Sunday, May 8, 2011

You do the math

WF is having some issues at school (again, I know, shocker). Up to this year, he has always done well at math and struggled with reading. This year, he has caught up, and stayed, exactly at grade level in reading and has slipped away in math. I completely understand this slide. I was always terrible at math, but I remember 3rd grade being particularly difficult because of multiplication. I learned the times table enough to pass the test (why do we do timed math tests, anyway? Isn't being able to find the answer enough, why does it have to be done in a certain number of seconds?) and then promptly forgot most of them. His teacher is nice but, as I'm sure I've mentioned, doesn't have much control of her classroom. I doubt there is a significant amount of learning going on in there because of that. Her big thing is that everyone must go to college. She even has a note on the wall about the college graduation date of this class. I think it is fine to push students to excel, but I don't think that she is approaching it in the right way. She told WF that if he didn't learn math and go to college, he would never have any kind of job worth having. While that might be partially true, that whole sentiment is a bit too insane for my tastes. I agree that the better educated you are, the better options you have. However, I happen to know personally that you can, in fact, have a job worth having while still not knowing a whole lot of math. RF and I neither one use anything beyond the basics everyday.

In fact, when I started college, I was a secondary ed major. I wanted to teach high school history. Of course, that requires a 4 year degree, with a lot of classes that don't mean much of anything. I took some classes towards that goal and then, after getting a job that paid for classes related to my job, I started taking business classes. Eventually, I left that job and decided to go back to school for the degree of my choice. I ended up picking preschool, partly because I had a preschooler and I enjoyed that age but mostly because it was a degree where I could work with only a 2 year degree. A 2 year degree meant that I only had to take statistics for math instead of Algebra. As I did more research into my options, I found that I didn't have to get an early childhood degree. I could pursue a CDA (which I completed all the class work for, but never actually finished the process), which would make me director qualified, would teach me practical teaching practices and best of all meant I never had to take another math class again. I honestly planned my career and life around a single subject and a few classes in that subject. RF never finished any type of degree. We will never be rich but we are comfortable. We both have stable employment and aren't constantly looking over our shoulder in fear of our job being cut(no job is 100% safe but both of ours are in decent shape, even if budgets are tightening). And really, that is more than a whole lot of people can say in this economy, college educated or not.

I choose not to do any math in my head. When I go to the grocery store, I have a calculator on my phone and I use it to figure out which item is the better deal. I can estimate and figure out that if I have $10, I can't get all three of the things I want at the grocery store. I know that $4.19 is more than $3.95 and that I'm going to Thorton's to get gas, instead of the place by my house. I know how to count change, although I do it so rarely that I do have to stop and actually do the counting. I can do basic geometry and figure out how much paint I need for the bathroom or how much grass seed I need for the yard (about twice what the bag says it will cover LOL). I don't really need any additional math and that is all stuff that they have learned by 3rd grade.

I facebooked about this, just out of curiosity about how much math other people use in their daily lives. I expected some of my friends to say they used a lot, but in thinking about their jobs, I expected most to be in the same boat I'm in. They know the basics but haven't done anything beyond that since high school or college. I knew I had some science-y people who would tell me that they solve complex equations in their heads before breakfast. The job I was surprised about was the video game developer. In the abstract, I guess I knew that computers=math but I'd never really made the connection until he pointed out that his whole job is basically writing word problems. I was surprised at what I perceived to be somewhat venomous responses. Several people acted like I was trying to give him an excuse to never do math again. I'm not, I simply wanted a balanced perspective to give him about math and school and college.

Do I want him to do well in school? Absolutely! Would I rather he be middle of the road and actually enjoy school? You bet! I waver constantly between wanting to push him until we both drop to be an A/B student and accepting the fact that, although he is crazy smart and creative, he simply doesn't do well at school. For his last few report cards, he has had a solid 75% across the board. That is the middle of the middle and you can't really get more average than that. There seems to be some stigma against being a middle of the road student that I don't get. They wouldn't call it average if everyone where getting As!

I was a good student, effortlessly. I never, ever studied and rarely did homework, except when turning it in was part of a grade. Unless something was actually being graded, I never did home work at home. I would do it during study hall, sometimes or, more likely, in another class. My dad, RF, my brother, none of them were great students. They were solid C students, most of the time, (unless something really interested them) so why should I be surprised that is where WF is? Of course, when they were in school, average was something different. A teacher friend of mine pointed out that, now, those middle of the road students are the most likely to get interventions because they are on the bubble, so to speak, for testing purposes. Passing is passing and failing is failing, it doesn't matter by how much. There is simply no point (as far as standardized testing goes) in wasting resources on kids who are sure to pass or sure to fail. Instead, they devote a ton of resources to those middle kids since they have the best chance of being saved from failure and bring the whole school percentage up. Because so much time and attention is being paid to those middle kids, it seems like everything is a bigger problem than it is. I've pretty well decided he is the student he is going to be. We'll keep working on getting better and progressing but I'm not holding my breath for him to suddenly become an A student.

We have another intervention team meeting on Thursday. Last year, we met about his handwriting (still horrible BTW) and he ended up with a 504 plan that allows him to use a laptop in class, during writing time. We got it for him in December and he has used it ever since. His writing isn't any better. he still isn't getting his ideas onto the page. He is still writing a sentence or two when he should be writing a paragraph. His spelling is still terrible. The theory was that if he didn't have to focus on the mechanics of writing that he would be better able to spell the words probably and the ideas could flow more easily. Not so much. The only benefit I've seen to the 504 plan is that he got to dictate his extended response on his ISATs this year. I'm sure that made a world of difference in his final score but this seemed to be much ado about nothing.

His teacher things he is has some issues with spacial reasoning. I know that spacial is how things relate to each other and how things fit together but I don't know what that has to do with school. He hates puzzles (me too) but he doesn't do them. She claims, vaguely, that spacial issues can be related to poor spelling, poor handwriting and poor math skills. No one seems to be able to tell me how, exactly, they are related or what exactly can be done about it. So I'm going to meeting on Thursday and I'm hoping to nail down some answers then but I'm just not getting too excited about it. On the one hand, having a "label" (besides "bad kid") might help him in the short term, I don't relish the idea of having him labeled forever. Of course, I don't think any label will get him the help that he actually needs so I'm just not terribly enthusiastic about the whole process.

1 comment:

Looseyfur said...

How did the meeting go on Thursday?