I'm Bon Crowder and the photos above are both of me - in 1989 and today. I'm a Generation X mom of Generation Z kids.

I began peer tutoring in high school in 1984. MathFour.com is the 2015 version of me helping peers be comfortable in math.

If you're a Gen-X parent, you're in the right place!

Tag Archives: parents

Empowering Parents – A New Community to Promote Happy Homework Time

There’s a bunch going on in the world of MathFour.com. And the biggest and most exciting thing is the new Facebook Group for parents: Empowering Parents to Tackle Math.

There's a new Facebook group just for empowering parents to tackle math!

If you’re a teacher, please share this group with parents and other teachers on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Or send them the link directly: right click here and choose “copy link address.”

And if you’re a parent, get over there and join!


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One Response to The 'Just Say It' Challenge

  1. I love it!
    A big part of counseling is helping others develop a sense of empathy. The difficult part of that is this: It’s easy for us to empathize with others about something we struggle with, ourselves, but not so easy if that thing comes easy for us. As a counselor, I ask folks to empathize with the feeling, instead of the experience.

    It looks like your doing a great job in creating this for yourself and showing your appreciation for those who are fighting the “good fight” in using positive math-talk. I think your readers will appreciate it!

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6 Responses to Math Words – Start Using Them Early

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5 Responses to Practice, Practice, Practice – Really?

  1. I was a student who resented the 40-60 nightly homework problems. (Hello? Did they think that MATH was the only subject we took??) I generally refused to do the homework if I was comfortable with the material (yes, even in elementary school…. I started my rebellion in 4th grade). I would generally get 97% or better on my tests, but I’d earn steady C’s in the class because my homework grade would be next to zero. I frustrated my math teachers. I wish I could say I feel bad about that, but they frustrated me with busy work.

    Many of my classmates made C’s and D’s in math.. and they actually DID the homework. What good are all of those math problems if the student doesn’t “get” the concept in the first place? It was STILL busy work… it was just busy work they didn’t quite understand.

    I’m sure that some students really did benefit from the “practice” that the homework provided, although I’d be willing to bet that for most of them it was purely a rote, procedural benefit and not one of understanding. Similarly, there were the top students who aced the tests AND completed the unspeakable homework assignments. I still envy their fortitude. They still make me feel lazy.

    Thanks for this!!!

    • Oh – RockerMom! You are inspiring me to admit something! I’ll write it up in a post and link back soon!

      (teaser: I resented the huge homework sets too, and I was BAD in how I dealt with it.)

  2. I like how you laid out the three stages of practice, but something you said struck me slightly. As you were talking about practice being continuous, you say, “Which means that practicing a skill must be continuous – even if a student doesn’t fully understand the logic underlying the process.”

    Do you mean that students may not understand the logic behind the practice itself, or do you mean that they may not yet understand the logic behind what they are practicing?

    To the latter, shouldn’t our goal be to get students to have a strong conceptual understanding behind the mechanics that they are practicing?

    Knowing how to factor an array of polynomials would mean little if the student did not understand why the operations they are performing work and make sense.

    If you meant the former, then I can understand how students may not fully grasp why we are taking them through the three stages. I don’t think that we should keep up a smoke screen to hide our methods, but I don’t think you were suggesting that.

    • Thanks for asking, Chris.

      Indeed I didn’t think about the variations of that. I meant that a student doesn’t need to know how the math works or why it works. I have many examples of times in my own life that I hadn’t a clue why something was the way it was. The first was learning to take derivatives of polynomials when I was 7 years old – and loving it! (Purely accidentally – I was watching a foster kid do her homework.)

      You can see the pattern or “game” of doing something and be able to apply it elsewhere without understanding what’s going on with it. In fact, as we grow in mathematical maturity, we discover amazing things over and over. Often these things could be considered “understanding” skills or tasks we would have been doing for years!

      Math is so incredibly complex that “understanding” all the bits under the skills is just flat impossible for anyone. So why force it? Why not allow kids (and grownups) to accept that perhaps they might not understand it now (whatever that really means). But eventually they can – in their own way.

      Know how to do the steps, watch where similar things come up and one day you’ll see how it all works together. And enjoy the journey.

      (I’ll likely expand on this in an article soon. Thanks so much for the thought provoking question, Chris!)

  3. I am wondering what your take is on today’s on-line tools for math practice. Khan Academy, for example, let’s me move on if I get five in a row correct. I am not sure that is the right formula, but something along those lines would avoid a lot of this debate over practice.

    In the past when students worked on paper at night and brought it in the next day for assessment there was not much room for abbreviating practice at the point of mastery.

    Do you think automated tools can help on this issue?

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10 Responses to What Are Your Thoughts on This Fearful Parents Video?

