When I was in elementary school, I remember enjoying doing workbook pages, especially math ones. Yep, I was one of those weird kids. I also wrote left-handed back when all the desks were made for right-handed kids; you know, the ones that looked like this:
My first grade teacher even tried to force me to write right-handed. It didn’t work. My resistance to conversion may have pushed her to retire early; for me at the very least, it ruined any interest in handwriting for a long time.
Doing math problems, however, from an early age almost always felt like playing games. I liked to be alone and try to solve my math homework as fast as I could. It was as exciting to me as running was to Eric Liddell. I know…I really was strange.
Toward the end of 5th grade, my family moved from the east side of Cleveland, where I had been learning fractions, to the west side of Cleveland, where the 5th graders were well into percents. I missed the transition completely, and didn’t understand the relationship between fractions and percents until well into my adult years. There went my love for math. I felt like a failure and didn’t know how to catch up.
When I started homeschooling my kids, I wanted math to be fun but assumed my children would enjoy workbook pages just like I had. My firstborn, Bethany, was such a compliant child I didn’t realize until the end of second grade that she was burning out on all the pencil pushing I was making her do. Every problem on every page needed to be completed I thought, or she’s going to have gaps in her learning!
This sweet, amenable child was slowly becoming more and more frustrated with school. I needed to change how we were doing math, but didn’t know what to do. The beauty of homeschooling and walking with the Lord is the help God promises to give us when we seek Him. Asking God for wisdom and direction is a prayer He loves to hear and answer.
I started reading articles about teaching math and talking to other homeschooling moms I knew. As I became familiar with learning styles and hands-on curriculum, I purchased the Math-U-See program for my elementary aged children. I put away the workbook only method, started playing math games together, and gave my kids opportunities to use math skills around the home. Taking these steps made math more fun, as well as helped my kids learn math more proficiently.
You may be thinking, “That’s great for you, but I have a child for which math is perpetually difficult, regardless of which curriculum I use and no matter how hand-on my math program is.” Well, I do too. I have one child in particular, who has very excellent visual memory for language, but slow processing speed and very poor math skills for her age.
In the elementary years, she didn’t have many difficulties, except for the slow rate at which she worked through her math problems. As she got older, however, I had to spend a lot of time working with her. Despite the amount of one-one-one time, it still took her three years to get through most of algebra 1.
Because of her dad’s rapid decline with MS and subsequent death during her high school years, I found it impossible to do more to help my daughter with her math struggles. I often felt guilty, but I kept asking God for His direction and provision, while trying not to give up my desire to find help for her.
Understandably, my daughter’s difficulty doing math has followed her to college. Though she is enjoying taking honors English and history courses, she wasn’t able to pass the math placement exam. The Disabilities coordinator we met with at the college recommended she be tested to see if she might qualify for accommodations for math. After four weeks of testing with a clinical psychologist, we discovered my child has a true math disability.
Although my child legitimately qualifies for some accommodations from the college, I still want her to learn how to overcome her limitations. My natural math brain has had a hard time understanding how my daughter’s mind works, but as long as I am able, I want to try to help her.
So, what can I recommend if you have a child for whom math is really difficult? If you have tried using several different math programs that appeal to different learning styles and are still not having much success, check out these resources.
ONE OR MORE OF THESE MIGHT HELP:
>> LD Online, help for math.
You also might want to consider having your child officially tested by a clinical psychologist. The Woodcock Johnson cognitive assessment might be a good place to start. It’s a bit expensive, but can be very helpful to diagnose genuine disabilities.
Whatever you decide to do to help your child with their math struggles, know that God is with you. He made your child and understands him/her intimately well. He can guide you to find the tools and resources that your child needs to grow in this area. It’s taken me almost 20 years to get to this point in my daughter’s journey. It’s not over, but we’re making progress, and we’re going to keep right on as long as we need to…and as long as she’ll let me help her.
Enjoy the journey … there’s no place like home,