Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Hate Mathematics!

A few days ago, AJ and I made a trip to the library. We have a routine at the library. We conduct any business at the desk (registering for programs, reporting on reading programs, etc.), examine the new books shelf in the children's section, find books to check out on the regular shelves, look for movies if we want one, and then AJ settles down to play on a computer for a few minutes while I head to the adult section to look for books of my own.

When we went a few days ago, AJ and I found a bunch of books for him quickly. He picked up a new book about the moon landing and a book on giant squids. I got him a copy of Marilyn Burns' The I Hate Mathematics! Book. Second grade seems to have caused some problems for AJ's math skills. He was a top notch multiplier when he went in, but the methods confused him and made him focus on the method instead of what he was doing. Consequently, he no longer understands the process of borrowing and makes a lot of mistakes. Consequently, he's getting frustrated and feeling as though he's not good at math anymore.

I had similar problems with math when I was in second grade and The I Hate Mathematics! Book helped me remember that math is fun and challenging and not just like beating your head against a brick wall.

AJ was really excited about the book and sat down at the table to look at it. We were talking about the book when AJ's friend J walked up. J has been in AJ's class for the last two years and they are in Cub Scouts together and they both play a lot of the same sports, although they've never been on the same team.

"Hi, AJ. What's that? 'The I...hate...Math..a..matics...book?' What's 'mathematics'?"

"Hi," AJ said gruffly. "It's just another word for math."

"Oh," said J.

"It a dumb book about math. I don't know what it's doing here." AJ buried it under the giant squid book.

"Cool! Squid!"

I know that AJ has been embarrassed about some of the things he likes, but this is the first time I'd witnessed it so clearly in action. One minute he's telling me about all the cool things he's found in the book. The next he's making fun of it to his friend so his friend doesn't make fun of him. I actually don't think his friend had any intention of making fun of him. I think what sounded to AJ like mockery was really just J struggling to read an unfamiliar word.

This is one of the reasons why I think separate gifted programs are important. It is easier to deal with your sense of difference if you can be different with somebody else. It's easier to appreciate your different interests if there's someone somewhere with whom you can share them.

In the last couple of weeks, AJ has made a friend at camp. He doesn't live very close to us, but AJ and K have been making plans to meet online at Club Penguin, where they can chat and play games remotely. As much as I try to limit AJ's video/computer game times around here, I can also see how things like Club Penguin help him in situations like this. I know the internet helps me find people with like interests to talk to. I'm glad there are places where AJ can go too. Everyone needs to know they aren't alone sometimes.

After we got home from the library that day, AJ pulled out the I Hate Mathematics Book! first and started leafing through it. He found a page of math riddles and started giggling. "Mom, you have to hear this one. Can I ask you some?"

"Hit me. But I bet I'll know the answer."

"You will?"

"This was my favorite book when I was your age."

"It was?" He smiled and started to read.

* * * * *

Marilyn Burns, The I Hate Mathematics! Book (Brown Paper School book)Covello, CA: Yolla Bolly Press, 1975; reprinted by Little, Brown & Co.. The whole Brown Paper series is exceptional, but this is my personal favorite (My Backyard History Book was a close second). Most, if not all, of them are out of print. Marilyn Burns has written other math books for kids, including some more recent picture books. All are worth looking at.

1 comment:

FreshHell said...

I'll have to look for this one. Dusty doesn't have math issues yet but it might be fun for her to read.

That sleight of hand AJ pulled is interesting. I haven't seen Dusty do that - she doesn't seem to have the same "saving face" worries yet. It reminds me how easy it is to forget how hard it can be to be a kid, especially a smart one.