Tag Archives: moments of grace

Math Frustration Moment Dodged

So this was pretty cool.

Today I was working with Colin on functions and using the number line to demonstrate them. At this level in Miquon, it’s strictly an introduction of concept, not notation, so I wasn’t using the word “function” or the fancy italicized f thingummy. Instead, per the recommendations in the Lab Sheet Annotations, I called them “number games” where I gave him a number to put in a box and then the box had something done to it. So I would write [_] -> [_] + 2 to indicate that he should make a two unit hop on the number line from whatever number I gave him. Example: I give him the number 2, he adds 2 and makes a hop on the number line from 2 to 4 to show it. Easy, right?

We went into this a little handicapped since I have a morning Bible study on Wednesdays, plus then I had multiple errands, and then the salmon needed to go into the marinade for supper, so by the time we got to math it was already 3.30p or 4p– frankly, a terrible thinking hour for anyone.

Colin. Did not. Get it. He was zoning out all over the place and kept asking me to repeat myself and I could feel both of us getting frustrated. I tried using Cuisenaire rods to demonstrate but made the mistake of saying, “Let’s pretend the blue rod is 1 for now.”

“But the blue rod is 9, Mommy!”

Just confused everyone further. Ugh. I was near tears when Colin wailed, “I’m BAD at this math game, Mommy!”


And I sent up a barely coherent, silent prayer for help.

“Nobody is good at first,” I told him, “That’s why we practice.”

I struggled a moment to think of a different way to describe the function without actually calling it a function. Then came a gift, a grace, an inspiration, and I realized that I should call them functions.

“They’re functions,” I said, and he said,

“What’s a function?”

“It’s an instruction that you carry out the same way every time, like [eee, brilliance!] a robot.”

Colin’s entire body stiffened, his face lit up, his arms bent into right angles, and he said, “Ching!” which is his standard “I just transformed into a robot” noise.

“This. Is. Your. Function.” I said in my most nasal, stilted robot tones, “Please. Carry out. Your function. For the number. 2.” Boom. He went at it with glee. We did several repetitions each of four more functions (every time we moved to a different number line and function, I tickled him and said, “Now. It is time. To change your function,” while he cackled) of increasing complexity, and there were only a couple of times where he put down the wrong answer. Even then, he wasn’t discouraged– he just giggled when I waved my arms mechanically and said, “Malfunction! Malfunction!” and then asked him a couple of clarifying questions to help him figure it out.

I was so relieved and he was so relaxed and happy at the end of it. I knew teaching math would challenge my math skills, but I don’t think it would stretch my creativity anywhere near what it has. First honking like a goose, then talking like a robot– perhaps next week I’ll be roaring like a dinosaur. And this is only first grade.