# Still puzzled by math

Maybe I should not put so much emphasis on math. While Violet is very gifted in math — 2-4 grade levels advanced depending on the topic — it is not her strongest gift by far. But I have the idea that daily math is important, so I try to find a way to make it work that is neither oppressively dull nor oppressively difficult.

This has proven to be one of my major homeschooling challenges. And this may be one reason why:

Sternberg (1982) has argued that emphasizing speed of performance on intelligence tasks is likely to penalize individuals who approach tasks “intelligently” or strategically. In particular, gifted children who exhibit a thoughtful and high-level problem solving approach may not earn extra points for speed. Marr and Sternberg (1987) suggest that, while the capacity for rapid cognitive processing is, in most contexts, adaptive and “intelligent,” there may be individual differences in preference for mental speed, and complex relationships with higher-level processes which are described as metacomponential. One source of individual difference is described by Siegler (1989), who found that in solving simple arithmetic tasks, children he described as “perfectionists” avoided the most efficient strategy, simple retrieval, unless they were very sure of their answers.

Short version: very bright kids with perfectionist tendencies (common to very bright kids) can seem like they are struggling with math basics. And that might be because the math is very simple for them, not because it is hard.

The question for practical application: How do you know the difference?

I think I’ve posted something like this before. I keep finding material that helps explain the problem, but nothing to help solve it!

Today, working again on algebra, we were “translating” a story problem that went something like this: Luke is twice as old as his brother Peter. Their combined age is 12. How old is Luke?

Mom plods along with problems like these, step by step: If Peter is “n” what do we call Luke? Now write an equation . . .

But Violet just blurts out, “Luke is 8!” Ask her what 4 plus 8 is, on the other hand, and she will stare into space, bite her thumb, and probably secretly count on her fingers (which we try to discourage with Singapore Math, but oh well) before saying, “uh . . . 12?”

[Note: This is the book we’ve been using to play around with algebra, extend the Singapore book on fractions, and other stuff.]

I guess it’s only been a few months. I should be more patient with both of us. But when she exhibits such wildly different responses to math it’s hard not to get confused and frustrated!

Thus endeth today’s gripe . . .