kitchen table math, the sequel: preteaching wonders of the world

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

preteaching wonders of the world

from Ms. K:

A quick update on Chris – he has been doing well in class. He has begun asking questions in class as well as looks for clarification or a re-explanation. I’ve gone over his homeworks and made corrections. It’s great to see the improvement he’s been making.

This is almost bizarre.

Yes, of course, preteaching is an old and honored technique.....but who would have thought???

Not me.

Rory says...

I am not surprised about pre-teaching working better for you.

I imagine that your brief tutoring gives him enough insight into the subject that when it is presented in class, he can keep up with it.

Before, I imagine that he couldn't quite keep up with the pace of presentation, got frustrated and tuned out. Then when you tried to catch him up, he was mentally discouraged.

Now, you can initially present the concept at a pace that suits him. Now when he sees the teacher present the material, he is saying to himself... "I got this!"

Obviously, Rory is right.

The class presentation is probably just moving too fast for C.; it may be that simple.

And the tuning out part -- is that a boy thing ??

Speaking as a person who has never been a boy, I think it may be. I've talked to at least 2 or 3 moms whose daughters are getting through the Phase 4 class by dint of staying up 'til midnight sweating over the homework. One mom told me her daughter tends to be anxious and is "perfectionistic." She doesn't quit.

That's not what we see around here. Nor have I heard tell of it in my many conversations with moms of boys.

If C. can't do the homework, he closes the book and we don't hear about it. That's why I have to stay on top of things; I have to watch. Every time I forget I have to watch, I end up sorry.


Maybe, when C. goes to class having worked through the material once, he's already faster.

Or, if not faster, just able to keep up. As Rory says. He's got the jist.

This whole experience is.... I'm afraid I'm going to have to resort to the word "bizarre" again.

The school must see a completely different student from the one we see. Some of you will recall the finds subject matter difficult comment from the Comment Bank that appeared on C's final report card last year re: math.

I'm sure the school considers us the ultimate exemplars of pushy parents who refuse to look reality in the face. (Your child. Not the little genius you thought he was, eh? IMS motto)

But the fact is, C. doesn't find subject matter difficult.

When I'm teaching him math -- and I'm not skilled at teaching math yet, though I hope to become so -- he finds subject matter easy.

When he's teaching himself math, which he's done, he finds subject matter easy.

He's not mathematically gifted; he's not going to be a mathematician when he grows up.

But that has no bearing on whether or not a bright 12 year old can learn beginning algebra.

A bright 12 year old can easily learn beginning algebra.

At some point C is going to "hit the wall," as Carolyn used to say ----- but that point is not beginning algebra.

Nor is it pre-algebra.

I'm having a distinctly unpleasant Big Picture moment.

Our entire country is filled with teachers, administrators, parents, and students who have no clue what material is or is not "hard" -- or, rather, what material is hard no matter how well it's taught.


regular ed = special ed

In special ed, you spend most of your life telling people your kid can do more than they think.

Learn more, do more, be more, etc.

That's your job.

Same thing in regular ed.

You tell me my kid finds subject matter difficult.

I tell you he can do it.

Same difference.


I don't know why people keep betting against parents.

Usually, when I've thought my kid could do something everyone else thought he couldn't, I've been right.

Parents aren't crazy -- at least, not the way educators think we're crazy.

We aren't crazy and we aren't deluded -- how can we be? We live with these kids.

When you live with a 12 year old boy you don't spend a lot of time thinking he's a genius.

In fact, you don't spend any time thinking he's a genius.


The dominant emotions run to anxiety, horror, and chronic low-grade stress (just got word today: thyroid gland kaput!) --- it's not that easy to see how the 12 year old middle schooler becomes the 18 year old college student.

If the mother of a 12-year old boy thinks he can learn algebra in 8th grade and the 25 year old teacher thinks he finds subject matter difficult..... go with the mom.

update: from Rudbeckia

I can assure you that "tuning out" is an equal-opportunity behavior.

preteaching, not reteaching
success, part 2
more preteaching results in the offing
preteaching saves the world
preteaching wonders of the world


Rudbeckia Hirta said...

I can assure you that "tuning out" is an equal-opportunity behavior.

Catherine Johnson said...


