We often have conversations with parents who say that everything in their math world was going along fine until long division. We know there are reasons for challenges here. Join us as we discuss those reasons and map a plan for you to find success in division and beyond.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.956
Welcome to The Demme Learning Show. Our mission here is to help families stay in the learning journey, wherever it takes them. This bonus episode was previously recorded as a webinar and was not created with the audio listener in mind. We hope you will find value in today’s episode. Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to this presentation of When Long Division Stops Your Forward Math Progress. My name is Gretchen Roe, and I am the communications coordinator here for Demme Learning. And it is my very great pleasure to welcome two of my favorite colleagues to the table with me today. We’ve got lots of things to share with you and an enormous amount to talk about. We realized that we really rang your bell when we talked about the process of long division because over 150 of you registered for this webinar. So we have lots of information to share with you. There’s a theme to the questions that you all are asking us. You’ll hear that theme come through as we discuss today. I am the homeschooling mom of six. My husband and I homeschooled six kids, 21 years. We have five college graduates, and the last one in our family is a junior in high school. In fact, we were arranging some college visits last night, and that’s a bittersweet moment. It’s my pleasure to welcome Lisa Chimento and Sue Wachter to the table today. And I will let these lovely ladies introduce themselves. Lisa.
Lisa Chimento: 00:01:39.781
Hi, my name is Lisa Chimento. I am a Customer Success Consultant and Placement Specialist here at Demme Learning. I’ve been working with the company full-time for almost five years. Before then, I did homeschool conventions and really had a joy talking with customers at the booth. I homeschooled my four children for 25 years. We used Math-U-See for 24 of those years, and I was so grateful for it. My four kids don’t all learn the same way, but they all learned with Math-U-See. And they’re grown and flown now, I like to say. Well, actually, I don’t like to say it, but it’s the truth. But it’s been really a pleasure to get to know customers, to learn from all of you, and to share ideas with each other. So I’m really pleased to be here.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:30.795
Sue Wachter: 00:02:32.631
Hi, I’m Sue Wachter. I have been hanging out and supporting homeschool parents for over 30 years. I love it. I love the work. I’ve learned so much, and I continue to learn so much. And so much of what I’ve learned today on this topic has been an exciting adventure. And I just can’t wait. I’m actually at the beach today. And it’s like, “No, everybody, get out of this hotel room. I have to do this webinar” because not only what I have to share and what we’ve designed through this team to support you, but what I know I’m going to learn.
Gretchen Roe: 00:03:12.018
I have to second that. We learn so much from our families as we get to interact with them. And it is a privilege and a joy to be able to do that. Let’s get started, ladies. I think the important thing that I want to start with first, Sue, is talking about assessments and struggle. And where do we get that information from? What do our parents need to know?
Sue Wachter: 00:03:37.994
Yeah, I’m glad to talk about that. If you do contact us or even when you’re listening to this, there’s no blanket statement here to be made. The assessments that we’ve designed specifically for this will help guide the next steps. And those assessments we actually have a link and we’ll make those available to you so that you can administer those. They’re meant to be assessments that the student can be feeling as comfortable as possible. What we’re doing is we’re not trying to give them a grade or it’s not a pass/fail. It’s we’re looking for clarification. And so some of the things it’ll ask you to do is stay in the room so you can observe behaviors, and we’ll give you tips on behaviors, and also make sure that the student shows their work. And when I look at these, I’m not even looking for right and wrong answers. I’m looking at what did the student do to get to the answers. And it’s important that the student knows that because those of you who– especially boys, they don’t like to show their work, and this is going to be important that they do to get them the best support that they can get.
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:58.750
Typically, when the wheels come off the wagon at long division, it’s not long division’s fault. It’s some sort of foundational skill set that is weak. And Lisa, I know that you have a special desire to speak about the necessity for fact mastery to make long division a successful experience.
