Coping With Math Anxiety Can Be About Perspective

Many children experience discomfort around math, we generally call this Math Anxiety, a fear that math is going to be uncomfortable and full of failure.

Here’s an interesting post via Elizabeth Stevens on Math Anxiety, I wished to share with you all.  Math performance is so important today.  Math is actually fun.  But, we have to approach it in an engaging way.  We can do this and we are doing it.  Thanks to colleagues like Elizabeth.

Let’s remember:

1. Math aptitude is not inborn, math skills can be learned.

2. Math is super creative, there are many different ways to get an answer.

3. Boys and girls can both be great at math, it depends on what we tell children about their experiences with math.

If you wish to delve deeper check out Thinking Mathematically: Integrating Arithmetic and Algebra in Elementary School by Thomas Carpenter, et al.

Breathe… and enjoy Dr. Marty

Fly with the eagles: An inspirational story #bullying

What causes a child to bully other children?  It seems natural to wonder about it.  Some speculate it is low self-esteem.  Other research tells us that many bullies have plenty of self-esteem.  I’ve heard people say that bullies bully because “they can”.  I don’t think that tells us a lot.  I’m thinking of one child I met back in 1999.  This situation may not apply to all bullies, but I think it is worth examining.

I became aware of Dean through my conversations with his teacher, Mrs. H.  I was working as a teacher in a local elementary school.  I ran a resource room for Emotionally Impaired (EI) students.  My resource room was located across the hall from her classroom.  Mrs. H. would stop me often, stating that a student in her first grade class was close to forcing her to give up teaching.  She described her frustration to me vividly.  “I can’t teach with this boy in my class,” she would say.  “That boy is going to drive me nuts.”  She stated that she spent much of her time correcting his behavior.

Bully 10

Dean would often interrupt her lessons with questions.  He often moved about the room without permission.  He talked with peers incessantly.  He would, according to Mrs. H., push other students when standing in line.  Recess and lunch time were occasions to “goof off” and behave aggressively.  Other students were avoiding Dean and joining in Mrs. H.’s disapproval for him and his behavior.  I half expected to see a monster.

I met Dean in the hall one day.  Mrs. H. pointed him out to me as Dean was filing in from his bus ride.  He was bundled in a green hooded winter coat.  He was smaller than I expected.  I stopped him and introduced myself.  “Guess what?”  he beamed.  “My guinea pigs had babies.”  He seemed very warm and enthusiastic, unlike the child that she described.  I agreed to have him come to my room when he failed to follow the classroom expectations.  I eventually ended up spending most of my days with him.

Mrs. H. reported that Dean was doing fine academically but I had my suspicions.  While he was fairly good at “sight” words, he labored over blending the sounds in unfamiliar words.  That is another story.  I knew that Dean did not like being seated during instruction.  When I worked with him, I tried my best to let him move around.  We incorporated movement as part of our lessons.  He seemed to enjoy learning this way.  I quickly became fond of Dean and his enthusiasm.  His interruptions seemed too passionate and full of curiosity for me to take offense.  I think he became aware that I enjoyed his company.  He quickly made progress.

While Dean’s reading skills continued to improve, his behavior at lunchtime, recess, and bus rides home were still a problem.  I was baffled.  He would step on loose shoe laces or jostle other students.  I got some insight into this while walking through the hallways with Dean.  His fellow students would often look to me and tell me that Dean was “bad” or that Dean had misbehaved that morning.  Dean would become indignant, saying, “nuh-uh” in protest.  I simply responded that “I see Dean doing very well right now.”

Dean was spending more and more time with me.  He would have several successful hours in class only to misbehave in a serious and potentially harmful way to other students.  For instance, he would push a child down the slide at recess if he wanted to use the slide himself.  As an only child, I suspected that Dean did not have practice sharing with others.  He certainly showed no empathy in these situations.  Despite many serious discussions, Dean would often miss the mark with his behavior.  At an IEPC meeting  the team decided that Dean would spend his entire day in my resource room.  I felt very disappointed that he would not be with his peers.

