Snoqualmie Saturday Morning Inspiration: A Boy's Hard Work

I write this as a mother, a mother with three daughters and only one son – a loveable, kind and hard-working son.

Six months ago we started some educational enhancement – code for math help.  For a few years my son had slipped through the “math cracks” and by middle school, the years when they push toward algebra, he was beginning to show signs of math frustration.  He was still getting good grades in class, but those good grades weren’t materializing on standardized math tests.  Tests made him anxious.  The question was, why?

So we went in for an evaluation at Kumon.  An hour and half later we had a plan – a plan that was going to take him back in time and sharpen his math facts and organizational skills.  It wouldn’t be easy.  It had to be his choice.  It would mean extra daily math work and twice a week extra class sessions.  I told him it was his choice because he had to commit to the work – no one could do it for him.  He agreed.

The past six month have not been easy.  Summer was spent doing math.  It’s been a group effort.  Mom reminds him to do his Kumon, and as we discovered, it has to be in a quiet place with no distractions.  Then there is the work of correcting the packets – done by mom and sister.  Then assignment mistakes have to be corrected.  There is frustration in those corrections.  Mistakes can create a feeling of “I’m horrible at math.”  But he did the work,  corrected his mistakes and kept showing up to learn more from his Kumon teacher.  Slowly, there became less nightly mistakes to correct; still some, but not as many.

The key here is what the hard work created: confidence, which facilitated improvement, which then created more confidence.  The two work in tandem.

Along the way we discovered the test anxiety came from compounding frustration.  My son was a student who could tell you how to do an algebra problem.  He understood the concepts.  But what we found was that until those foundational math fact skills are sharp and those columns line up, it doesn’t matter if you know how to do the problem, you probably won’t get the correct answer.  Standardized tests care about the final, correct answer.

Our journey isn’t over.  We’re committed for a year.  My son doesn’t just want to play catch up with math.  He wants to learn more and get ahead.  As a mom, that was never my goal.  I don’t need him on the same math pathway as his sisters.  Kids are all different, with different strengths and struggles.  My daughters cannot draw like their brother.  Everyone is different.

The only thing I want for my only son is confidence, not a certain math track or specific college path.  I just want him to no longer think in the back of his mind, “I’m not good at math.”  It is that simple.

And his hard work is paying off.  Come Monday morning he is moving up a math class.  At first he was a bit disappointed that the jump wasn’t to algebra, but I told him the most important part was the improvement, not the class title.  The improvement shows his hard work paid off and can continue to pay off.  Life lesson accomplished.

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  • I like what you wrote, a lot. When you said that it’s not about being on a certain math path or the title of our sons’ (and daughters’) math classes you really said something profound about being a mom. I never want my son to feel that I quantify his achievements or rank him by comparison. I just want him to be confident and happy. You are a great mom, Danna. Thank you for writing that.

    1. Your son, my wonderful, kind, loving, polite, funny great-nephew is blessed with a wonerful, kind, loving, polite, and funny mom.

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