When Teaching Math Makes Me Crazy

Arrrrrrggggghhhh. Teaching math to my five year old daughter makes me go crazy sometimes!

Why is it so hard for her to get math?! Is it me? Is it her? It’s flabbergasting!!!

After successfully teaching three boys basic math, I feel like she should be able to get it just as easily. But this hasn’t been the case. It’s been a challenging year trying to help her learn fundamental math skills.

This level of math is so elementary it frightens me to think of what it’s going to be like when we tackle more difficult skills. A few days ago, I called in reinforcements that came in the form of my husband, Edric. He very patiently asked her to bring her dolls into his study room so he could experientially demonstrate subtraction.

As I vented to him in private, he calmly reminded me, “This is exactly what you talk about in your seminars. Every child is different. Don’t compare. You are going to have to adjust your teaching style just like you tell parents to.”

He’s absolutely right. My problem is I want to be able to explain things to her a few times and expect that it converges sensibly in her brain. But it doesn’t. I know she doesn’t have a learning disability…although I have wondered if she does.

In fact, I looked up dyscalculia — a brain-based condition that makes it difficult to understand number sense and math concepts. It’s like missing the logic behind math. Yet Tiana doesn’t quite fit the definition of this disability.

At the end of the day, it’s me who has to change and improve my methods (and expectations). Children can’t be taught using a cookie-cutter approach.

The reality is, as Edric emphasized, each child is unique and different. Tiana needs more attention when it comes to math. I can’t breeze through material with her. Deep down, I know this. But two things poison my teaching:

1. Worrying that she will get left behind people her age.

2. Feeling too lazy to modify my teaching and present material creatively.

Why does #1 concern me? Because I am proud! I want my children to excel and be ahead of their peers. Yes, homeschool moms struggle with this, too!

But #2 is an issue because I am busy. When I get busy and when I feel harried, I don’t enjoy the process of learning and discovery. This is something I preach and believe in — make learning a lifestyle. However, when I am pressed by deadlines or when I have something else that is urgent, I rush through lessons with my kids.

After stepping back and evaluating why I was stressed and annoyed, I came to the conclusion that Tiana has no problems learning. Sure, she may take longer to “GET” certain concepts. But she can do it if I am committed to being the kind of teacher who truly enables her.

In a recent seminar I attended, I learned that the goal of teaching is life change. The goal of instruction is application. Until a person applies what you taught him or her, your job isn’t done as a teacher.

As a homeschool mom, this translates to this: Until my kids reach the point where they can confidently apply what they have learned, then I must remain committed to helping them do so. I cannot give up, quit, turn-over the responsibility, or resign to the frustration. If they don’t learn well it’s not my children’s fault. It’s mine — my perspective is wrong, my approach is not appropriate or effective, or I am focusing on my limitations and my child’s shortcomings.

So what am I going to do about it? Throw a book out a window, lose my temper, say mean things in my irritation, or crawl under a rock and say, forget it! (Those are some of things I feel like doing!)

I can’t do any of the above. That’s a defeatist mindset — the kind that is unproductive, unhealthy and damaging to my kids and me. So I praise God for Edric’s levelheadedness at the moment when I was about to lose it mentally and emotionally. He reminded me that I am responsible.

For Tiana, I can…

1. Use more hands-on experiences (i.e. games, manipulatives)

2. Connect math to life. Show how math can be applied to everyday situations (I.e. Baking, shopping)

3. Make math fun by being more creative in the way I present concepts and test for learning

4. Research on techniques to equip myself better

5. Be encouraging, positive, and patient

6. Pray!

For all my homeschooling friends out there and non-homeschooling friends, if you are a parent like me let’s say this together: WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.

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It’s no accident that God gave us the child or children we have with their strengths and weaknesses. That was His plan and design to teach us what it means to love and forgive unconditionally, to depend on Him, and to become more like Him in character.

Homeschooling is actually life-schooling for me! Everyday I need to work on my parenting skills and grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 2:22-23) I don’t think that non-homeschooling parents are exempted from this either.

Lastly, our relationship with our children is far more important than their academic perfection. At the end of everyday do our children know that we love them no matter what? Do they go to bed affirmed by this truth?