One day, after carefully preparing–so I thought–Dean for recess, he returned to my room with a note stating that he pushed a boy in a mud puddle.  In my confusion and disappointment I asked “why?”  and “when will it stop?”  I gave Dean a box of crayons and several pieces of unlined white paper.  I asked him to draw a picture of himself feeling what he felt at the moment, his house, and his family.  What he drew that day opened a door for us. He drew a picture of himself in the center of the paper.  There was no ground beneath him.  He drew no arms.  I wrote his words in the margins next to the picture.  He said he felt “bad” and “sad.”  He, without my guidance, offered another picture of himself.  He was all black with red eyes.  Armored spikes covered his body.  He looked like a warrior.  He had a weapon at his side.  “What is he like?” I asked.  “Scary.”  “How do the other children feel about him?”  “They think he is cool,” Dean responded.

Dean drew two pictures of his family.  He included his only parent, his mother.  On his shoulder sat his guinea pigs.  They were all smiling.  He also drew a picture of his couch, living room, and fish tank.  “We love the fish tank” he said.  His last picture was a chaotic and violent scene.  He scribbled in black around a figure of his mother being thrown into a wall.  An ominous figure, named Terry, was beating Dean’s mother.  Terry had red eyes.  Dean drew two pictures of himself in that scene.  One showed him laying in bed.  The other had him pointing a gun at Terry.  He was holding a “Hungry Hippos” gun, pointing it at Terry.  On the ground was debris.  “These are the eagles Terry broke.”  “They hurt my feet when I stepped on them.”

I confirmed that this event, in fact, happened three years earlier.  Dean’s mother tearfully admitted that she had no idea that this had been bothering the child.  Terry no longer lived in the home.  Dean denied that Terry hit others, i.e., Dean, but I received information that suggested otherwise.  Regardless, violence had helped Dean understand his world differently than others.  I consulted the school psychologist, principal, and the entire special education staff.  We held a meeting and Dean immediately engaged in counseling.

I told the staff all of what I knew.  The violence, however, was only one important aspect of Dean’s experience.  The entire milieu  helped to shape his understanding of the world and his place in it.  Dean did not know his father.  His mother worked a full-time job.  Dean had uncles who encourage him to fight when injustice comes his way.  Dean’s teacher was stressed.  Few adults had taken time to build a personal relationship with him at school.  They did not know that Dean wanted to be a veterinarian so he could help repair all the broken eagles in the world.  They had too often seen his behavior and not his heart.

I eventually left that school.  Before I left, I tested Dean’s reading.  He had advanced.  At the time, he was spending most of his day with his peers in his own classroom.  The staff had decided to forego the Emotionally Impaired label.  Mrs. H. insisted that he stay in her classroom.

At the school’s entrance is a trophy case with pictures of all the staff members.  I, having joined the staff later in the year, did not have my picture in the case.  Dean would often notice the oversight and point it out to me.  I would point to a poster of our national symbol and joke, “That’s me, Dean.”  Delighted, he would say, “You’re not an eagle!”  On my last day with the children, they threw me a party.  Dean presented me with a book with messages from all the children.  On the cover, Dean drew a bird flying over trees and toward a yellow and orange sunset.  In his own hand is the message, “Fly with the eagles.”

5 Year Old Discovering Equivalent Fractions

This is the Doo Dah playing math.  Fractions. This is where kids often learn to hate math.  Guess what?  We can change it.  I’ll describe what is happening in this short video.  The Doo Dah is a) seeing what a fraction is b) playing w/ the proper toys/tools to help her discover its meaning c) going from concrete (seeing/touching, etc.) to abstraction (writing symbols, abandoning the manipulatives and doing the math in her head).  I hope you enjoy the short video.  I mainly want you to see how much fun we have doing math.  Math is a puzzle.  Math is a game. But, it is very hard to learn anything if you are not curious/interested in what you are doing.  So, let’s make it a game and play!

Anxiety is first the anticipation of an upcoming event. From that, there is an irrational fear that the outcome will be terrible, horrible, awful, etc.  Math Anxiety is the irrational fear that math is “too hard” and that “I’m going to fail” and “I’ll never get it b/c I’m not smart enough”,  etc.  Nonsense.  Just watch the Doo Dah.  Have fun and Game On.  Also, if you like the blog, please subscribe.  I blog on parenting and education issues mostly.  Thanks, Dr. Marty

5 Year Old Doo Dah Likes #Algebra

The Doo Dah and I “play math” before she goes to Kindergarten.  We keep it fun, but do some pretty abstract things.  You can really see her thinking as she factors a polynomial.

