September 14, 2012

Confidence Boost

I've recently noticed a negative attitude from Casia regarding math. She's been grumpily heading to the computer at math time and groans about doing it most of the allotted time. In the past, she always loved math and would list it among her strengths, but today Casia actually told me that she thought she wasn't good at math. I was stunned. How could a ten year old child taking Algebra II with Trigonometry NOT know that she's good at math? 

After trying to reassure her, reason with her and questioning her, her father and I came to the conclusion that the source of the problem was that she isn't able to get the answer quickly and can't do it all in her head. For a kid that has always prided herself on being fast at mental math, she feels disappointed in herself.

Since starting homeschooling, I've struggled getting Casia to write down her math. Even when she does put pencil to paper, she doesn't adhere to standard formats and she skips so many steps (because she does them in her head) so when she enters the answer into the computer and it's wrong, she can't find her own mistake; I can't find it either. She calls me to take a look and I'll ask her to explain what she did and the concept is there; she knows HOW to do it, but somewhere in the process she makes a mistake and to her, that means she isn't good at math. In algebra, it's so easy to drop a negative sign, drop a term or any number of little mistakes that make a huge differ in the final answer. I've shown her time and time again how to proceed, step by step, but it's something she fights me on constantly. I've been trying to show her that even though it's a little slower to do it this way the first time she tries a problem, it will usually result in a correct answer and she won't have to sit there getting more and more frustrated. I don't think I've convinced her.

As a student, I did well in math and even took Calculus for science majors in college (though admittedly, I don't remember most of it) but I always learned how to do the required problems and never really cared about the why. Casia is a why-kid. Usually, if I can't answer her, I direct her to her father, whose math understanding far exceeds my own. They see math the same way. Sometimes they will discuss advanced math concepts and honestly, I usually start to tune out. When Jacob asks Casia to answer questions, she almost always get there faster than I can figure them out. 

I guess I can see how hard it must be for her to have to slow down the thought process and write each step when in her mind I think it goes by leaps and bounds. But even Jacob has explained to her that when doing these types of problems, he uses paper and pencil, too. I really wish that she didn't see this as a failing. I hope that as she moves on, she will regain her self-confidence and her love of math.

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