How is it possible that a child can understand and complete the process of long division one day, and have forgotten how to do it by the next day?
I immediately opened the post from bloglines and started writing an answer. Then I thought that others might be interested in reading it:
The problem most kids have with math is they learn the mechanics of it but don’t understand why the mechanics of it solve the problem (in this case division). Long division is a repetitive process of the repetitive process of multiply-compare until the right number is found and then subtract.
If I haven’t pointed it out yet, after a certain point in math, almost everything reuses the simple math that was learned in the early years. So, it is by nature repetitive. The issue with learning something like long division is that a child who knows how to multiply, compare and subtract can follow the mechanical process of long division without learning a thing other than they have to do more of stuff they already know how to do.
I believe that is the reason most kids who start having problems with math at ages 8-12 have problems. It isn’t that they aren’t capable of it, but that they see no reason for it. They are just doing the same things in different ways to different numbers. And it’s boring.
I did a homeschool workshop a little over a year ago. During the workshop we got onto the subject of math and a one mother mentioned her child having problems with math. I responded, “He’s what, 9 or 10?” She was speechless. Because I was able to see all the faces in the audience, there were a few other mothers there who had had the same issue at the same age at some point.
What we did was use real problems. Packages of items that contain X items costs Y. How much did each X cost? This package contains 18 items. That one contains 24. Which one is less expensive per item? Opportunities for real math are all around us 🙂