Algebra w/ Doo Dah (she’s five) #math

People have asked to hear what the Doo Dah is saying, so I ducked the music down.  I know that this may disappoint all of those Herb Alpert fans out there.  Anyway, the purpose of the video is to show that even Algebra (especially Algebra) seems no different from most other games and puzzles.  Just pay attention to Doo Dah’s thinking and her emotion.

I started focusing on Math with two of my children.  Now all of them are asking to play math, including my 12-year-old.  The summer can be a great time to get way ahead in math before September.  We are going to make this one of the fun things we do this summer.  Pretty cool.

 

What music does for the brain: An early Frank Allison recording

Local music fans understand, music enhances brain development.  We are learning more about it all the time as science has taken a keen interest.  Here’s Ghost of some fine girls, with the original line up including Frank, Michael Feeney on bass, Randy Sabo on Drums, and Martin Fletcher on guitar.  I loved this track. We recorded it in Frank’s Dad’s woodworking shop.  I think I was 17 or 18 years old.  Dig the stop and go bass and backwards guitar and heavy tom-tom use.  Very groovy.  Great song by Frank.  Real moody on an 8 Track reel to reel.  Thanks Mikey for sending this to me.

09 Ghost of some Fine Girl 1

The more we learn about music and brain development/rehabilitation, the more I am encouraging parents to get their kids playing music.  Check out Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia to begin understanding the mysteries of music LINK

Let me know if you have music tracks or books that inspire you and I’ll be pleased to share with colleagues, family and friends.

Griffin Makes a Documentary

Griffin skipped school a few months ago.   We don’t do it often and we had a good reason.  Twelve year old Griffin made this movie almost entirely himself.  He filmed all of it, chose the clips to include, and basically did 98% of the work.  I’ll leave it to you to conjecture what and how much he learned.  Best of all we spent the day together.  We even had  some good Mexican food while we were at it.  You don’t get to see all the valuable dialogue we had doing this project.  If you like it, pass it along or leave him some comments.

Do Not Fight Your Nature

“Accept everything about yourself — I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end — no apologies, no regrets.” –Clark Moustakas

First of all, I owe my teachers nearly everything good about what I know.   Mr. Smith, for example, is a teacher who touched my life in 3rd grade and I will never forget him.   I’m using it to illustrate a point.  I was in 6th grade when this happened.  Mr. H was my  English teacher and this is one of the few things I remember about him.  I got a paper back and I had misspelled a word and got marked down for it.  I sincerely asked, “Why does the spelling matter?”  His response was an indignant, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”

I guess I remember it because it reminds me that some of the simple, “stupid” questions are actually pretty good questions.  There is a good answer to that question.  Not so long ago people had no agreed upon spelling.  It is a good story.  Look it up and find out how we got our first Dictionary.   If a question is sincere it is probably a good question.  Stay curious.  Your questions are good.  Be on a good path.  Accept everything about yourself.  Then you can take the next important step.  You will be able to accept others as they are.

 

Learning What You Have No Interest In

How about you and I start studying geology today?  Let’s spend from 1 to 3 hours a few days per week on it.  Sounds fun, eh?  If you happen to love geology, replace it with something you have absolutely no interest in learning.

Now, let’s turn it around.  Let’s say you finally get to take that dream vacation to Russia.  You have 6 months to learn as much of the language as you can.  Let’s go further, let’s say you even love the sound of spoken Russian.  You imagine having conversations with the people you will meet. It would be a lot easier to learn, no doubt.

I don’t think that this is a bland statement.  Ask a child to describe school using one word.  I do this often and hear the same word: boring!  When I hear something different, it usually involves having a teacher that “makes it fun.”  I do hear that, but not nearly enough.

If I have learned one thing in my professional career it is this:  Most people can learn what they need to know when they need to know it with no penalty.  This especially holds true if the learner really wants to know about something.  Then, it seems impossible to stop them.   So, why not let the kids lead a bit more?