  1. intended msg: You need Sylvan to save you from your own inadequacy/fear.

    perceived msg: Math is scary and impractical/hard. You can’t do it without a professional.

    my perception: I chuckled. A lot of people feel like the lady in the commercial. Unfortunately, like so many other ‘tasks’ in modern society (from cleaning house to fixing car to caring for/educating children) we rely on (i.e. pay) others who are presumably more qualified (i.e. willing) to do these everyday tasks instead of becoming more self-sufficient and knowledgable ourselves. This has created an entire economy fueled by fear (sometimes ignorance) and the sheer complexity of our lives. A simple life is more manageable.

    • So true. We “outsource” the things we think we can’t or don’t want to do because we just don’t have time or we really believe we don’t ahve the ability.

      To make a speculative leap, this display of helplessness (if you want to go that far) could rub off on the next generation. And we wonder why kiddos are so math anxious!

      We recently posted an article on how you can create an anxiety safe learning environment.

  2. Here’s what comes to mind when I watch this: what if the boy in the commercial said “Mom, could you help me read this paragraph?”. Why is it not ok to admit publicly (and even privately) that “I’m just not that good at reading”, but it’s ok to say “I’m just not that good at math”? Besides, why Mom and not Dad in this commercial (although maybe Sylvan does have another version of this, featuring a girl and her father).

    • Yelena

      Bon and I talk from time to time about how being “bad at math” is en vogue, and almost the cool thing to be. How unfortunate. It starts with the adults (including myself) setting the example.

      Thanks, Yelena.

  3. What’s the intended message?
    We sell the math help you can’t give.
    What’s the real or perceived message?
    Parents can’t help their children with maths, they need professional help.
    How does it affect your view on math as a parent?
    Well, I’m a math person. And in teaching. And a parent. I know that I can’t help my boy learn greek, so if he needs extra help there, I would refer him to his TEACHER. It makes me mad that some company would exploit a parent’s feelings of inadequacy to sell them something their child should be getting at school. I always thought schools were for teaching kids, helping them learn stuff. Did I misunderstand something here?

    • Eva

      I feel your frustration! It seems the new thing for teachers to do (and unfortunately it is due to admin, policy, and resource pressures) is to teach to the test. “Get ’em in there, show them exactly how to do what they’re going to see on the STAAR, and keep ’em movin’! Oh, and here are your 5 more students this year and no raise.”

      Learning in the way of conceptual understanding seems to have taken a back seat because of this perfect storm.

      Let’s keep the conversation going as to how we can affect a positive change. One thing we can do at home is avoiding the “I can’t do math” statements at home and coming up with POSITIVE things about math.

      Thanks much!

  4. My opinion is that Sylvan’s intent is to promote and sell a professional service they provide to those who may benefit from it. No school system I am aware of provides concentration of one subject to its students. We (adults) can only be exploited if we allow it to happen. I would consider the staff at Sylvan (or other learning centers)to be Teachers. Television commercials are notoriously silly in order to get our attention away from our daily routines and get us to listen. Math and reading are not the same. Once we have learned to read, we can always read, even if we take a 10 year break, we can pick right back up, not so with math. A parent’s (adult) math ability depends on their chosen professions or hobbies, and the complexity of math abilities required to perform their daily tasks. If there is any innuendo here, it would be that the parent is depicted as not having mastered the stage of math their child is now in, hence the anxiousness of the mother character. One stereotype: A long standing belief that boys are “better” at math than girls. Teachers believe it, parents believe it, so it just a learned behavior, more than a fact. My youngest son (age 28) is no better in math than I am. The real message is that Sylvan does this every day, and does it well. Perception is subjective so I can’t comment. I know how to wash my car, but there are others who can do it faster and better, and I can concentrate on what I do well.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Vikki. You have so many good points. For me, if they were to market their services like you said in your last line, it would be a good promotion of a good product.

      Indeed, if you can outsource something, great. Parents give love and attention to their kids through lots of ways, so having someone else help your child – in math or in French – is fine.

      Regarding reading – I don’t think you can pick reading back up after a 10 year break. Since we read all the time, the only comparison that we can make to this is reading in a different language. I know lots of people who were fluent in a second language and then stopped using it. They mostly lose it – like many people with “schoolbook math.”

      Thanks again, Vikki – love having you here!

  5. Lots of marketing promotes fear in the intended audience. Is that fear real? For some parents, definitely. Is it being exaggerated? I think that depends on the parent. Some folks really do HATE math.

    Now, should parents have the message “You are no good at math – admit it, and let us take over” pushed at them? No, but it is a message that will work on some parents.

    Some parents need to be encouraged to take a deep breath and help their kids with math, and some probably should admit they don’t get it, and seek help.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Peter.

      That’s the creepy thing, to me – that this message will work on some parents. AND that the message isn’t found offensive by all other parents.

      Makes me sad, mad and powered up.

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Calming generation X in math since 1985.

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