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A Conversation with Addie About How I Struggled with Math Just Like She Does Now

Ever since Addie’s last parent-teacher conference where the teacher talked about some of Addie’s weaknesses, we’ve focused on practicing math with Addie each day. When I say “we’ve” focused on practicing math each day, I really mean Casey has mostly done the daily practice.

I’m more than willing to practice math with Addie, but she hates practicing math with me and it’s just easier to let Casey take on that role for now. My wife has been pretty good about finding methods that make math a little more fun for Addie to learn.

Casey has downloaded apps on her phone and tablet that Addie can use. They teach kids about math via games. Although they aren’t Addie’s favorite, she does actually ask to be allowed to play her math games. Um, yes please.

Casey will also sit down with Addie and go through her homework with her each day, and they’ll work through one of Addie’s math workbooks that she got as a present from someone at some point last year.

When I practice math with Addie, I’ll usually just start asking random additional questions. I’ll ask those random addition questions for 10 to 20 minutes straight in the hopes that Addie will start to recognize a pattern. So far, I haven’t had much luck because Addie just gets frustrated with me and refuses to answer my questions.

The other day when we were driving home from work Addie told me that 87 + 87 equaled 142. We hadn’t been practicing math or anything, Addie had just decided to try to figure out what 87 + 87 equaled. My first thought was that’s a pretty ambitious addition problem to figure out without paper, followed by shoot, how do I tell her she’s wrong?

I walked Addie through the math problem, part by part, just as if I were trying to figure it out in my head. It would have gone something like this: 7 +7 equals 14; 8 + 8 equals 16; carry the 1 from earlier and add it to 16 and 16 + 1 equals 17; and then place the remaining 4 on the end of the 17 to get 174.  Addie wasn’t having any of my explanation. She immediately shut down and told me that she would learn her math from her teacher and nobody else.

That’s when I realized just how similar Addie is to me when it comes to math. When I was growing up, math didn’t click for me like it did for most people. Throughout elementary school I relied almost entirely on memorization. Teachers used to hand out various addition/subtraction/multiplication charts and I could memorize those charts after only a few glances. But at some point my memorization of math equations wasn’t good enough and I found myself floundering in algebra class.

My dad, a CPA who loves math, would sit down with me after school and try to help me with my algebra homework. To him it was super simple and he couldn’t understand why it wasn’t clicking for me. He would get a bit frustrated and I would get even more frustrated and refuse to let him teach me about algebra. My problem was that I needed to understand why things do what they do. It’s as if without the understanding of why my brain refuses to grasp mathematical equations. That became an even bigger problem when I entered trigonometry and nobody was willing or able to explain to me what cosign, sign, and tangent meant and why they did what they did.

However, all I really needed earlier on in life was the patience and willingness to listen to somebody who understood math, who maybe used a different method of calculating equations than what my teachers used. Eventually I developed my own little method for figuring out math; a method that probably would have been pretty useful in elementary school.

Addie’s the same way. She gets frustrated when someone tries to help her and then she completely shuts down.

I told Addie how I had struggled with math, even though her grandpa and all her aunts were really good at math and that there was nothing wrong with taking more time to learn this subject. I also told her that she needed to listen to other people who are trying to help her because eventually she’ll run across a way to think about math that will make sense to her.

The whole conversation seemed to go over pretty well and hopefully we’ll be able to find a way to help her grasp math in a more timely manner than I ever did.

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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My 20 Favorite Photos of Addie From 2012

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