Tears and triumph over the long division
Third grade – we all remember it – some memories are good, some not so, but one thing many of us remember is math. Already a huge transitional year, it is also a school year in which many new concepts are introduced, and no subject introduces more new concepts than mathematics.
As a third grade teacher for 10 years, I have seen students react in unique and interesting ways to this topic and its concepts. Yet no concept has aroused more doubt, fear and anguish in students, and sometimes parents, than division. In a year already filled with many new experiences, this concept, with its many steps and possibilities for mistakes, has often made students want to give up before they even started.
One year there was a young girl in my class who was very bright but who often doubted herself. The day I first introduced the division into the classroom, you could see the anxiety on the students’ faces, but for a little girl, tears started to flow. She looked at me with a broken heart and just said, “I can’t do this.” So after I started the class, I called her to my office and we went through the issues step by step. At the end of each problem, she would give me the same answer: “I just don’t understand. I don’t think I can do that.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I wondered when she would believe in herself enough to do it. Every day we took out our math books, and as soon as she saw the division on the page, tears started to flow. I called her to my office and calmly explained the problem to her, helping her see that she could do it. Most of the time, my help involved nothing more than just saying, “What do we do next?” What do we do next? ”Each time, she was able to answer my question and solve the problem.
Finally, one day, I looked at her after I had three problems, and I said, “Tell me what I said when I helped you? She thought back to our interaction, suddenly the light bulb came on above her head. She looked at me and said, “All you said was ‘What do you do next?’ I said, “Exactly. You’ve done all the work. You know how to do it, but you just aren’t sure about yourself. So here’s what I want you to do. First of all, look at this problem. I want you to go back to your seats, and whenever you get nervous, hear my voice say, “What do you do next?” “
Still a little hesitant, she looked at me, I smiled and said, “I know you can do this. She returned to her seat and carefully figured out the problem. As soon as she was done, she jumped out of her seat screaming, “I did it. I did. “When she brought me her paper, she certainly had. Since that day, there have been no tears.
Honestly, parents, sometimes we ourselves are in the same place. There were times my daughter brought me math homework to get my help, and I didn’t even know where to start (and I have a master’s degree). It’s not easy as a parent sometimes to admit that you don’t know what to do, but there were days when I had to.
Over the years there have been a lot of stories like this. At the start of my teaching career, I was frustrated, until I started to wonder, “Why is the student reacting this way?” I realized that sometimes it was just overwhelming for them, they didn’t trust themselves, and didn’t realize that from the start they could do it. As parents, we can forget how intimidating the learning experience can be for our children.
Think about how you felt in a new job. Were there days that seemed too long? Days when you felt like all you did was make mistakes? Imagine every day you go to work, get your report corrected and show you the mistakes you made, then have to come back and start over and over again.
Make no mistake, this is necessary, and I am not saying that students’ mistakes or our own should not be corrected. But every time you learn new information, there is going to be a lot of mistakes, there is going to be a lot of uncertainty, and it will be overwhelming. As adults, we just find better ways to hide it.
What our children think about success, failure and learning depends greatly on us as parents and teachers. We must never forget that what we do and how we react will set the tone. When working with children, keep these points in mind:
- Be patient and try to remember what it was like when you struggled in new situations.
- Tell them about your own challenges and fears.
- Hold his hand and stabilize him until he feels able to do it on his own.
- Let them know that mistakes are okay and sometimes necessary in the process.
- No matter how long it takes, never let them give up and never give up on them.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know how to do something. When I did, I was surprised at how much it helped them learn.
We set the tone. Our attitude and reactions to our children and students often tell them what is most important to us. When we give them the space to mess it up, we show them that everything is fine and that we are here to help them take the next step in their learning. This freedom is the greatest gift we can give them to help them overcome their fear and uncertainty. This will allow them to believe in themselves, to be successful by keeping trying and never giving up.
Charles Mickles is an educational advisor with over 25 years of teaching experience. As a speaker and author he has published 3 books and written extensively on The Mighty, Yahoo Lifestyles and MSN. You can follow its story and find out more at www.MinesParkinsons.com