Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pause, Rewind, or Eject?

One of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to adjust the pace of learning to the child. This is especially true for an autistic child. Today, we came across one of those bumps in the road to mastering decimals. Making Math Meaningful occasionally takes a leap of logic too large for Pamela to navigate, and today she bumped into one. The book went from activities like the one I described last week to comparing two decimals (a greater than, less than, or equal symbol). She did not immediately grasp concepts like 12 being the same as 12.0 or 12 being different from 12.3.

Pamela has taught me three different strategies when this happens:

  • Pause – Stop the activity. Get a fresh sheet of paper and possibly concrete objects and re-teach the concept in a different way. If she seems completely confused, then it is time to rewind.
  • Rewind – Go back to what she knows thoroughly, rerun the ideas covered since until we see where she stops understanding. Get a fresh sheet of paper and possibly concrete objects and re-teach all missing concepts in a different way. If we have covered a concept in a myriad of ways to no avail, it is time to eject. A sure sign of this is when she has developed the habit of frustration and screams every time I pull out the activity!
  • Eject – Pull out other activities and goals for that subject and work on them. Table what is confusing her for some time. Sometimes, she is not developmentally ready and needs more time before she can master a concept. A great example of this is how we took an entire year off writing to develop her pre-writing skills!

Today we paused, and I covered what I could in the spur of the moment. Later, I typed up a sheet in Excel to add a few more steps to the teaching process that were not included in the book. My concrete objects for tomorrow’s sheet will be dollars and coins. I have fake paper dollars and coins for teaching money concepts, and I will drag them out to teach comparison of decimals. Since Pamela understands money, I plan to set up each side of the equation with one-dollar bills and dimes. I think it will be easier for her to fill in the equation properly. Then she follow my example and pull out the proper number of bills and coins for each side. When she shows an understanding, she can work independently.

If she gets it, our normal progression is to fade from objects to drawing them on paper. In time, she will fade to thinking rather than drawing. If she does not get it, I may have to fall back on my strategies and rewind.


Anonymous said...

There is a video series - Rock N Learn. I believe they have a video about decimals that is set to music. Thought this might help? Good luck with your Christmas program. Diane

walking said...

Good news! The pause worked!

We did a few problems with dollars and dimes with money. Very quickly, Pamela transitioned to drawing dollars and dimes. By the end of the page of nineteen problems, she could compare fractions to the tenths in her head! Pamela, who is highly visual and sequential in learning style, developed a smart strategy on her own:

* If the number were written like 6, she would add a decimal and a zero to make 6.0.

* If the number were written like .6, she would add a zero to make 0.6.

Pamela jumped right back into the book and correctly ordered five racers in six different races with times recorded to the tenth place! Yesterday, she started the transition to hundredths by working with pennies!

8:36 AM

Anonymous said...

What a great way to look at it, Tammy! Much more encouraging than my mental "two steps forward one-and-a-half steps back."

I must admit that when I read those math concepts you're doing with Pamela, my first reaction was, "There's no way my daughter will ever get to that point." But immediately, even before that thought was done, the Lord reminded me of the evaluation I've been doing. We use the ABLLS to track her progress right now, and this month I was going through it and rejoicing about those concepts that I never thought she would "get" two years ago. This spring I'm checking them off as complete. It's those accomplishments that help us keep going, because we don't know where the "cut-off point" will be. We may think we know, but our kids might just prove us wrong! So we just keep on keeping on.

walking said...


Pamela is seventeen and almost ready to start sixth grade math. If she is willing and able to try Algebra in a few years, I am willing and able to teach it! I would rather keep all developmental doors open because only God knows when Pamela will be ready to walk through one!

By the way, Sonya has a wonderful blog with a Charlotte Mason flair: Simply Charlotte Mason!