Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's not mental math if you use a calculator.

Shortly after school started, I talked a little bit about the girls' homework and I'm back to talk about the homework situation now that we have firmly settled into third grade.  All three kids bring home a spelling packet on Friday afternoon.  This packet is due back to school the following Friday, which has been extremely helpful in managing the flow of homework, especially on nights with activities.  Thankfully, the girls are fairly motivated when it comes to completing (some) work and oftentimes, the majority of the packet is finished before the weekend is up.  I then have Grammy give them a practice spelling test on Thursday afternoon before their spelling test at school on Friday.  This way, they can see if there are any words they need to work on for the real test.

Monday through Thursday, the girls each bring home some type of math worksheet.  Sometimes two of them have the same worksheet.  Sometimes all three of them have different worksheets.  Never do all three have the same worksheet though.  This is where it gets semi-torturous, at least for me anyway.  All three prefer spelling/literature work to math.  At night, after activities, because that's the only time that we're all home together, I'm stuck reviewing their math homework, a process which always includes having to make corrections.  Because I need to work with each kid one-on-one, the others are banished to another room, otherwise they continuously bounce around or interrupt.

The math work thus far hasn't been overly complicated, save for mental math.  I have words that I would like to use to describe my feelings towards mental math but I'll be nice and simply say that I don't like it.  It makes me a bit nutty and yes, I, the accountant, use a calculator to check my kids' math homework.  My brain shuts down on me periodically.  So aside from mental math, they've learned estimating and rounding and solving problems for n.  Like 18 = 9 + n.  Solve for n.  None of this is complicated but I feel like we got off on the wrong foot with math this year because I certainly don't remember it being this strenuous last year.

After dealing with another frustrating round of math homework review and correction, I finally thought to ask the girls how long it takes them to complete their homework.  Either you understand a concept or you don't and if you are answering more than half of the questions correctly, it's safe for me to assume that you understand the concept so why are there so many incorrect answers.

Responses to how long it takes to complete math homework:

Emily - "About a minute."  (Note that she usually has the least amount of incorrect answers.)
Anna - "Five minutes"
Allie - "Sissies are done before me and then they keep trying to turn on the TV and I need to finish."

I talked to them about how important it is for them to take their time and review their homework.  After you do it, you need to go back through all the problems and make sure they are right.  That was met with grumbles and Emily informed me tonight that she used a calculator to check her work (not exactly what I had in mind and she can easily cry I learned it from watching you!) but I have seen improvement.  

Allie is the only one who has a reading log and I use that term loosely.  She is supposed to read for 20 minutes a night Monday through Thursday.  The log simply has her note how many minutes she read on each of those nights and the total over the weekend, which is optional for school but not at home unless we are out late.  We've had afternoon weekends where we all go to our rooms at my suggestion and read for 30 minutes.  So while Emily and Anna don't have reading logs, their teachers made it clear that they are expected to read at home.  Anna's teacher told us at curriculum night that her own children had reading logs and while her kids did read, the logs weren't completed contemporaneously and entries were sometimes made up so she doesn't do reading logs.  Emily's teacher handed out a sheet comparing a kid who reads for short time periods each day (1 minute and 5 minutes) to one who reads for 20 minutes a day.  I'll have to scan that in and share because it's very interesting to see the difference and for me, justifies why I enforce reading.

As with most school related items, I'm finding that parents need to be involved.  Take the reading for example.  What are the kids supposed to read?  They are allowed to check out 1 book when they visit the school library every other week.  Well, those books can easily be read in a day or two if they are short chapter books.  Technically my kids do have the advantage of switching off books with each other but other kids don't have that benefit.  Emily can and will read just about anything.  I've found that Allie and Anna need books that are just right in length and subject matter so I've been bringing them to the public library each weekend in order to keep a good supply of books at home.

So that's the homework situation for now.  A decent amount but manageable.


Cindy said...

Might I recommend the "PhotoMath" app? You just hover the camera over each problem & it gives you the solution. Makes checking math homework super quick!

I don't know how you do it. I have a kindergartner & a 6th grader who both dance & I'm at the studio 5 nights a week. Checking their homework, especially on dance nights, is such a painful process. Kudos to you!

BreezieGirl said...

I try to do math in my head as much as possible, but that's mostly habit that stemmed originally from boredom in my old job. I have no problem breaking out the calculator (especially with percentages in store sales or tip, haha, or larger numbers), but I get satisfaction and find that for smaller numbers it's faster for me to do mentally.