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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Independent Work Achieved

I don't think I've kept it any secret that doing homework with Kayla usually leaves me feeling like pulling my hair out.

One of the frustrating things is wishing she could, at least mostly, do her work independently at the kitchen table while I'm in the vicinity and can help as needed - or check work when she's finished.

But it usually doesn't work out that way. Especially with math worksheets. Since the 3rd grade her school has been using Touch Math with her.

Kayla understood the concept well enough, she learned where to place the dots on her numbers and how to use them to count. She knew the process of how to use them to add; but getting her to do it independently? She simply wouldn't. I would have to sit next to her at the table and prompt her for just about every single problem. It would sound like this:

"OK Kayla which number is bigger? Ok say that number. Ok count on from that number. Use your touch points. Touch the points on the other number. Not from one. Go back to the bigger number." Sometimes I would end up using my finger to touch the invisible points on the number as she would count along, but I knew that was making her dependent on me. She needed to do it herself, she could do it herself, but she just doesn't stay  focused or on task long enough to do so.

If left to her own devices she would put a bunch of random numbers down for her answers. She wouldn't really try to add them correctly. She just didn't seem to be making much of an effort.

I lamented to Joe on more than one occasion how I wished that I could hand the homework to her and have her sit at the table and work on it independently...and actually know what she's doing and attempt to put some thought in to it.

She doesn't get a lot of math homework anymore, especially over the past 2 years. So doing math worksheets at home with her hasn't been happening much lately.

A couple of weeks ago when she had a math worksheet in her binder I sat down at the table with her. I looked at the problems of double digit addition and knew we were going to be in it for the long haul. She would have to make sure she was adding up the right column first (these were all sums up to 9 so no worrying about carrying over), putting her answer in the right spot under that column, and adding up the numbers on the left column. She's had trouble with this in the past.

The first thing she did was draw a line straight down the middle dividing those 2 columns on each problem.

Then she looked at the 2 digits in the right column, air circled the bigger digit, and counted on to the next digit.

She went through all of those problems like a pro. She was probably done in less than 10 minutes. To know Kayla is to know that is a feat all on it's own. She really didn't even need me to be sitting next to her. I didn't have to prod her, or lead her, or explain step-by-step directions. I didn't have to encourage or redirect her. I just watched - amazed.

She had wanted to go outside, and I told her after she finished her math sheet, but I've tried motivators like that in the past and it's never lit a fire under her before.

I was floored at how quickly and accurately she did the worksheet. Lots of high fives and praises.

Last week she had another math worksheet for homework. It was double-sided. I didn't look too closely at it, but it looked similar to what she did previously. She sat at the table and I cooked dinner.

I was surprised when she said she was done already and told her I was going to look over her homework. The first problem I looked at, which was on the second side, was double digit addition with regrouping and I saw where she made a mistake. I pointed it out and started to erase it when she turned her back on me and refused to look.

I told her it was ok, that she just forgot one of her touch points on the number and all I was doing was going over her worksheet just like I do with Lucas. She seemed to be ok after that and was able to find most of her mistakes.

I thought maybe she didn't need to do the regrouping on the second side; that she was only supposed to do the first - and I was regretting not sitting with her to point out what she needed to do on the regrouping.

I turned it over and told her we were going to check over this side first. It was double digit with sums up to 9 and she got most of them right. Then I started looking at the regrouping again and realized she actually did know what she was doing. And I saw a little trick she must have been taught.

When she adds up the right column and the answer is 2-digits she writes the answer to the side of the problem. So 12 is written to the side and she knows to put 2 under that column she just added and put the 1 in the box on the top of the left column.

She independently did this on all the problems. She made a few mistakes, but they were legitimate mistakes ... as opposed to just randomly putting in an answer making me question how the heck she came up with the answer. Instead I could see how she got the answer and what her mistake was.

Example, with Touch Math you put 4 dots on the 8 with a circle around each of them. You're supposed to tap each circled dot two times so you're counting 8 times. I noticed that she got one of her answers wrong because she counted 4x instead of 8x.

Another thing, which is one of my (small) issues with Touch Math has to do with the number 4. You're supposed to put 2 dots on the top of the 4 and 2 dots on the middle horizontal line of the 4. The problem is when you have a worksheet with the 4 that looks like this font: 4. The top of the 4 comes together in a point instead of 2 straight lines. She knows there is supposed to be a dot on the top of the 4, but because there is only the point she only put one dot, so on a few problems she touched her 4 three times. I can see how that can be confusing to her.

Anyway, the other thing that was so impressive to me (if you're still reading!) is that she seamlessly switched/noticed when the problems moved from sums of 9 to greater than 9 and the she needed to do regrouping.

She did it all by herself and for a child that struggles with independent work, this is HUGE. Huge for this mom to see.

I can not describe the joy I felt in knowing she sat at the table, by herself, and did her best effort to work on the problems with no help, and understood what she was doing, and got most of her problems correct.

There were times I didn't think I would ever see the day that would happen.

Never give up.

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Anonymous said...

FANTASTIC!!! this was great to read and know Kayla actually did her worksheet, math, by herself!!! way to go Kayla! and I know, Michelle, how you felt after this accomplishment Kayla achieved. :} love mom/grandma

nichole said...

Yeah Kayla!

Christy said...

Wow. Just....wow. My Henry is, at this point, unable to do any of his homework independently, and it's usually just spelling or simple sight reading stuff. Since I know how I'd feel if Henry was able to do what Kayla's doing, I'm so, so happy for you all!! It's huge, I know.
Congratulations, Kayla and great work!

FlutistPride said...

My parents feel the same way when they help me. Most of the stuff I do is over their heads.