so the different format of the Saxon problems threw him for a loop. Was there a pattern to his errors? Were they mostly about things learned relatively recently (like in the last two years)? I've found with my inflexible kid that the newer the knowledge is, the less likely it is that he will be able to transfer it to a new situation.

As for using RightStart, one of its strengths is that it gets kids thinking flexibly about math.

Niffercoo said...

The problems are mostly with word problems... application. He could do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers as long as they were presented as simple equations to solve. The fractions and decimals were more challenging as those were the more recent material, and especially fractions I did not like the MUS approach.

But when it came to applying the arithmetic in a word problem format, he was unable to do so. I think this is due to his language processing problems. He simply doesn't seem to understand what they are asking. I gave him some simple problems from a Singapore Word Problem book this morning, and of the 3 on the page, he got one correct, one partially correct (because he didn't understand what it was asking), and one he couldn't even figure out what to do to begin. We will definitely be working through these word problem books daily now, while we attack the fractions/decimals/percents.

Chef Penny said...

Great job Niffercoo! I love Singapore math because it is so visual and my kid needs that. they have a word problem book which you know and an intensive practice book that you can get too. I had to add the practice book to Madison's this year when I saw that she needed more help with addition and subtraction. there are some great word problems in there.

How about some real life applications? Maybe take him with you to the grocery store and let him figure out which brand is cheaper per oz. You now stuff like that.

Don't be too hard on yourself. You're a great mom and he will be ok in the end. Love ya!

Anonymous said...

If it helps, I gave my son the placement test for MUS when he was halfway through Saxon 7/6. He placed into Beta, so that's where we started. He was able to go through five levels of MUS fairly quickly because he had learned the first part of each level with Saxon (math facts mostly), but he apparently had *not* gotten a good conceptual base with Saxon.

So it can go both ways. I'd be wiling to bet that you could still use MUS to introduce concepts, but then after he's comfortable then add a supplement, like the Singapore word problems or whatever else you have on hand to help him with the application piece.


poohder said...

You don't need to feel bad, we are in a very similar boat when it comes to word problems. My dd has a MUCH lower ability with those than with the rest of her math. I think the word problems will come when they have more real life context to apply them to.
If it helps, I honestly think you wouldn't have to look very far to find out that many folks can't do much math past 4th grade level as adults and are still thriving.

FWIW, my dd LOVES the Key to Series, it makes her feel competent. We used the fractions this past year and plan to do decimals and percents this coming year.