Math Lessons

E13 has struggled with math.  We've tried at least 6 different curricula over the years.  It took a year of Life of Fred to get her over her fears, but then the open-endedness and focus on higher-level thinking finally irritated her (these are natural strengths for her).  She just wants (and needs) to master the basic skills.  At her request this year we returned to Math-U-See. 

And she is making progress.

Because we home school we have the luxury of working at her own pace, so when she makes mistakes, I mark them and she reworks them until she gets them right.  We work for 100% accuracy.

But we recently encountered multiplication of triple and quadruple digit numbers.  (Like I said, we're going back to the basics.)  These problems are dreadfully hard for her--they involve skills that are her weakest weaknesses and leave her exhausted mentally and physically.

This week we combined our 100% accuracy policy with hard, hard math problems and her amazing distractability.  She ended up owing 8 pages of math in a single day--4 to be redone and 4 new ones that she'd failed to complete in a timely manner. 

It was too much.

I allowed her to take the weekend to complete the work.

It was still too much, but she did it.

And then I sat down to correct her work. 

There were so many mistakes.

I cried for her.

There was no way she could face this much math . . . again.

I kept correcting.

And correcting.

And I noticed a pattern.

She was getting better!

The last page had only 2 errors whereas the first had 24.

A light came on in my mind.  Isn't the purpose of practice problems to learn?  Didn't this pattern of increasing accuracy show that she was learning?


She'd retreated to her bedroom because the sight of me circling math errors was daunting.  I came to her and showed her her book.  Her shoulders slumped and her face sagged.

Then I told her that I believed she'd shown me how much she'd learned.  I gave her a choice:  correct the incorrect problems on 8 pages in her workbook or take the chapter test (I usually skip these because I can see what she's learned on the regular workbook pages) to prove she'd learned over the course of the chapter.

She sat up a little straighter and a light came back on in her face (I would do almost anything to see that light shine).  "Really? I can do just that one page instead of redoing all 8 pages?"

She knows a good thing when she sees it.  She took the test.

And she felt triumphant instead of defeated.

I feel that we both learned important math lessons yesterday.


  1. Awesome. Good for her. I bet she did great on her test.


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