The math struggle

Kindergarten brought wall words and color-by-number worksheets. Javi would circle the two objects that started with the key letter and practice spelling out each tiny word. Then came first grade with addition and patterns and stories that last pages. And then second grade gave us chapter books, reading comprehension, and complicated addition and subtraction.

You would think the first three years of Javi's education would have prepared us for third grade. But tonight it feels as though we're treading water and I can't help but wonder if the boat's going to come back for us before the sharks begin to circle.

Tonight's dilemma: Following instructions. I know that a huge disadvantage of ADHD is the ability to follow a chain of command. While I read a word problem and see Sentence A, Sentence B, and therefore Sentence C, my child can read the exact same word problem and still not find the "therefore."

In fact, even after I break it down and explain five ways to Sunday, he still can't tell me what question he's answering. Otis has nine crates of milk and Molly has six. Each crate contains eight bottles. How many more crates does Otis have than Molly? How many more bottles does Otis have?

Javi's answer to the first question: 17. Javi's answer to the first question after 30 minutes of discussion and different strategies: 16? We can't even begin to answer the second question because he didn't acknowlege it as a question. Apparently it was just filler words at the end of the problem.

At this point, I think I've tapped my teaching resources. There's a reason I'm not in a classroom and the main one is that I don't have the patience and creativity to guide a child toward the correct conclusion. So now's when I contemplate whether we need to bite the bullet and hire a tutor.

Now is also the time when I admit that the child is making As and Bs. He actually pulled up his math grade from an 83 the first quarter to an 85 this quarter and I'm hoping his determination will help him get it up higher as the year wears on.

I had a conversation with his teacher a few months back in which we discussed when a parent should back off a child and allow him to be the student he is capable of being. That means riding his back when he underachieves. It also means stepping back when he's doing okay, but not overachieving.

That's what I think about when I'm trying to lead him to the correct number of crates and bottles. I have an inner struggle in which half of me says, "Just walk him through it so he sees how you came to the answer and put him out of his misery." The other half says, "Sit here and shut your mouth until he walks himself through it so that next time he knows exactly what to do."

I know the correct solution for Javier is in there somewhere, but I'm not sure whether either of us will survive until I can figure it out. If anyone has strategies for helping a child with ADHD conquer the math battle, please share! I'll be waiting here with third grade on my back.


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