Wednesday, February 27, 2008

it's the little things

Holy crap!! I just had the best five minutes of the school year so far! I can't even tell you, dear interwebs, just how fucking amazing it is when suddenly this kid, this kid who is way too old for 6th grade, this kid who fights me every step of the way and is so used to failing at life that his only coping mechanism is to annoy the hell out of everyone so that they pay attention to him - how fucking amazing it is to hear the click in his brain when suddenly he understands!

I'm on top of the fucking universe right now. I'm so damn proud of him! And it just was so awesome to see the big grin on his face over something that so many of us take for granted. This kid, J, is a kid who can barely do arithmetic. He can sort of multiply and he can add after a few tries, but he never really got it. Subtraction and division? Forget it. Please, someone tell me how you can be 15 years old and not know these basics?

Today we were learning how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. Yesterday we covered adding and subtracting with like denominators. He did okay with that because it was a one step process, but today I could see the glazed over eyes. He had checked out. But I sat down with him to walk him through all the steps (finding the least common denominator, making the equivalent fractions, adding it all up, and simplifying your answer). He knew how to find the LCD (which was a pleasant surprise, but not earth-shattering) but when it came to making equivalent fractions (say turning 1/2 into 2/4) he was totally stuck. So I walked him through one. (This is where things get technical and don't translate well to text.)

I set up the proportion 1/2 = blank/4 and asked him what would fill in the blank. When we learned how to solve proportions a few weeks back, I taught the kids the cross multiplication method to solve for the blank by multiplying (in this case) 4 times 1 and then dividing the answer by 2. The division stumped him. But I held up four fingers and told him to break them into twos - how many groups of fingers was I holding up? His eyes got bigger and he says, tentatively, "Oh, that's how you divide..."

That was my cue to give him some other division examples. 10 divided by 2 can be done by drawing 10 tick marks and circling every 2 ticks - how many circles do you have? Subtraction could be done with tick marks too (for 11 - 5 draw 11 tick marks and then cross five of them out and count how many are left). The realization in this kid's eyes was fantastic. There is nothing better than hearing him say that he gets it. Nothing.

I feel like such a proud division mama! That something so simple can be so satisfying. And incredible.

Fucking incredible.

1 comment:

Leigh C. said...

Mazel tov - to the both of you! that epiphany on his part took just as much patience from you as it did from him - your working and hinting and his listening and processing.

Great job and gold stars all around! ;-)