Lisa Chimento: 00:05:20.744
Yeah. There’s two different things that we need to talk about going into long division. One of those is understanding concepts, but the other is mastery of the facts. And I think a lot of people don’t realize the importance of this. And we do see a lot of children at this stage where they begin struggling. And sometimes the reason for the struggle is because they are either still counting on their fingers or counting in their head or using tally marks or touch points or some other device to try to compute single-digit addition and subtraction facts. And sometimes it’s because they don’t have their multiplication facts memorized. And I will make a distinction here. There is a difference between memorization of multiplication facts and skip counting. If your student is going 6, 12, 18, 24, that’s skip counting, and skip counting is still counting.
Lisa Chimento: 00:06:20.072
Here’s why this is really, really important. When a student is approaching a division problem, with every digit that they have to divide, there are four or five steps involved. They have to divide, and then they have to multiply, and then they have to subtract, and then bring down the next number, and then go back up to the beginning and start all over again with the next digit. That’s a lot of steps. So it’s a longer process than they’ve been used to up until now. But if they have to stop with each one of those steps and interrupt that process, and take their focus out of the problem, and then try to calculate the fact, or count for the fact, or use a chart, or a calculator, they have stopped forward progress there on that process. They’ve interrupted their focus. And for a lot of kids, that’s huge. You interrupt the focus, you’ve just stopped the whole works. But then once they get the fact, they have to bring their focus back into the problem, find their place and continue. Well, of course, finding their place doesn’t always happen. And if they lose their place, they start getting frustrated, the anxiety level starts going up, and then lots of things go wrong from there. The other thing is, even if they find their place in that process, because of all of that interruption, they are often making unnecessary errors, and they’re burning up a lot of brain battery. And we talked to a lot of families about this issue. A child has so much mental energy to bring to a single task. And you can probably probably count three minutes past their age. And that’s about the peak performance and focus time that you’re going to get from them in a single sitting, especially for new material. And so if you’ve gone past that time, they’ve burned up a lot of that brain battery, and now they’re getting mentally fatigued. And with mental fatigue, comes additional errors. And then, I mean, it’s so exasperating. So we don’t want to– we don’t want to start that bad cycle. So what we need to really look for is whether or not those students have those facts mastered. And if not, then we will talk with you about some of the solutions for that. Because if you think that it’s not important, this is where the time comes where it shows how important it really is. And it’s not too late to deal with that. I really want to stress that. For some parents, they will feel stressed like, “Oh, no. We’re going to go behind, and we’re going to be late, and we’re not going to be able to catch up.” That’s not the case at all. We can get working on this. And it’s going to benefit them, not only now, but in every level going forward if they have those facts memorized, so that they can give the answers automatically as they’re going through the steps.
Gretchen Roe: 00:09:18.178
Right. One of the things that several parents had said– and the reason I’m doing this, is because I have your list of questions. Every one of you submitted a question, and they’re all posted up on my computer right over here, so I can see them. And several of you said, help us understand how we can keep our kids engaged in the process. And Sue, I would like you to talk a little bit about– instead of looking at walking through the entirety of a division problem, can you talk about how you make this a more manageable choice for students just walking through the first step of each problem?