Miles Cobbett Author Of The Book “Champion” Interviewed

Discovering a great book is a beautiful thing.  But finding really good books takes some work.  If you read the reviews on BN.com, you will see that I’m not the only one crazy about the book “Champion”. If we want to turn kids on to reading, then we need to make good literature available to them.  Sometimes we don’t know what our kids like.  Younger children may simply enjoy the “lap time”.  Kids love spending one on one time with parents.  I can read a crummy book to my kids and they would still call it a good time.  That is more about them wanting to spend time with me.  Our time together is the payoff, not the book.

I lucked out in finding Miles Cobbett’s work.  I can give you a guarantee on “Champion”.  I know it is great because it passes my “this is awesome” test.  That test measures books, movies, music, and other creative products.  The challenge is this: would I listen, read, or view this if I were home alone?  If the answer is yes, then the work is special.  Consider Pixar or Warner Bros. cartoons, Charlotte’s Web, the music of Dan Zanes, etc.  Plenty of adults would read, view, and listen to those even without the children.  That puts the work into a different league.  The great ones work on multiple levels.
I can’t say that this is kid literature just as I can’t say that Harry Potter is for kids only.  Cobbett’s intent was to “hook kids, especially reluctant readers, into reading more.”  My intent is to tell you about a great book that you and your children will really get into.  I was lucky enough to get an interview with Miles Cobbett, so let’s get to it.

DrMarty:  You mention that you were inspired by ideas taken from David Mamet’s book True and False.  Can you say more about that?
Cobbett.: If you read Mamet’s great book I believe you will notice how he freely offers many suggestions for Actors. I simply replaced the word “Actor” and inserted the word “Writer” and then followed many of his recommendations.

DrMarty:  You do a great job of “completing the picture”.  You are able to go from the inner world of Roman to the setting.  For example, p. 14 you have a vivid  description of the walk on the shore of the Salton Sea.  That was very real.  Can you talk about that a bit?  It was almost as if you were describing a photograph.

Cobbett.:  I try to use the tools of my trade to the best of my ability. My tools consist of simply the 26 letters of the alphabet, a pen and paper. I use them  to “Draw” for the reader a picture of what I see and remember in my mind, much I suppose like the French Impressionist painters did to “Paint”  pictures for viewers of the settings the painters saw and remembered.

DrMarty: How conscious are you of using technique?  For example, Roman’s throbbing injured hand.  Every boxer has physical pain.  It comes with the job.  It also serves as a metaphor for the pain and obstacles we have to overcome to accomplish hard things and the price we pay.  Was that conscious?

Cobbett.: My system or technique for writing is that once I have the idea for my main character, especially their name  -and can see them clearly in my mind-  I simply trot along behind them and see everything in my mind’s-eye as I take note of each of the people/characters they would meet, and describe the events that happen to them. I suppose that for me writing is much like showing others a movie that has played my mind.
As to your question of metaphors, and to my being conscious of them, is anyone conscious when they get immersed in watching a movie? Or are movie watcher’s conscious of anything else when they are so “into the journey of the characters and the story” that they forget where they are and what they are doing?

DrMarty:   You use fiction to deliver real information.  There are a lot of facts, such as historical facts and facts about the geography in the book.

Cobbett.: I have my memory as my main tool for drawing information from. When you get right down to it, that’s all an author has. and without a memory they are in-effect mentally bankrupt as an author.

DrMarty:   I like that you take on the issue of loss and grieving losses.  Roman feels the pain of loss, but uses it to make meaning and find purpose.

Cobbett.: Thank you.

DrMarty:  Writing dialog is hard for new writers.  The dialog in Champion flows like real conversation.

