Monday, January 21, 2013
I often have my son do extra math work on weekends via the online Thinkwell math website. Kai is now about three-fourths through the sixth grade math program. Recently, he has been motivated to do several assignments each weekend by the incentive of collecting a set of flash cards, one at a time, of the elements of the periodic table. Kai usually enjoys math, and is advanced for his age. But it’s not at all like he is a math genius who can solve advanced problems all on his own. No, Kai often needs help. I always sit with him while he is doing the work. Kai tends to get distracted and not pay attention to the video when the online professor is explaining the topic. When I see Kai’s eyes wandering, I point at the screen and redirect him. After the watching the videos, there are problems for the student to do. And that is where I am needed the most. Kai loves doing math as long as he feels confident in what he is doing. But as soon as it gets even a little difficult, he wants to quit. “This is too hard!” I try to encourage him. Sometimes that is not enough. “I can’t do it!” I try to help, but never by just giving him the answer. Rather, I ask questions that will help him think through the problem. “What is the formula for area of a circle?” I ask. I want him to say “area equals pi r squared.” Instead, he says, “Six times ten” as he gives some of the numbers, incorrectly, that were on the assignment. “No, Kai, don’t tell me the numbers. First, just tell me the formula for area of a circle.” Too often, by this point, Kai’s anger has already escalated to where he doesn’t listen to me. He starts writing things down on paper. I try to stop him as he is heading in the wrong direction. And as I do so, his anger is fully boiled. “I hate this! I am never doing Thinkwell again!” I suggest we take a break and come back to this later. He is mad, but he agrees to do yoga with Mom. Anything with Mom instead of Dad is welcomed at this point. Kai’s therapist recently gave us a dvd of yoga techniques that we can do with Kai at home. My wife wanted to try this out with Kai. She tells Kai that he can earn two periodic table flash cards if he does yoga, then goes back to complete the Thinkwell assignment. We watch the video and try to follow along with the yoga instructor. According to his therapist, Kai is supposed to know all of the movements. But he mostly is goofing along rather than doing them seriously. Still, by the time the video is done, he is in a good enough mood to give Thinkwell another try. This time he listens to me. Let’s write down the formula for area of a circle, I suggest. He does so. Now, what is the radius, I ask. He tells me the diameter. Are you sure that is the radius? He sees his mistake and corrects it. Now what do you do with the radius? Multiply it by itself. Good, I encourage him. And we go through the problem step by step. He gets the answer correct and he is now happy. I ask him fewer questions on the next problem, having him do more by himself. And soon he is able to do them with no help on my part. Afterward he goes upstairs to collect his flash cards from Mom. She gives him one for completing the Thinkwell. But he was goofing around and did not do the yoga well so he does not get the bonus card. He does not like that, but doesn’t protest for too long. He realizes that he did not do it well. Later, after dinner, he asks Mom if he can do the yoga again. This time he will do it nicely he says. And so he does.