### math

I do love Math in that silly non-reciprocal way, because Math often does not love me. I like the logic and beauty of Math, I do not love the rigidness of Math. Sometimes Math refuses to make sense to me, sometimes I am unable to grasp what Math is telling me, maybe sometimes I am not fully engaged and listening…maybe.

When I access my Math Brain, I can understand it, Math, that is. I have one, a Math Brain, I just do not always choose to engage it. It is a choice, for me, anyway. I can feel myself grasping for my sense of numerative-ness, it’s sort of like looking for your keys when you can’t find them at first – not the panicky part that happens later – just the sort of searching, reaching, wondering part.  Some people have more immediate access to their Math Brains, sometimes, I understand, these Math Brains do not shut off and these people are hugely talented/gifted/good in Math. These people may never search for a prime number, a multiplication fact, an algebraic equation. They know when a quadratic equation is staring them down and what to do with it (I call my dad).

Lately, when faced with Math homework help questions, I have adopted a new strategy. I do not try to figure out the problem ahead of my child (usually a useless exercise) but instead, I listen. I sit down next to my child and say, “Show me the problem” and “Explain what you are supposed to do”.  As it is explained to me, I listen with full attention and engage that somewhat dusty corner of my brain, the part that doesn’t make up stories or get caught up in rapture over a color or an outline or a tree or a hawk. I listen. I am present in the moment.  As the problem is explained (step by step as the teacher taught it), I ask questions, and the answer reveals itself and I understand and my child understands.  This is not the Math of my childhood. This Math isn’t forced or fraught with anxiety, it isn’t tearful or frustrated. This is a new way of looking at Math for me, a better way, a way that my children have shown me. I am good at Math.

I like this book because it is beautiful and whimsical and colorful and fun while it teaches math, who can ask for more than that? Numbers are represented by monsters, pretty, math-y monsters. This is a great book to help children to understand prime numbers (only divisible by itself and 1) and composite numbers (divisible by numbers other than 1 and itself). It shows the numbers as having personalities, colors and shapes, and that, I understand, is how Math Brains are engaged.

Math Isn’t So Scary With Help From These Monsters : NPR.

We are just into the last month of summer – long, hot days at the beach or pool, still some summer camp and here in the NorthEast, we don’t start school until after Labor Day and, even if your children don’t agree, they are losing some math skills. How do I know this? Because I read about an on-line math tutoring program called Ten Marks the other day and it got me thinking…hush, it happens.

From an article in Boston.com: In a study released in June, the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that students typically lose one to two months of reading and math skills during summer break, and that teachers often spend up to six weeks reviewing topics already covered. Yikes.

Here is a link to a nicely formatted page that highlights the research from the National Association for Summer Learning (yes, there is such a thing).

So I have a math packet for one child (courtesy of her teacher) and she has been faithfully working at it but I do need to give a boost to my younger child in fractions. I contacted TenMarks and the company, a local (Newton) based organization let me try it (so I could write about it here) but even the demo (take a test drive) on the site is nice and a good representation of the program.

So here is what happened –

I got an email with sign-in information and telling me (the parent) about the weekly lessons. My children (who are both solid math students but not making up math problem sets for each other on long car rides – okay, or anywhere else) found the site easy to navigate and easy to work on the topics they wanted (er, I wanted them) to highlight.

Both logged on with a code scribbled on piece of paper (I, lazy summer mom, gave them the codes to get into the site and did not help, I mean, hover) and both were able to finish the worksheets with relative ease (meaning the problems were not out of their knowledge base but challenging).

Here is why I like it – If a problem is confusing, there are helpful hints and if the student is still stuck, there is a video that walks through the problem.  An interesting part of the program allows the student to go back over their work and get all the problems right – good reinforcement of the math concepts and nice (for the confidence) to get all 10 out of 10 problems correct.

As far as confidence and competency and math – it is obviously important for everyone but it has been shown that girls self-select out of math (even if they are good at it) in the upper elementary grades (source – here) and that 50% of all jobs are math-based – I don’t know where I got that statistic but here are some cool jobs that need math). Now I do not care if they don’t want to be math majors in college, but I do care if they limit their options in general.

TenMarks is running a special summer package now and click here to find out more about it and stop the brain drain, well, at least for the children. No promises for parents.

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Did you know that fifty percent of available jobs are math based? Well, it’s true. So if you  – or your children –  are closed off to thinking you are good at math, well, you do the math. That’s a lot of missed opportunity.

Before you think I am getting all preachy,  I am only slightly math-phobic  – sorry, Dad, but it’s not like that is news – I am having a flashback to a dining room table and not understanding the “engineer’s way”of solving a problem and tears, mine, possibly Dad’s.

Having said that I am committed to my children not having the same experience with math so I found the most amazing tutor on the planet. First, she is sweet and kind and really pretty (like Disney princess pretty but with a killer math brain and a great sense of humor) and has helped both of my children with math where I could not.

So just because I do not care for math, I have been able to break the cycle and both of my children are terrific in math. The new links in the sidebar are all from the amazing tutor and  I am completely stealing Pragmatic Mom’s idea of having math site links on her site – Feel free to take some of these,  Pragmatic Mom and everyone else, enjoy – they are really fun sites.