GETTING ALONG AT SCHOOL

Hate Math? Many do.

Why this parent advice topic

This month I am devoting a great many parent advice posts to getting along in school.  This one focuses on the math problems and the learning disability called dyscalculia. Four out of every ten Americans hate math.  When I asked in my graduate classes how many students hated math, practically every hand raised.

I passed every math course I had to take by the grace of teachers who tried their best and knew I was trying my best.  I was a compliant, hard working student, eager to learn – attitudes that make teachers care and want to help.  Some gave me a C- and others a D+.

I am lying a bit, for I aced algebra.  Not sure why. It did involve a bit of math, but I think that it relied on thinking and not memorizing formulas – one of the areas my brain falls short.  I also think I saw it as a sort of narrative – if you do this, then that will happen.

Before I go further here are the symptoms of dyscalculia:

  • Difficulty learning to count
  • Trouble recognizing printed numbers
  • Numbers reverse
  • Difficulty tying together the idea of a number (4) and how it exists in the world (4 horses, 4 cars, 4 children)
  • Poor memory for numbers
  • Trouble organizing things in a logical way – putting round objects in one place and square ones in another
  • Trouble learning math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • Difficulty developing math problem-solving skills
  • Poor long term memory for math functions
  • Difficulty measuring things
  • Avoiding games that require strategy
  • Difficulty estimating costs like groceries bills
  • Difficulty learning math concepts beyond the basic math facts
  • Poor ability to budget or balance a checkbook
  • Trouble with concepts of time, such as sticking to a schedule or approximating time
  • Trouble with mental math
  • Difficulty finding different approaches to one problem
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)

Here are the symptoms I have.

  • Numbers reverse
  • Poor memory for numbers and other facts unrelate to narrative
  • Evidence of memory problems mean trouble learning math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • Difficulty developing math problem-solving skills
  • Poor long term memory for math functions
  • Difficulty estimating costs like grocery bills
  • Poor ability to balance a checkbook
  • Trouble with mental math
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)  but only with the visualizations required in solving word problems and the arrangement of objects as required in geometry.

My IQ is rated in the top 10% , but every psychologist who has tested me  has remarked about the great disparity when it came to math.  I think the last time I was tested which was about ten years ago – my math level was well below average for someone my age – second grade level.  My verbal abilities keep me in the top 10%.   I am sharing this to make four points:

Point one: Diagnosing any mental health problem is difficult, the professionals quarrel and the fact that we are all more or less okay and okay in different areas makes finding if a brain glitch – what I think most of the major psychiatric labels involve – so very difficult.

Point two: Life goes on  when a mental health problem is part of your life.  I have learning disablities that have diminished what I could accomplished, but I had strengths that allowed me to move on.

Point three: The right diagnosis helps.  When I realized I had dysgraphia and dyscalcula, my shame and certainty I was stupid diminshed. Moreover, I was able to get my sons the help they needed in order to move ahead.

Point four:  The need to deal with the pain of these problems sent me searching for ways to combat the negative feelings.  I found a number of self soothing skills that allowed me to move on.  These form the heart of Emotional Fitness Training and my 12 Daily Emotional Fitness exercises.

PARENTING ADVICE

 Parenting tip one:  As I said repeatedly in the previous posts in this series:

  1. Learn all your can about the possible causes of your child’s unhappiness or inability to do school well
  2. Develop a respectful partnership with your child’s teacher and other school personnel
  3. Know the law in terms of what the school is obligated to do to help a child be all he can be.
  4. Find support
  5. Strengthen your emotional fitness skills so you can stay calm when dealing with your child and others teaching and caring for her
  6. Help your child learn emotional fitness skills.  My little E-book, Tame the Test Anxiety Monster or my longer book Parents Are People Too, an Emotional Fitness Program for Parents are good places to start improving your and your child’s emotional fitness skills.  Click here to go to  my author’s page.  Scroll down the oage for the Kindle editions.  Don’t have Kindle,   down loading to your computer  with Amazon’s free Kindle for computers program.
  7. Be patient and assertive.  Getting your child the help she needs takes time.  Help your child appreciate her strengths as well as her weaknesses takes time and is essential to helping her move ahead.
  8. If you have missed any of the previous posts, read them.  If you have read them, re-read them occasionally.

Parent tip two:  Concentrate on your child’s strengths, find him as many paths as possible to feeling competent and masterful.  I know for me, learning to ride gave me a strong sense of my self  as competent and powerful.  My love of horses was but one of the paths my parents lead me down.  Love of nature was another and as I mention frequently my love of reading was pivotal.  I’ve recounted previously my mother’s battle with the local library to let me have access to the adult library well before the usual age.

Parent tip three:  Teach good manners. As Emily Post, the guruess of manners during my growing up years noted: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”

Moreover, good manners generally help you get along with others and a great deal of research show that the most important key to success remains getting along with others.

Parenting tip four:  Promote good work habits beginning with the idea that a job is what people are paid to do and not necessarily the road to happiness. For many, the happiness lies in the pay check; for others the sense of having done their work well. Doing your work well is the better motive.

Parenting tip five: Build your life and your child’s life on values that matter.  Good marks are nice, going to the best college is nice, having a job you love that pays you well is almost priceless.  Almost priceless because all too often what is sacrifice in getting good marks, going to college, having a job you love and one that pays well demands putting aside many other more important things.

As he was facing his death, like so many men, my father wished he worked less hard, settled for fewer material rewards, and spent more time with his family.  The times he spent with us mattered a great deal, but more time would have been better.

More than having time to spend on the better things of life, many seeking the traditional markers of Western success become uncaring and often cruel.  Something my father did not allow to happen to him.

If your job matters more than time with your children examine your priories.  You must model the values you want to gift your children with them.

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also is the road to some of best moments of life on earth.

Katherine

Disclaimer one: Advice is just advice.

Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors

Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability that is akin to dyslexia when one writes. It was the reason my high school English teacher thought I would fail out of college.  I didn’t.  Moreover,  with the help of some patient and good editors I became an author.  Still mistakes get by.  When I am in a rush,  posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.

Sigh, if you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow me.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; if a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later.  Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.

Meanwhile, forgive me, it is an Emotional Fitness Training exercise and practicing it will strengthen your ability to deal with stress, frustration, and all the other negative emotions.

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