ONE PIN AT A TIME
On the daily road of subjects- day after day, the learning work ticks on and on. We get into grooves – which is good. If we had to think about every small action done everyday we would be overwhelmed. Grooves, like many character traits and habits, have their benefits but can also have a flip side which can work against us. Our daily grooves can be either good repetition or poor practice.
One thing I noticed many years ago, was math, as it was repeated day after day, was an easy subject to slip from good patterns into sloppy practice. When this happens it becomes one, two, three strikes against arriving at a correct answer.
I came up with this acronym that I write at the top of my children’s list or math notebook. I begin using these principles right away with young learners, and refer to the acronym often as the student begins to move from my direct help in math to more independent work.
N stands for Neat.
E stands for Efficient.
A stands for Accurate.
L stands for Label.
D stands for Does This Make Sense.
T stands for Timer.
N = Do math neatly, written neatly, organized on the paper neatly.
E = Use your time efficiently, work quickly but well.
A = Accuracy. Do problems right the first time.
L = Label your answers: feet, hours, yards, centimetres… Ask, what is it that we are finding? 2 boys + 7 boys = _______ . “Nine”. “Nine what?” “Nine boys.” The math problem may or may not have us label as we move through the problem or as part of the answer, but I have the student say it. This seems insignificant. But I learned the value of this habit in a recent class I was taking. I was doing problems that required multiple steps. After confusing myself as to which item I was working with, I wrote on the top of my paper, “LABEL the PARTS!” After writing this on my page, I recalled telling the same thing to my children. Nothing like taking your own advice! Label! It is very important. The habit trained now will save frustration later.
D = I ask the student often when he finishes a problem if his answer is true or if it makes sense. For example, if he has the problem 2 boys + ____ boys= 9boys and arrives at an answer of 7boys, I don’t tell him that answer is right, I ask him if that is true. “So you are telling me that 2 boys and 7 more boys gives me 9 boys? “Yes.” “Is that true?” “Yes.” The goal is to train your student to read over the question again using their answer to see if it makes sense, asking if the statement being made with this answer true. Math at this stage, is all about absolutes and arriving at a truthful answer.
T = We do math in a set amount of time for elementary and early middle school and use a timer to keep track of time.