Thursday, March 6, 2014

close reading of directions

I was working on something with 9 yo when 7 yo told me he was having hard time with math. I told him to skip ahead and that I will help him when I finish.

Here are the directions for the section that gave him hard time:

Solve. Write a multiplication or an addition or both for each problem. Do not just write the answer. You can draw pictures to help you!

I saw that he did the rest of the problems in that section except for one. Here is the problem that he wanted help with:

The Johnsons ordered four pizzas, sliced into four pieces each. The dog ate one slice. How many pieces did the people get?

I asked him what was not clear about this problem and he went into early stages of meltdown. I asked him to talk out loud what he has to do. He clearly knew that a dog ate on slice so that's minus one. I asked him, how many slices were there before and he tearfully said, sixteen. (He did a problem about this family on a previous page, ordering three pies with veggies and one with meat, each sliced into four slices, and he knew the answer there, so that could not have been the problem). I asked him just to write down what he just told me and he screamed back: "But in the directions they say "a multiplication or addition", not subtraction!"

Did you catch that inconsistency? Would that have bothered you? Would that have stopped you from solving a problem that you know how to solve? Would that be a reason to cry?

It is so freaking hard, watching out for these little things, catching them before a full-blown tantrum ensues, explaining that it is OK if not everything is 100% clear. Is it a learning disability? Is he still so young that everything is taken literally? Is he super-observant? And what am I to do about this?

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