I will leave you with the lyrics of Sara Groves from her song, You Cannot Lose My Love. It’s about God’s love towards us but I want to be the kind of parent who sings the same message to my kids:

“You Cannot Lose My Love”

You will lose your baby teeth.
At times, you’ll lose your faith in me.
You will lose a lot of things,
But you cannot lose my love.

You may lose your appetite,
Your guiding sense of wrong and right.
You may lose your will to fight,
But you cannot lose my love.

You will lose your confidence.
In times of trial, your common sense.
You may lose your innocence,
But you cannot lose my love.

Many things can be misplaced;
Your very memories be erased.
No matter what the time or space,
You cannot lose my love.
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose my love.

Listen to Sara Groves’ song here

 

Comments

  1. Mom of 4 says:

    “It’s no accident that God gave us the child or children we have with their strengths and weaknesses. That was His plan and design to teach us what it means to love and forgive unconditionally, to depend on Him, and to become more like Him in character.”

    Thank you Joy for this reminder. You are such a blessing to those who read your blog. May God continue to help you in parenting your 5 beautiful children.

  2. hi joy. thanks for sharing. exactly my sentiment when i was and still am teaching my 4yo boy to read. his learning pace wasn’t as fast as his 5yo sister but God taught me to be patient and also to take breaks. 🙂 many times, my son would like “magically” or better put, “miraculously” catch what I have been teaching him over the past weeks after taking a short break. now, my challenge is for him to like reading. i noticed that whenever its reading time, he would let out a big “aarrgghhh”. hahahha. too bad he can’t blog yet. 🙂

    God bless you joy! I see Tiana almost every week as she is a classmate of my daughter. Keep on sharing your life stories with us. It’s inspiring and entertaining at the same time. 🙂

  3. Yes, indeed all these are so true. In my desperation also once, I happened to stumble upon Living Math which is based on Charlotte Mason method which makes learning math much more enjoyable and teaches also how we can apply math to real life living.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Thanks Annie. I also like Charlotte Mason’s method. I should check out Living Math 🙂

  4. Meredith Tan says:

    Hi Joy! II was like Tiana as a kid, really slow in Math even in high school through College, I was scared not to graduate so I chose a course that has only 2 Math subjects which was Mass Communications major in Public Relations and Advertising and I barely passed those 2 “crucial” basic Math courses (College Algebra and Statistics). I realized that when it comes to numbers, I can only handle up to a certain extent or else I get strained in my brain hehe! When I started to work, I was Operations Director in our business for 14 years, I realized I needed only a calculator and as long as I can add, subtract, multiply and divide, I am ok. I even handled the accounting department with accounting grads people under me and I learned the basic principles of debit and credit, supply and demand and how to effectively budget and manage cash flow by God’s grace. I’m not saying you can just relax and take my word for this I know you have goals for your children, I am just sharing that I survived life with basic Math. And probably my teachers also were not as good and as intentional as you hehe! My husband on the other hand is a Math genius without effort I can say, but he struggled in writing and speaking unlike me. We are different when it comes to life hacks and in making decisions and sometimes I think it’s probably because he know too much Math hahaha! Joke! I pray that Tiana will be able to do well with her Math and pass all her subjects.

  5. But #2 is an issue because I am busy. When I get busy and when I feel harried, I don’t enjoy the process of learning and discovery. This is something I preach and believe in — make learning a lifestyle. However, when I am pressed by deadlines or when I have something else that is urgent, I rush through lessons with my kids.
    I love this reminder & the song!
    not a homeschooling mom but even just tutoring my 12yr old is already stressful to me.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      I think all moms feel pressured to help our kids do well academically 🙂 we are in this together 🙂

  6. Hi Joy! I’m a primary school teacher here in Melbourne, Australia and just want to encourage you in your maths journey with Tiana. Research says that children need at least four experiences before they grasp any declarative knowledge and for practical knowledge, i.e. skills, it takes about 20 experiences for it to be something ‘automatic’ for them, so for Tiana to just ‘get it’, be patient with her and yourself as I’m sure you’re still a way away from 20 experiences (think, that’s for each concept!) And the great thing going for you too, though I know you’re very busy with other commitments, at least you don’t have 20 other students needing the same amount of support 😉

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When Teaching Math Makes Me Crazy