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Novel Approach to Math Creates Confident, Independent Learners

October 27, 2019by The Gals

Natalia’s Math Struggles

Natalia hated math, and the more her mom pushed her and tried to help her with her lessons, the less empowered she became until one day she “hit the wall,” alarming her mother with the abject defeat she was exhibiting.

This defeat colored her entire world. Her confidence was shot not only in math but in everything else. Natalia had no try left. She was absolutely convinced she couldn’t do it. She was convinced she couldn’t do anything, that she was just plain dumb.

Math had been a struggle for Heather Linchenko already with Natalia’s three older siblings. It was the push, the grind, the fighting, consequences, ultimatums and the oft-quoted mantra, “You’ve just got to learn to do hard things” or, “Math is hard. Nobody likes math, but you’ve GOT to do it.”

The Old Approach To Teach Math Completely Fails

The same tired approach just simply didn’t work for Natalia. Heather confided in me one day that she feared Natalia was just…slow. She just couldn’t get it.

What Heather had done for the other kids just wasn’t working. Math had been the dreaded subject for them all, but she had at least been able to push her older children through it with some degree of success.

But she was getting nowhere with Natalia. Worse, it was fracturing their relationship. Yes, they still loved each other, but they didn’t like each other very much. They no longer enjoyed being together. Their relationship was strained.

It didn’t feel fair, because all she was trying to do was help her daughter and the consequences were ugly.

A quote Heather had heard many years earlier finally hit her consciousness with new force: “Learner inability is usually nothing more than teacher inflexibility.” Motivated to heal the damage she had unwittingly done to her daughter (in spite of plenty of love and very good intentions), she said to Natalia, “No more math until I figure this out!”

 

The Student Becomes the Teacher

With a sincere desire to fix the damage, Heather began seeing Natalia as a valuable resource as she asked question after question: “Why do you hate math so? What is hard for you? Why? Natalia became the teacher, the adviser on this journey.

Heather discovered in the process that the times tables Natalia had memorized hadn’t “stuck.” Because they were needed everywhere in her math lessons, everything felt so hard, so laborious, so overwhelming.

So, Heather figured she better start there to help her daughter.

A Better and Faster Solution Emerges

Memorization obviously hadn’t worked. Besides, It was boring and tedious so she knew she had to find a better way. With a mind open to thinking outside the box, ideas started coming to Heather. She started questioning, “What would I like? What would be fun and interesting for me? What would be hard for me?”

A system began taking shape that was based on associations, not memorization.

With the new approach Natalia felt like a winner from the start. Her confidence exploded.

To Heather’s delight, her daughter’s math facts were mastered in a fraction of the time it had taken to “learn” them before.

But this time, her math facts were solid. She owned them.

 

Mom Gets Her Time Back

With her math facts solid this time, Natalia sat down to resume her Saxon Math lessons.

Heather had assumed she would have to stay one step ahead of Natalia as she progressed through her math lessons. But to her surprise, all restraining forces were gone. Natalia took off on her own with newfound confidence. She knew she could do it, and do it she did!

Math became Natalia’s favorite subject even in high school (with no more help from Mom). What a transformation!

 

Trying the Process in a Private School

A few years later Heather served as a teacher’s aide in a private school. She saw that familiar dejected look, slumped shoulders, eyes down; the kids were whining and moaning just like her kids used to when it was time for math. Though the kids were only ages 6 to 8, she couldn’t stop herself from suggesting her new approach to the teacher. It had worked so well for Natalia and then her little brother. Why not for these kids?

She felt it was easy enough for the six year old kids should be able to do it. At least it was certainly worth a try.

So, this good teacher agreed, and asked Heather to try the program with any children that wanted to do it. Before long, every last child in the class joined in–even the defiant, the shy, the unconfident, the goof off.

Kids lined up, and soon Math became their favorite subject.

Startlingly, every last child engaged, and every last child — 100 percent — absolutely nailed their multiplication facts.

Parents saw a change in their kids’ confidence levels, even beyond math. Heather found herself surrounded by parents at school, wanting to know what she was doing. Their kids were even bringing their speed deck on vacation, and studying on their own after they were supposed to be asleep.

Quite unusual for an entire class to be so enthusiastic about anything to do with math!

 

The Power of Flexible Brain Training

It was in this class that Heather learned that a key outcome of the process (in the absence of rote memorization) was the development of a flexible brain, such that the kids immediately “got” their division facts. In one or two “light-bulb” moments, they realized they already knew them. Division was no new mountain to climb.

It was exciting to learn, also, that the six year old kids learned their math facts as quickly as the older ones. The visiting eighth grade reading helpers, on seeing these little tykes whip off their times tables facts would say, “How old ARE you? I can’t even do that!

Addition and subtraction were a non event for the first graders after that. Manipulatives were not needed. The kids could figure it in their newly trained brains, and they felt brilliant!

They had discovered they were brilliant through the process.

And just like with Natalia, math lessons were no longer a chore for these lucky kids.

 

Multiplication Facts Mastery Makes All Math Easier

Multiplication is everywhere in math, so learning, or rather nailing multiplication math facts without rote memorization (in a way that develops a flexible brain) powerfully paves the way to success.