Tag Archives: parenting

The Psychologist’s Role in Teaching Mathematics

Historically, psychologists have studied math but have been noticeably absent when it comes to doing direct mathematics work with children.   Notable exceptions include Diennes, Bruner, and Vygotsky, but to this day Psychologists tend to assess and make recommendations for treatment.  This surprises me, given the cognitive processing involved and the anxiety that so often appears in achieving and struggling math students.  I have designed and delivered treatment programs for struggling mathematics students for nearly 15 years, and I believe that other Psychologists could really contribute.  Psychologists have a unique and relevant skill set that would add value to a treatment team.  I have used mathematics as a vehicle in promoting a variety of therapeutic outcomes.    The hours I spent working on math may be my most favored memories of my practice.   To learn math for many of these youngsters is to conquer fear.  I offer a few thoughts on the role of psychologists in teaching math.

Psychologists can:

1) Discover the structure of the child’s thought through constructing mathematical models and problems.  Given space, children can do more than simply apply the sometimes confusing rules that might work on tests only to later fail to appear when encountering real world problems.  Psychologists aim to enhance thinking performance which leads to confidence and resiliency.

2) Psychologists might help make sure that math enjoyment survives past 2nd grade.

3) Psychologists get training in helping children use the imagination.  These techniques are well suited to mentally manipulate mathematical relationships, calculation problems and decoding symbols as mental objects.  Psychologists teach visualization, for instance, which goes far in enhancing performance by using visuospatial skills.

4) Help children understanding  concepts,  meanings, and numbers. Math is a language developed for measuring and describing the natural world.  Symbols appear, in part, to prove  underlying ideas, relationships, and concepts.  Physical objects are the reality, the symbols allow us to manipulate it.  (There are exceptions in higher math, of course).

5) Help children use discovery to make math meaningful. Rote Memorization=boredom.  When we play and build math problems, the inherent creative strategies transfer to real life problem solving.

6) Psychologists can make math fun. What if Math were fun? What if Math became an aesthetic experience?  I often repeat “fun is solving a problem mentally” which is how   Raph Koster defines it in his book A Theory of Fun).

7) We feel better by doing better.  The Psychologist might help  through a combination of play, motivational psychology, mindfulness, assessment, talk, and other interactive skills.  The psychologist trades in  building resiliency and helping patients solve problems.

Chime in and let me know what you think.  Have I made a case for it?

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Filed under Bullying, Dr. Marty, education, educational gaming, Game On Learning, Game On Math, learning, literacy, Math, mathematics, parenting, Primal Math, Psychology

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

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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.”

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Filed under academic coaching, Anxiety, Brain development, Bullying, Depression, Dr. Marty, literacy, parenting, Psychologist, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Reading

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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