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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

finding the potholes

Before homeschooling, Alex had a B average in math class. One would think that a B student would have a working knowledge of many basic math skills.  Yet, when I gave Alex a fourth grade comprehensive mathematics placement test before spring break, he scored 51%.  I could hardly believe it!  Granted, the test did not cover basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Rather, it tested concepts such as addition equations, decimals, adding fractions, measurements and conversions, word problems, and so forth.  For a student with a B average in math, he was kind of failing at the types of concepts and ideas he should already know.  What was going on here?

We spent a great deal of time over the last month working on memorizing multiplication and division facts.  We also ventured into the world of exponents (squares) and tessellations.  I had planned on spending the remainder of the school year teaching Roman numerals and doing a quick review for CAT testing at the end of May.

Yet, with the results of Alex's comprehensive test, I changed course a bit.  We would have to go back and review and master the concepts in which he was lacking.  First up: addition equations.  After working with my son the past two days, I have come to realize that Alex has the ability to read a math problem and know the answer, as long as the numbers are fairly small.  Many individuals with a basic working knowledge of arithmetic can do this.  Take, for example, 2+x = 4.  Obviously, x = 2.  But, one must learn the proper steps to arrive at the answer so that one has the skills to solve 4907 + y = 90,672.  Alex is lacking a mastery of those steps.  Apparently, he had been getting by on luck and chance, rather than a true working knowledge of the concepts. 
Alex's fourth grade teacher was satisfied that he provided the correct answers to the equations with which he was working.  She didn't apparently care how he came to the answer.  The end product was more important than the foundation.  This wasn't going to fly with me.  Remember, a foolish man builds his house upon the sand, while a wise man builds upon the rock.  The basic steps needed to solve algebraic equations serve as a foundation for higher mathematics.  If Alex really wishes to become an engineer when he grows up, he can't glaze over these key concepts.

Therefore, we are working diligently to show work, even when it seems unnecessary.  Alex is also learning to check his work, an idea that is apparently entirely foreign to him.  "Plug it back in," I say.  It will become our mantra. 

I knew that there would be gaps in Alex's education.  I knew we would have a rough road ahead.  I just didn't realize how many potholes we would find.  Granted, he wasn't passed along each year without learning how to read, but I have to wonder what other knowledge we may be missing.

Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine


  1. I just shared an easy project for Home School,
    I taught all my kids. I really respect what you are doing for your children!

    New Follower via Follow Me Back Tuesday

    Life Below Zero

  2. You are doing a great job, mama! He will thank you down the road... potholes and all!

  3. Wow - you are such a great and devoted mom. I have a similar problem with my daughter but haven't done nearly as much as you have. Thanks for the inspiration.

    i just became your newest follower and would love it if you would do the same for me.

    embellishments by tina

  4. That is just crazy scary!

    I'm running behind but I wanted to stop by and thank you for joining the Tuesday Train! So, so sorry!!


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