My Child Hates Math

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It is now time for me to share a predicament I had to go through with my youngest daughter, Dada.  I went through trying times and hurdles in dealing with a child who hates Math at 10 years old, who was then in Grade Level 5 (well, that’s according to traditional school standards).  I believed she was traumatized by the “approaches” her school did in trying to teach the subject.  Her resistance to the subject area did not help her even so, being a child with low self-esteem (thanks to the school teacher responsible for this, the culprit).  At this point, I knew I had to do something about it.

I discovered she had a “problem” with Mathematics when we started homeschooling in 2011. Sitting with her during her self-study at home for the next two years was a challenge for me because, I had to admit, I also had a problem with my own “patience” and “persistence” – sometimes it’s a bit too much, a little too strong, in the wrong way and at the wrong time.

So, before I totally destroy the small bits of confidence left in my child and for me not to add-on to her already low self-esteem, I decided to let her be, for the meantime.  In the next two years of our homeschool, I allowed her to read and learn ONLY THE SUBJECTS that she showed interests in, without me having to follow-up on her all the time.  Obviously, Math was not one of them. She likes Science most, then English and Japanese (no, she doesn’t like Mandarin which was an additional subject included in her previous school’s curriculum), she definitely likes Music and her Sketches and other creative artworks – in that order.  She likes reading her Social Studies (or Araling Panlipunan) subject in our mother-tongue but she had difficulties in liking the Filipino subject, especially the Filipino grammar.  (Note: I intend to work with her on this subject area when she’s ready and focused.  By now, experience tells me that I don’t need to rush her on anything).

A bit of a history in our homeschooling:  The Department of Education requires mastery of 5 core subjects – Science, English, Math, Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) and Filipino as these are the subjects covered by the Philippine Validating Tests for accreditation and/or assessment purposes in the future, if we ever decide to stop homeschooling.  During our annual trips to the bookstores, I allow my children to select the books they prefer to read within the school year.  I tell them to browse at all the books (on all required subjects, except Math) available on the shelf, then pick one or two books that would appeal to them.  It is understood that once the books were bought, they were to read them from cover to cover, learn from them as much as they could, whether or not I am around to supervise them. I require at least 30 minutes of reading a day for each subject which I monitor everyday.

In Dada’s case, because she loves to read anything (and everything) about Science, she was able to complete reading her grade 5 & 6 level Science books in just five months. To keep her working on this subject during the year and the following year, I had to supplement her resource materials with additional Science projects, experiments and video presentations (which I researched, bought and downloaded online); she was able to pass the tests I have given her and for me that was enough, I am okay with a passing grade, which to me is by far more difficult compared to the examinations administered by the government.  (I normally give periodic tests twice a year for the sole purpose of assessing my children’s academic abilities at any given period during the school year); she would rather play her guitar most times of the day than do her Math – but then again, I had to let her be.  I believed it was equally productive for her (had I persisted on forcing her to do Math that time) as she actually learned how to play the instrument on her own, in just a year, guided only by her guitar playing lessons program I bought to support her interest.  She now plays the instrument beautifully at our church’s music ministry, where she is an active member.

I also thought, that this will become sort of an agreement between us, that whenever she is ready, she would have to fully submit to me and her Math lessons.  And finally, I also happen to believe that this was one  learning style that no traditional school would be able to provide (my child) at any given time, if she were enrolled in one.

I knew where her problem was coming from (after my initial assessment on her acquired math skills at that time).  I continued my research on how I could help her understand the subject better.  Math doesn’t have to be a scary subject but I could see and feel her reluctance to even start looking at the numbers in front of her.  My research led me to this homeschool math curriculum called the IXL Program.  I had thought of allowing her to practice solving more problems at her own pace starting with Math Level 4.  Yes – one year below her actual grade level.  I supplemented the program with the Vedic Math Tutorials for her to appreciate “multiplication and division”.  I didn’t mind her repeating the course level as long as the basic concepts would make sense to her.

Despite the leniency, however, I still required her to solve IXL problems at least one topic  a day.  That’s about 30 to 40 problems a day, more or less, depending on the level of difficulty until she achieve mastery.  She would work at least 30 minutes to an hour a day, five days a week, depending on her tolerance.  I let her work alone, though, I occasionally pop-up behind her to see how she was doing or if she needed my help. So basically, she has to deal with her own weaknesses and try to overcome it during those two years, without me prying behind her shoulders all the time.  She doesn’t like me watching her when she’s working, so again, I let her be. 🙂

In my heart, as a mother, I felt for my daughter.  I was not that good at Math myself either during my time, but I know it can be learned.  And I was actually teaching her how to learn on her own.  I tried to keep the disappointments I felt (to myself) during those times when I really, really wanted to make harsh comments on her attitude towards her Math subject already.  But I knew she was also working hard and was trying her best, though it was just not according to my expectations.  I realized that I, too, had to “keep my cool”, so I had to content myself with monitoring her work everyday on the IXL’s parent account.  It was a difficult stage for me because I also felt incapable to teach at one time – that I was failing her as a mother, as a teacher, as her friend.  It came to a point where I also had doubts with how I was guiding her.  Doubts that could result to future failures if I was ever wrong in my approach in the first place.  Doubts that homeschooling might not be a good idea to start with.  But my goal to help her overcome her obstacles was my driving force not to look back.

There were weeks when she misses her math lessons for so many reasons and alibis (which alarmed me, of course).  I have to constantly remind her of her responsibilities; that for her own’s sake, she must try to work on her weaknesses to eliminate her fears on solving math problems; and that she must aim to work harder on a regular basis to regain her confidence, whatever level of hate she has for it.  Being her mother, I may be too pushy on her sometimes, so I had to make her feel my love and make her understand that this thing called “maternal instincts” is bluntly telling me to enforce tough love on her at times like these.  I am just thankful that my children knows when I am already in “grrrr” mode, they readily acknowledge the fact that I am not one who tolerates laziness, especially, during study time.

Before SY 2013-2014 began, I handed her daily Math schedule as guide to her math lessons this year.  I told her that this time around, I will no longer be easy on her with regards to her Math fears (which I now consider as imaginary).  It is now time for her to show me that she had overcome it, and that she would take the challenge head-on. She will be focusing more on it, and that, henceforth, I will implement tough love on her.  She understood, and so I don’t have to say any more.  She agreed that she would focus on her Math three times more than what she did previously.  She is supposedly in Grade 7 this school year, therefore, she is expected to be more prepared this time, after a reasonable length of preparation time and considerable leniency extended to her.

IXL Report as of June 14, 2013
IXL Report as of June 14, 2013

 

Two years later, I finally saw her improvement.  I am so happy to announce (on this blog) the fruits of our “patience”. Dada kicked-off the school year with burning enthusiasm and with her right foot forward.  Yay! I have been longing for this to happen.

She started her Math lessons on June 3.  She was able to solve 2373 problems, and mastered 68 skills so far after two weeks.  That’s an all time-high given her attitude towards the subject.  Obviously, she took the challenge.  And I can see that we are heading at the right direction after all.

Truly, building her confidence back took time.  But with all the love and support I could give, not to mention the sincere encouragement of her elder sisters, she is on her way to finishing up Grade 7 come March 2014.  Just right on time.  Way to go, my love.  Keep it going.  We are all behind you – all the way! 🙂

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

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