Monday, November 29, 2010

Challenge Math

This morning I did my first stint as a weekly volunteer in Julia's first-grade class. My job is to take five kids, including my own, out of the room for a session of "Challenge Math." We go to the empty cafeteria across the hall from the classroom and work through special pages of math problems that require "higher-order thinking." I'm wondering who can possibly do higher-order thinking on a Monday morning, but whatever. I guess those six-year-olds don't need as much coffee as I do.

Anyway, I'm sort of just supposed to do my own thing, work at our own pace, do what I can--that sort of thing. But I'm sitting there with the kids, reading them through the different math questions, all of which are addition or subtraction problems embedded in a sort of larger number riddle, and I'm thinking, Um, how are these kids supposed to be doing this, anyway? I mean, when I'm asking them, "The mystery number does NOT equal 18 minus 9; so what number can we cross out as not the mystery number?" and they have no idea what 18 minus 9 is, do they count on their fingers, or what? Heck if I know. I'm 39, people! First grade was a long time ago. I do not recall how we learned to subtract.

But can I just say? You should have seen Julia's cute little pleased, proud smile when she glanced up and saw me walk into the room when I first got there. So sweet! She was so excited that it was HER mom who was there to volunteer for Challenge Math.

But I've looked ahead in the workbook and noticed we're coming up on addition and subtraction with bigger numbers, and the kind of problems you do with the numbers set up over a line, like so:

+ 9

What the what, now? Do I teach them to carry the 1, or what? Is that what you do in first grade?

Challenge Math, indeed.


Rob Hardy said...

When I was tutoring Veronica (an eleven-year old!) in math last spring, it usually went like this:

Rob: What's 16 minus 7?
Veronica: Numbers.

It should have been called "challenged math."

Anonymous said...

Ask the teacher for some base ten blocks or other manipulatives to use when you get to the bigger addition and subtraction problems!

Mom said...

And up here they do what they call "best estimate" because they can (usually) count by fives and/or tens so they make the 24 into 25 and the 9 into 10 and figure out *that* answer and then do a couple more procedures to get rid of those extra ones and get to the right answer. Puh-leez! Get yourself some math tutoring from the teacher. "Carrying" and "borrowing" are not in 1st grade vocabularies. Or 3rd grade either, as far as I know.

Rita said...

Um, wow. I have absolutely NO advice for you.

I'm just thankful it's YOU and not ME doing the whole "challenge math" thing.