The fear has gone.
YES. I'm not kidding. It's gone.
I've been looking and it's not anywhere.
And what has been left in its place?
Great grinning gobs of it.
I don't think I've ever posted anything more beautiful!
After enduring almost a year of math phobia—which was becoming crippling and filled with such sadness—my girl has made her way out. Slowly, carefully. With a "one-step-forward, sometimes a few back, bit-by-little-bit" approach that has literally drained the fear from our days.
What did it take?
Well. Stories, and lots (and lots) of talking, for one!
I remember a big talk we had about a month ago, with my girl on my lap. She just could not see the purpose of subtraction. Near tears, she said, "What's the point?" So we talked about when you might use it, or need it. We imagined how she might need to use it, for example, if one of her dreams—of running a pet shop—came true. 'Cos you need to know, when you've sold 5 bags of kitten food, don't you, how many bags you've got left? That led to a big old talk, about pet shops and bags of kitty litter, about stocktaking and kittens! and my girl began to smile.
I also remember another talk in the car the other day, about perpendicular lines. My girl said she just did not get them. What were they? So I described two dudes, Fred and Bob, two perpendicular lines. I did a whole conversation pretending to be them—with the two of them talking and planning to get together. The cool thing was, Fred and Bob COULD meet (at right angles, of course) because they were perpendicular! Whereas Sally and Mary, two parallel lines could not. They'd NEVER meet. They were destined to travel side by side forever, calling out sadly to each other across the gap.
Ah. There I was at the lights, gesturing wildly in the car, doing voices, both of us laughing. It was glorious.
Then there have been all the games.
Duck Duck Bruce
Zeus on the Loose
The Sum What Dice Game (and others!) from Family Math
MancalaChess (just learning!)
our very own, home-made Kittenworld game :)
There's also been
a whole lot of computer learning on MathsBuddy
which is uncomplicated and simply good. There's nothing flashy about it, and it doesn't use competition or prizes to get you motivated. It gets to the point, but it's also kind of sweet—we love the guy's voice who teaches the lessons. He sounds like someone who smiles a lot. :)
Then, there's the thing that seems to have clicked everything into place.
And it has been one of the simplest things of all.
A while ago, I realised my girl's fear boiled down to not comfortably knowing her addition facts to 20.
When you don't know your basic addition facts, it means when you get to harder maths, you don't have the building blocks to do it. You can't do big subtractions, you can't do big additions, you can't do multiplication, and you start to doubt yourself.
You start to believe you don't know things. You start to believe you will make mistakes and never know the answer. And the fear finds that simple, ordinary hole, and creeps in.
So what did we do? We started at the very beginning. Which was a very good place to start!
And we went to an unbelievably simple tool on mathsisfun.com called
Math Trainer: Addition.
How does it work?
Well, it's just a little bit of practice. It's something my girl and I talked about doing and decided would help, so it doesn't feel coercive. Just ten minutes, most mornings, never any longer. It's a tiny part of our day. Just like brushing your teeth, or practicing a scale or two on the piano. Ten minutes, sitting together at the computer, then it's done.
Then you go on, if you want, to whatever other maths thing you feel like doing for the day (like Games! More games! Mathsbuddy!).
When you go on it, you get to choose how long to "train." They suggest 5 minutes 3 times a day. We just do the ten minutes once, in the mornings. We don't do it every single morning—sometimes other things feel more important (like story writing! Sewing! Pottery class!).
You get to pick how hard the questions will be.
You can take your time. If you write the incorrect answer, you get that question again, just a few more times than the rest, to make sure the learning comes.
The idea is to eventually make your answers automatic, so in the end you don't have to count on your fingers or use a chart. Right now, my girl is using our beloved Penguin Theory for adding nines to things, but you can tell she doesn't have to think for long.
Things are popping straight into her brain, and the other day she did the Trainer by herself, for the first time.
She whizzed through! When we began practicing a month ago, my girl managed about 50 answers in ten minutes. On Friday, she answered 135 questions. All correct.
How big was her smile then? Out of this world.
My girl knowing her addition means
we've now gone right through year 3 addition and subtraction on MathsBuddy and are now onto multiplication!
(and shapes, lines, and angles and more!)
It means she isn't afraid of something new when it pops up. We talk every new thing completely through, and she trusts that it will be okay.
It means she wants to play games that have maths in them,
read books about maths,
and use the maths she knows to figure out something she doesn't know.
Like: "Mum, I knew 8 plus four was 12, so 8 plus 5 was just one more—13!"
And, "Mum, I knew 5 times 3 was fifteen, so 6 times 3 would be 18!"
And it means when we're out getting ice-cream at the harbour on a beautiful sunny Sunday,
and she finds out the ice-cream is $3 each, she says,
"Mum, 4 times 3 is 12. So it's twelve dollars."
Right all the way through to your bones, my incredible, tenacious, beautiful girl.
I am so, so proud of you.
ps and such:
• the other thing about the Trainer is you can use it for multiplication, division and subtraction too. My boy used it two years ago for his multiplication—this was his big maths block when we took him out of school. And within the month, he was cruising happily along and hasn't looked back. I know, I know; I sound like a knife salesman on t.v. but Yes, the Trainer could do it for you too! See how it cuts through cans? And I'll throw in a paring knife for good measure. Call now! :)
• Finally, I've heard that when you tout a product on your blog you're supposed to say, "No-one paid me to write this, etcetera". So, yeah, that's what I'm saying. I am so unpaid it's crazy!