If you keep at it, it will pay off…

My son hates “explain your answer” on his homework assignments.

Our local public library has a summer reading incentive program. Children keep track of the amount of time they spend reading, and when they reach 20 hours they get a prize. Some of the prizes are good, including a ticket to the State Fair.

To keep track of their time, children get a chart. The chart has 20 individual hours, each represented by an icon. Half of these are circular, suggesting clocks, and half are sort of book shaped. Each icon is broken down into five minute intervals. We were driving home one June Sunday afternoon after picking up Griffin and Tabitha’s summer reading charts.

Me: Griff, each hour on your chart is broken up into 5-minute chunks, right?

Griffin (seven, nearly eight): Yup.

Me: So how many of those chunks are there in an hour?

G: (long pause) Sixteen.

Me: Why sixteen?

G: Well, I thought of 5 minutes like a nickel, and there’s 20 nickels in a dollar.

Me: Wow.

G: So I minused four, because it’s four less.

Me: Right. 60 cents is 4 tens less than 100 cents, though. So I think we need to…

G: (interrupting) Oh! RIght! So…it’s twelve. Twelve fives in an hour.

Me: That’s some really good thinking there, buddy. I wouldn’t have thought to do it that way.

Truer words were never spoken.

And if you keep at those little guys, they do come around. I won’t tell him that he just “explained his answer”.


5 responses to “If you keep at it, it will pay off…

  1. I wonder if teaching him to go through the same questioning that you led him through will help him “explain.” He was able to do it because you asked those questions. What if instead of “explaining his answer” he wrote down the list of questions he’d ask a friend if they just gave him that answer.

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg

    Nice suggestion above.Sometimes, it’s necessary to come at what you would like to see kids do from an oblique angle to reduce a negative connotation another name for something has for them. I used to joke with kids that if we called algebra “Frank” and calculus “Dave” no one would get quite so freaked out about trying to learn them. How intimidating does studying Frank or Dave sound? ;^)

  3. Bon, I shall try that. He’s smart that way though. I suspect he’ll see right through me. I have to say that I am totally content with Griffin obtaining the skills, even if they don’t ‘count’ in the school environment. Ideally, it’d be both.

  4. Pingback: Math Teachers at Play 52 « Let's Play Math!

  5. I find that students who thought it was “super easy” to find their answer really resist “explaining.” It was practically obvious (to them) so why should they explain it? However, if the problem was a bit of a challenge, they don’t mind so much – they are excited about finding a solution! Finally, sharing it verbally is also soooo much more appealing to some kids.

    I miss the days when my own kids were young 😦
    Here’s a flashback: http://findingemu.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/flashback-friday-half-and-double/

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