Math, The Return

Peter When last we mentioned Jon’s math situation, 19 school days ago, Jon had been learning addition of two-digit numbers. In the not-overly-long time since then he has:
1) Moved quickly on to three-digit addition (since once you’ve seen one carry-over, you’ve seen them all!)
2) Been moved on to subtraction: first they reinforced stacking, of course, then Jon’s teacher taught him borrowing. This most challenging part of math thus far was taught at school, and I don’t know the specifics. And that bugs me because I’d love to know how it was explained to Jon so plainly and directly that he just picked it up.

In any case he did pick it up, and the next two week was spent cementing the concept of borrowing for two-digit numbers. I think there was the occasional three digit equation in there too (he and I did homework together). In any case, on Thursday Jon was given his first math test since learning multiple-digit addition and subtraction. And he got 11 out of 11. And this includes the last question which was something on the order of:

104 – 47=

This problem requires borrowing over two columns. But that didn’t faze Jon.

The only blockade seems to be the single number additions and subtractions. It’s taking him a very long time to commit the minor computations to memory. While that stopped other teachers on the spot, Jon’s current teacher says, “He can figure that out with a number line or calculator. In fact, realistically, most people use calculators to do almost all of their addition and subtraction.” The fact is that beyond the single digits Jon has no trouble with the computations of tens and hundreds, and presumably beyond.

Friday, Jon’s teacher asked if I had any ideas as to what to proceed to next in math, no doubt just to get my input. I metaphorically lifted my hands and stepped back. I explained that as far as math was concerned, he had already exceeded our expectations for the year, and that I was not in a position to recommend where to go next; we fully trusted him. Quite frankly Jon’s current teacher seems to be an equal to Jon’s spectacular teacher from three years ago (who took him from basic early reading and spelling to a grade three level in both) and in this case I know when to get out of everyone’s way.

Go Jon Go!


  1. Kristen Chew says:

    Jon’s teacher is also a good Scrabble player!

  2. JHGRedekop says:

    I’m a little dyslexic, so I always had trouble memorizing tables. For a long time, I’d just use fingers: 7-3 -> put 7 fingers on the table: ||||/ | (| = finger, / or = thumb) then lift the last three: |||| — therefore 4.

    Doesn’t work with multiplication, unfortunately, and I still often juggle products to make up for gaps in the tables in my head: 7 x 6 -> well, 6×6 = 36, 36 + 6 = 42, therefore 42.

  3. Peter says:

    Ya, one of the heart-breaking things about watching Jon’s early formative years is a combination of several elements working against him: visual disability, motor abilities and hip stability. So counting on his fingers, or counters, just never worked- he can’t move his fingers that well, and for a long while perceiving them visually was extremely difficult.

    As with all developmental disabilities, it’s like having to find a unique key to open a particular stuck door before progress can occur. For Jon it’s happened in many areas of learning: parts of him are primed to get to the stereotypical “milestones”, but there are particular, sometimes simple-seeming concepts that just don’t compute. If you can get past that blockade—somehow—the floodgates open, at least ’til you hit the next blockade. 😉

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