The Language of Math!

1 hand = 5 fingers2014-09-05 04.43.00
2 hands = __fingers
3 hands = __ finger
4 hands = __ fingers
5 hands = __ fingers
__hands = 30 fingers
__hands = 35 fingers
8 hands = __ fingers

My son, with ease, got as far as 5 hands equals 25 fingers.

Then the pattern changes and he struggles to understand the question or how to get to the answer. He struggled for what seems like hours to figure it out.

We tried hard, I rephrased the question:

If you have 30 fingers how many hands do you have?
30 fingers equals how many hands?
How many hands will give you 30 fingers?
Each hand has 5 fingers. How many hands do you need to give you 30 fingers all together?

“I don’t understand what you are saying! YOU KEEP CHANGING THE WORDS!”

THIS, a light bulb moment, made me realise that it is NOT the math, but the language of maths that is the challenge!

It breaks my heart to see my son struggle like this. I feel ill-equipped to support him in a “language” that will enable him to better understand the questions. It seems in changing the words and rephrasing the question it just makes it so much harder for him to understand, especially when I know he is quite capable of getting the answer.

I am drawn once again to Jane Madell’s work, paediatric audiology on Hearing Health Matters.

Language of math: “Maths is really a language activity. For kids to succeed at math they need to learn the words of math problems. How do you know if the activity is an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problem? How much more, how many fewer, etc. may be difficult to figure out …”

Tomorrow is another day, tomorrow we try again….

Today, he woke up, saw me typing on my keyboard, saw the picture I took of his math book. Next thing he’s sitting next to me as I type (right now, 05:07), I read him this blog post, he takes out his math book and on his own, continues with his maths homework (not the one we struggling with though). Oops, wait a minute…he recognises the pattern (as I type) and BAM! #high5

6 hands = 30 fingers

7 hands = 35 fingers

8 hands = 40 fingers

no words needed, he figured out the pattern 😀