Sue Wachter: 00:09:57.032
Correct. So sometimes when a student does get lost in the process, we’ve eliminated other issues, we’ve got clarity, and it’s just down to the steps of the process. So we have a worksheet generator on our website that’s available to you. And you can print off your choice of how many problems are on the page. And I’ll swing back to that in just a minute on the number choice. So what you can do is, rather than have them complete the whole problem, just take that page– print off a page, and have them do step one. Just have them do step one until they’re very comfortable with step one. Then when you see after a couple of days that they’re comfortable with step one, then add the step one and step two and on and on. The important thing is when you pull out that worksheet generator, have your students sitting next to you and say, okay, tell them what you’re going to do. You’re only going to have to do step one and say, “How many problems do you feel would be the right amount?” The thing is, I don’t know about you, but if you handed me a full sheet of 20 long division problems, I would check on you as well as a full adult who knows how to divide. I would say to myself, “What’s the point?” And we need to be– not that we are coddling these kids, but they have a better sense of where they become overwhelmed sometimes than we do. And if we work within that, so we underwhelm them, that’s going to help as well. But allow the time to do that process of take one step, get that where they can do that one in their sleep. And then the next step, do that one in their sleep until they can get through a page of whatever they decide is the right amount without stress and getting lost.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:56.714
One of the things that I think is important to understand. And Lisa and I both answered questions about this in social media in the last week. And that is that parents are asking, “Why do we have a mix of– okay, we’re in a division unit here. It’s a division lesson in lesson X, and lesson Y is something different. Can we just do all division?” And we’ve seen lots of answers from social media. So we’re going to give you the straight skinny here. The reason that Delta is organized that way is because you are putting an enormous amount of neurological burden on your student to learn this process. And the lessons are broken up that way deliberatively to allow a student to feel successful when the math becomes more difficult. And Lisa, can you talk about how critical estimation is to the process of division, because I know we’ve also answered parents’ questions? When kids have struggled in beta with estimation, parents will then say, “But don’t worry about it.” And we know that the way Math-U-See is designed is there’s never anything done by happenstance. And the reason we are trying to get a student comfortable with the process of estimation in beta is because it’s going to come back and revisit them in Delta. Lisa?
Lisa Chimento: 00:13:26.140
Yeah, estimation is going to be very key. And I actually just spoke with somebody about this recently. One of our CSRs had a question that a mom had brought in because it’s when they start doing double-digit. So they’re dividing a triple-digit number by a double-digit number. Well, already this is a new skill beyond the single digits, and estimation is the key here. So the student really needs to be able to, first of all, realize, “Ah, this is something I can do to get started.” Sue talked about first step. And for many problems, this is the first step. Let me look at these two numbers. I automatically can see that I don’t know how many times this number is going to go into the big number, but I can estimate. First, I need to round that divisor, the number you’re dividing into the dividend. I need to round that to the nearest 10, maybe, or the nearest 100. Depending on what the number is, you’re going to round that number so that you’re working with zeros, which is always easier, and then you’re going to estimate how many times it can go into that larger number. If a student doesn’t even consider this, it’s just not on their radar, then what’s going to end up happening is that they’re going to sit there, and they’re going to try. “I’m going to multiply this by three. That didn’t work. I’m going to try it by four. I’m going to try it by five. I’m going to try it by six.” Well, stop and think about this. This is the first digit we’re dealing with, and we have already done three or four or five multiplication problems. We talk about brain battery. Again, they’ve just burned up a great deal of that brain battery necessary to get through a single problem. So this aspect of rounding and estimation will help cut through some of that. And I like what Sue has said about it should bring them to a choice between maybe two numbers. They’re going to get close really quickly and then maybe only have to hone down to the correct answer with one or two problems there. But this is where it’s really going to be put to use very effectively. So if your student hasn’t made much of a deal of rounding an estimation, or you haven’t made a big focus on it, this is a place to do so. And you can go back and do some reviewing of beta or gamma, where we’re using rounding and estimation. And this is going to be a big key for getting them started in a very positive direction on this problem.
Gretchen Roe: 00:16:06.323
Sue, can you talk a little bit about what a parent should be looking for to determine struggle? What are the things you want a parent to observe in their student that would indicate where the challenges might be coming from?
