I’m a bad mother, I’ll admit it. I assigned the boy homework today. He got such an attitude over his math assignment! He has no intuitive math ability. None. He comes by it honestly, though. I am a Math Turkey. Phil is no better. Phil’s two brothers are engineers, obviously they got all the math brains and he got the language brains. So the genetic possibility of math prowness does exist in the family, Boo just didn’t get it. He can’t tell you what number comes before or after any given number. He struggles to count backwards. His standard answer has become “20.” Frequently his math assignment will be to fill in the missing numbers on a hundreds chart. It goes something like this:

Boo: 59…59…59…20?
Me: No Boo, 20 is over here after 19.
Boo: Ok, then what is it? (note the attitude!)
Me: Well, what comes after 9?
Boo: 10
Me: Good, so what comes after 59?
Boo: 50 10?
Me: Yes, and what do we call that?
Boo: 20?
Me: No, remember I told you we already used 20 back here after 19?
Boo: Yes.
Me: So the number after 59 wouldn’t be 20, would it?
Boo: No. Um. 60?
Me: Good! OK, keep going.

He continues filling in numbers. We repeat the same conversation at the 79.

Boo: 20
Me: No. Boo, “20” is only very rarely going to be the right answer. In fact, it’s only going to be the right answer if the question is “What comes after 19” or “what comes before 21”.

I may have to start charging him a nickle every time he says 20.

I always wondered how he’d do in math. Once when he was around 7 months old and I was an anxious first time mom, I read that all babies need to learn to cross crawl. This is an important skill that developes spatial reasoning and a bunch of other important mental abilities. Boo of course, held out on crawling until he was 10 months old. He had me quite worked up. I see now that this was more an indication of his personality. He wants to be able to do things quickly and right the first time. If he can’t, he gets angry and gives up. Phil’s brother John, the civil engineer, didn’t crawl either. MIL says he sort of scooted around on his rear. He’s now in charge of all the sidewalk in San Francisco, – so much for needing to crawl to get ahead in life. No pun intended.

We started out using Singapore Math. It sounded like the perfect program for a family of Math Turkeys. Singapore Math teaches mental math, a skill I just don’t have. I use calculator math or finger math. Mental math is so not there for me, that any time I have to calculate a tip, say for a haircut, I spend a good portion of the time leading up to the calculating of the tip having Math Anxiety. So back to Singapore Math…we were doing fine with it except that the boy was just not learning his math facts. Well, without them and given his lack of intuitive math knowledge, we hit a wall. We absolutely could go no further in our math assignments without him just knowing that 2 +2=4. So we switched to Horizons Math.

What a difference! We backed all the way up to about 1/4 of the way through the Kindergarten level and have really been building a great foundation of math. I love the way Horizons keeps reviewing and reviewing the same concepts over and over, moving on for a while, then returning. He’s actually learning and retaining things. He’s not quite so angry at math. Well, not usually.

Today, I got out our DK “Math Made Easy” book which we use to supplement – great book by the way- and opened to our assignment. He took one look – fill in the missing numbers and said, “ARGH!! Well it’s NOT going to be easy!” He then promptly filled in the wrong answers on purpose. We talked that through and he admited to doing it out of anger and to not even trying to get the right answer. We struggled like this, including a couple of “20” guesses. Finally, school time was over. He’d had such an attitude of “I refuse to do this correctly” and “Well then what is the answer?’ that it took him forever to work through a half a page. We needed to get on with our day. I told him to go get a snack, then do his chores, then return to his math during his free time. He actually had to tell his friend from next door that he couldn’t play until he’d finished his math.

See how mean I am?

More Mac and Cheese, please!


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  • Ummmm… 20!!!I honestly laughed out loud! I’ve definitely had those moments and more with my sweeties. No, I don’t think you’re being mean. There are times that we all HAVE to do something unpleasant. Having said that, have you tried hitting math first thing? When he’s fresh, you’re fresh, etc.? I try to make it our adventure… something fun and more gamelike if possible. If I save something unsavory until the very end, we’re all already tired and doing the thing we like least will send one of us over the edge.

    I can also say that at times I’ve put the math (or whatever it was at the time) away to deal with attitude. If there is a bad attitude, it doesn’t matter what kind of inspired, wonderful teaching you do. They are not going to accept/apply/appreciate it. And when they see that I am far more interested in their heart, then they are much more willing to try and to want to succeed. It’s a fine balance, I know. I know some parents that simply do that ALL the time and never end up actually teaching their children. And that’s certainly not good. But when I have once in a blue moon put on the brakes, it’s made a big difference.

    Also pray. It took me forever to think of praying about the mundanes in my life like this. But when I have, it’s made/makes all the difference- In me, in my child, in having wisdom to respond how God wants me to. Hang in there! I hope things improve quickly for you. In the meantime, I got a chuckle just reading- I could honestly FEEL how you were wanting to crawl the walls! lol

  • Argh! I know what ya mean about Math. I usually end up getting frustrated. I think my 11 yr old DD knows how to push my buttons….especially when it comes to math! She knows that if I get frustrated enough, I will close the book and say that we will finish later. I am gonna have to stop that! She likes the break :)

    Good luck with math today!!

  • Lorri, have you tried to use Math-U-See with him? My ds has the same non-intuition about math, and MUS has been great for him! If you want to ask me anything about it, pm me through SL and I’ll be happy to help!

    Enjoying your blog!

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