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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Yesterday I met with my daughters first grade teacher. I have to say..She gets it! This has been a rough start of the year for my Shelby. She loved school so much and this year has decided that it ain't much fun. Sad for a first grader.

I remember some of my time in first grade so many years ago (Nope, Alzheimer's had no settled in yet, LOL). I remember learning how to form my letters right and just learning my numbers. Oh the memories of the playground time and fun with friends.....

Well, my daughter won't have those kind of fond memories. She is really starting to learn basic algebra. No longer is it enough to learn that 1+1=2 in the first grade, you now have to know the "concept" of 1+1=2. Facts are not acceptable alone anymore. Here is a sample problem from a first grade math homework sheet. No keep in mind as you are looking at this that in kindergarten they just learned to recognize numbers and not add them (we did work on that some over the summer) and that it is just a month in.

David has some tomatoes.
He throws away 5 rotten tomatoes.
He has 4 tomatoes left.
How many tomatoes did he have at first?

_____ - 5 = 4
5 + 4 = _____ is the related addition fact.
He had _____ tomatoes at first.

Now, to a person experienced with math, this is not a rough problem. But to a first grader who has not even had basic math, this is a challenge.

I was very upset with this and Shelby has not had the easiest time with it so I met with her teacher. My question really was why the students were not prepared for this move to math? At the end of the school year last year we were given some "suggestions" for things to do over the summer to help with the transition to first grade and we did them all and then some. But, BOOM, all the prep we did did not prepare her enough.

Come to find out that the change was initiated like just 2 weeks before the start of classes! So not only were students and parents not prepared, but neither were the teachers! I was no surprised to find this out, however, because that is the way things are done in this school district.

The teacher explained the math lessons and why and how and gave me information as to how I can help Shelby succeed with this math program. It is called Focus on Math and it is based on the Singapore math process. I still think that it is too early to be pushing basic algebra on first graders, but they need to be prepared for college by the time they are 10(sarcastic). LOL.

But, the teacher got it! She understood my frustration and even shared some. She likes the math program and explained to my why and now I understand and will support it any way that I can. I am elated and happy that she took the time out with me. That is what a teacher should do and now I feel that my daughters education is truly a joint effort between me and the teacher for this year.

I have signed up Shelby for a supplemental course, however, on Time4Learning. I still feel that the basics and "rules" are important to learn for that core understanding and now I will have that supplemental support for at home.

Well, enough for now. More to come soon :-)


Anonymous said...

I am not sure what Focus on Math is but it is not from Singapore. There is a Math in Focus which is sort of from Singapore, and then there is Primary Mathematics which is the original that made everyone in the US want to use "Singapore Math". In that, they don't do a question like you have given until second grade. Sounds like they are doing some adaptation and messing it up.

Michelle said...

Anonymous...Thank you for your comment. I was told it was Focus on Math, but in may be Math in Focus as I could not find a Focus on Math either. I thought that those questions were hard for 1st grade. I think it is being messed up also.

Susan Midlarsky said...

Hmmm... yeah, that doesn't sound right. It's not a Singapore Math 1A type question. Anyway, the 1A series builds upon number bonds learned in kindergarten; if the children don't come in with number bond knowledge, they need a lot more prior work before they can do this. Sounds like a "cart before the horse" approach, setting up the students to fail. So sorry to hear this; let me know if I can help.

Anonymous said...

The Primary Math I used with my kid dis try to teach the "concepts" (as well as eventually having them learn the facts). For this type of problem they could draw pictures or number bonds (two circles with lines going to a third circle, two parts to make a whole) and fill it in with the information from the word problem and see that the problem gives two parts and you have to find the whole and so you have to add. But it did not ask them to write a subtraction equation. I remember there were some specific lessons on this in about half way through second grade where the kids were shown how to solve a problem like __ - 5 = 4 by thinking about parts and wholes. But they never had to write two different equations for the same word problem. Just know that they can solve a missing number problem like that by adding because it is missing the whole. Not all Singapore math seems to be the same. I guess kind of like not all US math is the same. Leave out the first two sentences with the blanks, let her maybe draw some pictures if she needs to, and your girl probably could answer the last one just fine without messing with related equations in first grade.