August 28, 2011


I just found out I'm having dinner with a Tuskegee Airman in a couple weeks. He and his wife.

OMG! I'm beside myself! Gah!


On to funnier stories...

Bones and math. Let me do a quick recap.

Failed 5th grade math. I tried to get him in special ed in middle school. They told me to let them decide. He got a great teacher, NOT special ed. He made A's and B's. He totally got it. He did fail the FCAT by 2 points, but... it was on information they'd not really covered, so I'm cool. (His class covered everything very slow... which is probably why he did so well.)

OK. To this year.

He's got another male teacher. YES! He responds well to male math teachers.

We went through his summer homework and... we got to the review of the long division and... I swear, it was like someone had rubbed a magnet on his frontal lobe and wiped the slate clean. Gone. He had NO IDEA how to do long division.

I could feel myself panic. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE DONE THIS? Since...4th grade? And I'm looking at him, trying to quell the panic, saying, "Dude. Remember. Dad, mother, sister, brother" to which his reply was a *blink* and a "Yeah, I remember that... but what does it mean?"

I thought, "I..." Because in my mind, this was page 1 an if he couldn't do long division, did that mean that the entire year was gone now, completely wiped clean from his brain?

Did he have some whacky neurological problem where he would never remember any math and it would be like some sick math Groundhog Day where we were destined to repeat the same math lessons...over...and over, except each time adding MORE?!

We got through it somehow. Then we moved to fractions and...

The kid can multiply, divide, add, subtract, reduce, use mixed fractions like nobody's business.

He hates them, but he is The Fraction Master.

But the kid... cannot do long division to save his life. Any ideas? We've done mnemonics, processes, you name it. For some reason, it's not sticking. It's bouncing off his brain like a dang rubber ball...

Crazy stuff.

Posted by Boudicca at August 28, 2011 10:00 PM

No way... I can't believe there are any left alive anymore. Thats amazing. I can think of a hundred things to ask him, but I would just love to sit back and hear his stories! You need to tell me all about it!
Oh and as for bones... I hate the torture of writing out long division. Mybe you should utilize his knowlege on fractions to make it into long division... ? eh

Posted by: jd at August 28, 2011 10:25 PM

Bones and my oldest son must be cast from the same mold. They have exactly the same mental stumbling block - long division. Unfortunately (and embarrasingly), our oldest boy is 22! He doesn't seem to have a problem with other concepts, but that one has always plagued him. I'm sure he'd be mortified if he knew I was sharing this information.

I have thought about using those cubes that break apart to make sure he understands the process of division and how it is reflected in the algorithm. I did that once with an honors student who confessed, when confronted with polynomial division, that he had never learned long division. It seemed to work for him, but I am reluctant to try it on my impatient son who doesn't think it should matter since calculators can do the work and since he can at least recognize whether an answer is reasonable or not.

Posted by: PeggyU at August 29, 2011 12:48 AM

You probably have done this... color? Either rows of colors or colored numbers? Literally draw rows down the page between the numbers. Sigh... call me. I got a couple of other ideas too.

Posted by: vwbug at August 29, 2011 05:02 AM

No suggestions for Bones, as I don't do math, but how exciting to meet a Tuskegee Airman!!! That's incredible! :D

Posted by: pam at August 29, 2011 05:38 AM

I also had problems with long devision, and for me I think it was overwelming because I had to force my mind to perform non-natural tasks (math) and I was used to 1 problem (set of numbers, or process) at a time. Mind function - Identify problem, determine solution, move on to next problem. I would often not recognise a quiz I just took, because my mind while working on the problem at hand, would completely purge the previous problems. Logical reasoning - those problems are not important because I have answered them - poof, nothing. With long devision there were all sorts of things I had to keep track of - Lots of problems in one - not good. It was a total change of mindset for me, very dificult and frustrating. My solution was to write everything out completely, and handle each set of numbers one problem at a time. I would often re-write problems, and I had to become very carefull to never forget to write down each step. Then it wasn't 1 problem with a 7 steps I had to remember, it was 7 written problems, with 1 answer (well 8 answers, but 1 important one). Also, I am a very visual learner - seeing it all written out helped alot (it does not exist unless I can see it, with the general exceptions of air, and gravity)

Posted by: Web at August 29, 2011 08:04 AM

Does Bones know his times tables? If so can you add
11,12,13,14,15 or at least the squares of them?

Factors are a large part of fractions & can really

help in long division.

Good Luck

Sine Nomine

Posted by: Sine Nomine at August 29, 2011 11:46 AM

I don't know if this would help (and you may have already tried it), but see if the division process that is done in 'Touch Math' would help. It doesn't travel down the stays all up in the initial written problem.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 29, 2011 08:42 PM

JD- Evidently there are like 400 left? Is that crazy? I heard that one of them died during their last reunion. It broke my heart. Tell me what you want asked! I'll ask!

Web- We have conversed before about your similarities with Bones. I think... you hit on something big. I may try something new. I may try breaking this down into one problem at a time and see how it goes. Much of what you've described is spot on. The big difference is he's a very auditory learner, hence he does so well in his vocal classes. I can't sing math. But he is also visual, so... I think you unlocked something.

Peggy- I'm thinking of the cube thing to teach him area. I think he needs to see it to understand how bxh will give surface area of a square or rectangle. But maybe with division that will help too?

Sine- He knows his times tables! It was a MAJOR feat, but he really knows them. I believe that is a case of hearing me say them over and over and over. He mimics and it works. He gets all bunched up on the normal ones, the middle 7's, 8's and 9's. There are like 3 or 4 that are hit or miss, but I taught him how to logically deduce the right answer or to check himself.

Mrs. Who... I'm all over it. I'd not heard about it, so I will research it! Thank you!

Posted by: Bou at August 29, 2011 08:50 PM

I like Web... and I found someone on the web that made a rap out of doing division... I was going to send you the link but I think you have it all under control.

Posted by: vwbug at August 30, 2011 04:47 AM

VW- No... I need the rap! We'll talk. I'm covering ALL bases... it's Bones.

Posted by: Bou at August 30, 2011 05:53 AM

"I cant sing math" - This is something I would love to see on YouTube! Singing is the auditary recall of data packages - there is a bridge there, of you can find it. Feel free to shoot me an email if I can be any assistance in perspective.

Posted by: Web at August 30, 2011 06:19 AM

Years ago, online I went to a math site that taught about 6 different ways to do long division. The 5 I was not familiar with killed me. Dead stop.
When I was young in college and learning vectors and maneuvering board stuff the language I was taught in at Penn State sucked. Did not grasp it at all. When I got to Newport they taught it in a completely new way which I had no trouble at all understanding and applying. It was technique.

Long division has multiple techniques. Have you or they tried any of the "bastard" variants? I use the word advisedly. The wife was a certified genius in math and had things signed by the Governor stating so. I bookmarked the site on computers that are no longer in reach but you could find their site online on You Tube of all places.

Posted by: Curtis at August 30, 2011 08:06 PM

Web... I'm going to look!

Curtis, I'm checking all angles at this point. There has to be a way...

Posted by: Bou at August 30, 2011 09:45 PM

Long division songs...

Maybe start here:

and then check the list of related videos on the right side.

Maybe you'll find something that'll stick in his head.

Posted by: Harvey at September 3, 2011 12:59 AM