Friday, May 18, 2007

School Frustrations

OK, I'm infuriated! I have been quite happy with my kids' school since we got here. This is their first year in this school. In fact, when we bought the new house, that was the primary factor. We didn't want to pull the kids out of their school and have to put them in a different one. We like the year-round schedule, I've been pleased with the teachers, and the kids seem to be doing well.

Some things have come to light the last couple of weeks, though, that are really bothering me. My son is in third grade. He is very bright, although he has some attention problems. One day last week, when he was doing his homework, he asked me if I had a calculator. What? He's in third grade and should be learning the fundamentals. Why would I let him use a calculator? So I told him that he wasn't going to be getting a calculator because he needed to learn how to do the math.

This past Tuesday, the hubby's parents came to see the kids. We hadn't seen them on Mother's Day, so they brought me a Mother's Day card and we gave my mother-in-law her card and gift that night. We also went out to dinner. She's a teacher in the DODDS system. I happened to mention that to her, and she told me that the students in her school are often allowed to use calculators in class. She works in an elementary school. She works in the media center, and she said the students check the calculators out there. Why on earth are ELEMENTARY students using CALCULATORS??

Fast forward to this morning. Julian and I are talking about his math superstars worksheet. This has some fairly complicated problems (at least for a third grader, in my opinion) and I was trying to help him with one he had missed. The problem was 45 x 2. He had come up with 95. When I told him his answer was wrong, you know what he told me? "I got that answer from a calculator." WHAT? So I ask why he's using a calculator. He says they use calculators because sometimes the answers are in the "hundreds and thousands." I don't care! The thing is, they need to make sure these kids know the fundamentals of math BEFORE they do these math superstars things. I didn't use a calculator in math class until high school. And by then, I knew the fundamentals. I KNEW my multiplication tables and could do the basics in my head. The calculator at that point was a time saver for the longer multiplication and division.

My mother-in-law had mentioned to me a couple of weekends before that he needed to work on his multiplication tables. Yes, I know he does, but I honestly wasn't terribly worried. I don't remember a lot about my third grade year, but I'm pretty sure I didn't know my multiplication tables that early. I honestly don't remember REALLY trying to memorize them until about 5th or 6th grade. So I figure we have time to work on that. The thing is, though, that he mentioned earlier in the year that they have the multiplication tables on the back of the name badges they wear. He told me that when he was struggling with some homework and I asked him what he was going to do when it came time to take a test. So if they're on the back of their badges, no wonder they're not learning them. When I was in school, they were printed on the inside of the cover of the textbooks, so we didn't have that available to us when we tested.

I think I'll be getting a third grade workbook and a fourth grade workbook and we'll be working on some math this summer. He's not too happy about that, because he thinks he's not going to have any fun, but that's apparently what we need to do. And we'll be writing out some multiplication tables, too.