Cobbett:  I heard the comedian Steve Martin say something to the effect that, he has been practicing on a banjo for nearly 40 years and how anyone who practices something for a long, long time can expect to get better at it.
I turned 56 this year, but I declared to myself at age 23, that I was a writer. When I was 26 or so, I met a very well-read 68 year-old man (he had just retired from his service of 23 years in the merchant marines), in Biloxi Mississippi who read some of my work, and then said to me that, ‘no writer of any merit had any juice to share til they turned 50.’ He suggested that I keep honing my skills as a writer, and work at what ever I could find employment at, and to release my stuff after I turned 50.
Perhaps the ease you find at reading the dialog in Champion comes from years of practicing my craft, and the real-life experiences of working in all kinds of trades.
DrMarty:   When Serby and Roman are hill climbing, Serby says, “I’ve always thought going downhill was tougher than going up.”  That line stuck with me.  The story uses metaphor the mountain as people and the mountain as trials.  I get the idea that you have spent some time outdoors.
Cobbett.: Growing-up I was outdoors all the time. My family and I lived in Southern California and so every weekend we were either at the beach, desert or up in the mountains. After my father died when I was a freshman in college, I dropped out of school and traveled across the country looking for ways to earn money. In 1980 I was working and living in Hawaii, I got the chance to talk to a couple of tourists from Alaska, who told me about how Alaska offered young people lots of work opportunities…   I made the journey to Alaska in 1982 in search of character and story ideas, and to find enough work to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly while I honed my craft as a writer.

DrMarty:   You really get into the psychology behind the behavior of the characters.  You tell us how the characters think in order to accomplish something.  We often think of fiction as simply entertainment.  Can you say something about that?

Cobbett: Yes.
I believe that when a reader reads a work of fiction -particularly one that really grabs them- the experience of reading it, and of taking that magical journey, becomes a part of them, and changes them forever. My background happens to include a couple of college degrees in psychology and sociology.  As a middle and elementary school teacher I used every tool I had to “sell” the students on the idea that reading, writing, and math were good for them. As an author I use everything I can to help the readers of my stories take a fun and magical life-changing journey as well.

DrMarty:   The fight scenes were very realistic.  I think people are used to the “Rocky” fight scenes, which are impossible.  Are you a fight fan?  Did you study a lot of film while you were writing?

Cobbett: I was born in Pomona Ca and grew-up in Azusa and Redlands. I am related to a professional boxing trainer, and my older brothers and I grew up watching all the big fights and sometime even participating in a few fights of our own. As far as studying film, I don’t remember watching any films of fights “while” I was writing Champion, but I still remember watching every world championship fight as a kid growing up, as well as the championship fights I have watched as an adult.

DrMarty:   I’ll be honest with you. I couldn’t put the book down.  How do we promote good literature for young people?

Cobbett:  Happy to hear that you couldn’t put the book down. I hear similar responses from every reader who gets a chance to read the book Champion…
To promote good literature maybe the challenge is that we just need to get good literature into the hands of our young people.
DrMarty:   I do a lot of reading on the Internet.  I notice that I just feel different when I read on-line.  For one thing, it isn’t as much work.  Also, reading literature is a deep, almost contemplative state of mind.  Can you say something about that?
Cobbett:  I agree with you about reading on the Internet is not quite the same. Since E-book viewers can change the font size— it changes the appearance of each and every page, and rearranges what the last word is on every page.
I have resisted any attempts to E-publish Champion mainly due to the fact that as the author of a physical book, I was in-charge of, and responsible for, what every page would look like. I was the one to choose each and every last word to leave the reader hanging-on, so to speak, as they hurriedly turned the page to see, “what would happen next?”

DrMarty:  Finally, I have to ask this.  Was the broken hand inspired by the Arturro Gatti v. Micky Ward fight, where Gatti overcame a broken hand to win the fight?  Everybody respected Gatti after that fight.  I think that represented something that people really identified with.

Cobbett:  Darn, sorry to say the Gatti-Ward  fight is one that I somehow missed watching, or hearing, or even reading about. Now, had you had asked me if Roman’s injured hand was inspired partly by an injured hand on the old man in Ernest Hemingway’s book, Old Man and the Sea, I would have answered you differently.
You can purchase copies of Champion by Miles Cobbett at www.BN.com or http://bit.ly/boqNbrMoms Inspire Learning is my most trusted site for book reviews: http://www.momsinspirelearning.com/ Dawn Morris, M.A. puts a lot of thought and a lot of heart into reading and reviewing great literature for children.  What if we promoted great books with the same enthusiasm and effort that toys, junk food, and Justin Beiber are promoted?  What if?