January 12th, 2011


Middling on teaching...

I went in and helped out in D's class today. I like doing that (of course), but I especially enjoy not only his class but also working with math again. At the same time, it's frustrating to see how the math resources have gone so far from what we had when I was a kid.

It's weird how we often think that -- you know, things were better when we were young, but in this case, it does seem to be true. The resource they use in our district SUCKS! For example, today we worked on a word problem where the kids had to use long division. D is in 4th grade math, and long division is part of that (I would think -- I was certainly doing it at that time). But they don't actually call it long division, nor do they write the problems like I did. Add to that (punny) that they also don't even 'divide', per se, but rather they turn it into a multiplication problem. All told, it's complicated and confusing, and I couldn't follow what the kids were attempting. In the end, not one of them could do it using the so-called 'method' they're being taught, so I showed them how to do it using plain old division.

After that, we worked on fractions, and again, I tried to show them that all fractions (and decimals) can be written in a similar fashion (by drawing pictures) and that's how we compare them. They're just starting their unit on fractions, and when I mentioned to their teacher how confused they all were with the comparing, she nodded. "I always dread this unit," she said. "The resources don't discuss fractions in a meaningful way at all, and I struggle to find ways to explain it to them outside that." Great.

But at the same time, this day reminded me how much I love math and love to teach math. I love taking it apart and showing a student how to build it up again -- how to break everything into its most basic pieces and then put it together. Math and writing (including grammar) are my two favorite subjects to teach -- though teaching either in a large group is FRUSTRATING.

We're working with E on her math at home, so I get my fix there too. Can you believe that in January of her first grade year, she had no idea how to subtract yet?? Yeesh...I gave her a couple of methods to do it, but I think the thing which helped the most was simply saying that subraction = 'take away'.

What about you? Do you find that you teach academic subjects at home, as well? And do you like it?