Math goals

We’ve been working on more probability problems and this has forced me to recognize what the real goal of this approach to math is: learning to work for sustained periods on tough problems. The difficulties Tigger has faced in the past few days have not been about the math, per se. They seem to have arisen from the fact that the problem I have given her to work on is not one that she should be able to find “the answer” to in 5 minutes. And that even when she has been working for 20 minutes or more and doing good valuable work that contributes to finding the answer, I come an suggest other tacks she might take with the problem.

There has been some shouting, crying, and other frustrated behaviour. But we are making progress. We’ve talked about the importance of the process. About how math isn’t necessarily about solving easy problems in large numbers and getting all the answers right. We’ve talked about the ice-cream problem, how tough it was, the wrong alleys, and how we got to the answer. Also how good it felt when we figured out that formula after all those frustrating attempts.

Yesterday we said we’d put the problem away for the day and come back to it tomorrow. When she said “We’ll finish it tomorrow.”, I corrected her and pointed out that we might not finish it but we’d work on it some more.

Today, we worked on it some more. Together. She started falling into letting me do lots of the work and that led to some more serious discussion and frustration on my part. We talked it through a bit, went over the discussion of what the goals were, etc. We switched to playing the game the problem is based on. With dad instead of me.

Tomorrow, we’ll work on it some more but we might call it quits even if it isn’t “finished”.

Her friend is going to come over sometime next week to work on the Lady or the Lions. I am so glad she has a friend who thinks that coming over to do math together sounds like fun.

In the meantime we might work on the Birthday problem*. When I mentioned that just now, she said “But we know the answer.” and I reminded her that we don’t know why that is the answer. She thought for a moment and agreed that maybe it would be a good one to work on. Maybe we are making progress, slowly.

* How many people do you need to have in a room for the probability of 2 of them having the same birthday to be 1 in 2? The answer is 23.


6 thoughts on “Math goals

  1. Ah, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing as well. We sat down yesterday, ostensibly to organize what we haven’t finished and think about what we might get accomplished this fall, and ended up working on math all morning. Max was a little rusty but considerable more willing than before. It made for a very pleasant morning, even if it wasn’t his first choice of activity.


  2. Jove,
    I don’t know if I respond on my blog if you will get my response or not so I’m writing here to thank you. I wanted to say how thoughtful it was of you to send me to Rebecca’s page. And too how nice it was for you to say, the “new plan” is not one to abandon. I needed to hear that. I love this quote from Rebecca,
    “Nothing was rushed, crammed or spoon fed,” which she said when referring to last year’s home school for her children. That is good and the way I imagine home school should always be. It was also surprising to me that Rebecca is of my faith, which made her thoughts connected to me. Thanks Jove. I appreciate you taking the time. On an unrelated note, probability sounds hard. I hope Mr. Demi ( our Math U See video teacher) is up on it. I’m sure he is. : )
    I see you know dear Steph, she is an old time on line friend of mine. It’s nice to meet you too.
    Susan Marie


  3. This is why I am so grateful to have friends like you that take the time to share this process. I think about writing and research in this way, but NEVER about math until you introduced it to me. I can definitely see the value in puzzling things out. Keep the ideas coming, for we are all wading into the deep end of the pool!


  4. This is why I like a particular Gr. 9 probability project I designed about the use of creating a model to approach probability problems – there is no right answer! (Well, there’s a theoretical answer, but as you see, that doesn’t mean that the answer will work in any one particular practical situation.)

    It sounds like it might fit in with what you’re working on now, though you’ll find it more “guided” than simply unleashing the bday problem on Tigger! It’s posted here as a free pdf download:


  5. Pingback: Probabilistic thinking | Tricotomania and more

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