Catherine Johnson said...

Well, speaking as the victim of numerous attention lapses in my life, I can tell you that I've always felt VERY, VERY BAD about attention lapses.

Catherine Johnson said...

The boys I know appear to be guilt-free individuals where BAGGING THE WHOLE DAMN THING is concerned.

Catherine Johnson said...

I admire that in a boy!

Catherine Johnson said...

Or in a girl!

Catherine Johnson said...



Barry Garelick said...

Well, speaking as the victim of numerous attention lapses in my life, I can tell you that I've always felt VERY, VERY BAD about attention lapses.

Were you talking to me? Sorry, I didn't hear the question.

Catherine Johnson said...

Were you talking to me? Sorry, I didn't hear the question.


You laugh, but that once happened to me ON THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW.

I was a GUEST.

I completely zoned out while she was looking me in the eye asking a question about people sleeping with their friends' ex-boyfriends.

KathyIggy said...

My boss and I were talking about all the secrecy in our district. Her kids are in high school and do very well. But at the end of middle school, the guidance counselor noticed boss' daughter was not being recommended for Honors Science despite the fact she had an A+ in 8th grade science. When the counselor asked the teacher whether this was a mistake, teacher said she was not recommending her because "she did work hard enough in my class." The counselor recommended my boss request her kids be put in honors classes anyway. A similar thing happened with boss' son because of typical boy not doing homework issues, despite he had a 99% on his standardized tests. Boss pushed for kids to be put in honors and they are doing fine. Of course, I think that middle school counselor who told boss that parents can request classes despite the lack of teacher recommends is retiring.

Catherine Johnson said...

"Everything is shrouded in mystery."

TurbineGuy said...

My boy / girl issues.

My girls - all three of my school age girls have a perfectionist streak that manifests itself in tempertantrums. They want to be perfect so badly, that if you correct them, they get really really mad and frustrated.

My son - his problem is he rushes through his work. He just wants to get the work done and doesn't really worry about whether its right or wrong.

I think boys have the ability to silently tune out. My son can be looking at you, nodding his head, but couldn't repeat one single word you said. Girls on the other hand will just let you know they aren't interested.

Catherine Johnson said...

Rory - this is EXACTLY what I see (I don't have girls, but I sure recognize the behavior).

I think for moms the "silent tuning out" is ALWAYS befuddling.

Christopher is such a conscientious kid that I start having "girl expectations" -- I start treating him as if he's a 12 year old version of me and my kind.

He's NOT.

Every single time I've let math "drop," we've had catastrophe.

The class isn't working for him, probably for the exact reason you've cited: it's probably too fast.

His reaction is to tune out.

My reaction would be to "freak out" -- be upset, work 'til midnight, be mad, etc.

It's pretty amazing, watching the way a middle school boy WILL JUST CHECK OUT.

And naturally our school sees this behavior as a sign of a moral defect AND of immaturity.

Is it immaturity, btw??

It certainly could be; Ed says when he was in 6th grade the teachers were constantly telling his mom he wasn't "working up to capacity" etc.

I don't know.

"Checking out" seems like a bit of a guy specialty.

It's also a source of strength.

I absolutely see Ed having an ability to compartmentalize that I don't -- and that I wish I did.

PaulaV said...

"My son can be looking at you, nodding his head, but couldn't repeat one single word you said."

That is so true of my boys! This absolutely drives my son's young kindergarten teacher crazy.
She has absolutely no tolerance for tuning out. I think she is convinced their is something wrong with him.

I think you are onto something Catherine about the the school seeing this behavior as a "sign of a moral defect AND of immaturity."

Immaturity at our school will get you put in the class with all the kids with behavioral problems. You can forget about how bright you are. You had better show it and you had better be mature about it.

My school is grooming future leaders. There is no time for immaturity or tuning out or just plain being a normal boy.

Oh, well.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think you are onto something Catherine about the the school seeing this behavior as a "sign of a moral defect AND of immaturity."

My school openly says they track kids by maturity level.

That's not the way they put it; they don't call it "tracking."

They say that a mature student can take an accelerated course; an immature student can't.

That's tracking by maturity.

I'm trying to get Dan Willingham to write an article about it.