Sue Wachter: 00:16:23.338
Well, first of all, just to kind of repeat what Lisa was saying, a lot of times I’ll ask a parent how are they on fact fluency. And they say, “Well, pretty good.” But normally you’re handing your student a worksheet, and they’re getting it done. You’re not watching them. That’s why the assessment is all about observing for some of those, “Aha,” moments. Like, “Oh, oh, I just noticed this or that.” So that you can maybe catch something that they’re– not intentionally hiding because they’re disobedient kids, because they know that you know that they don’t want them to be counting. They know they’re supposed to have their facts mastered. But this assessment is designed for you to go, “Oh, I wonder.” And so then what you can do is get back to us, and then we can provide further assessment to get clarity. So the word clarity is going to come up a lot because the more clarity we have, the better we are for setting up a plan for success. And I don’t know if you want to talk about plan for success now, but that’s what our goal is. Our goal is not to sell you a bunch of material or to have you redo Delta or anything like that. Our goal is to put together a realistic plan for your child, which when you call the slate is clean, we are talking to you about your child. We have learned from the other parents, but your child will get a specific plan for their needs. And it’s going to be– I also want to add, this isn’t a child that’s just a fourth or fifth grader. Any child that has been through a previous curriculum with long division from say fourth grade up to 16 or higher, we’re taking a hard look at this because it affects so much of your higher level learning. A lot of times a parent calls, and they’re struggling in pre-algebra or something like that. We’re going to take a look at the long division, but maybe not the same test. So if they’re an older student, don’t just automatically give them the long division test. We want them not to be tested until they’re exhausted. We don’t want that. We want them to have as few assessments as possible because pretty soon they just start checking out. It’s like, “Oh, more testing.” Also, even though they are kind of a test and an assessment, we try to put wordage on it that doesn’t say test so that they don’t just– because a lot of kids that are struggling, the minute they see the word test, they start panicking. And once they start panicking, you’re not going to get good information. And that’s the goal. Not to evaluate your child’s math skills, but to get clarity on where the gaps might be, because usually that’s what we’re talking about: is gaps. And there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:34.871
I think it’s really important to recognize that in the process of evaluating your student, you’re the best tool. It’s not the test. It’s not what we share with you. It’s not what you can get off of our website. It’s your observational skills in the moment with your student to see how they are solving the problems. And we’re going to gain an enormous amount of information from you. And regardless of what curriculum you’re using, when you sit down with your student, most of us– I mean, I was the homeschool mom who had six kids. So our attention is automatically divided. Lisa can say the same thing. She had four. And our kids weren’t close in age. So there were a lot of different responsibilities for us to do. It is easy for you to say to a student, go do your math. But math is a conversation, and you need to have that conversation with your student on a frequent basis in order to know that they are learning the language of mathematics. And if you’re like me, where you’re a hesitant mathematician and not comfortable with the process, in the first place, then it is even more imperative for you to be honest and transparent with your student and collaborate to get them to understand. Lisa, one of the observations you made as we were preparing was using the manipulatives were warranted. So I wonder if you could address that a little bit, particularly for our families who are Math-U-See families. How are those manipulatives going to help them?
Lisa Chimento: 00:21:12.072
Yeah, those manipulatives are so key in understanding the why behind these concepts. There’s more than one thing we’re looking at here, the ability to solve a problem on paper. But there are opportunities where students need to use division in real-life applications. That’s a word problem. And very often, when parents don’t understand what’s going on, maybe their kids do have all of their facts memorized. Maybe they know the process for solving a long division problem on paper with no trouble. And they can just get through several problems. And then you notice the word problems, something’s not working right. How come they do fine with the equations, but they’re really struggling with the word problems? Very often, that’s a clue that they’re not understanding the underlying concepts. And if you have not been using the manipulatives, this is a red flag for you to get those manipulatives out. I totally get that a lot of parents are unfamiliar with how to teach with these manipulatives. And so they’ll very often be reluctant to do so. This isn’t how I learned and this isn’t how I understand. Well, you know what? Your kids haven’t been there yet. Give them that opportunity to remain open-minded about it and let the process go through. It works when you use the methodology. Steve Demme teaches this, and he does the demonstration in the video lessons. Very often, students are not understanding where place value fits in this process. They’re not understanding why numbers go where they’re supposed to go. Those manipulatives really help them understand the place value behind it. It helps them to understand the connection of that inverse operation of multiplication. So don’t be reluctant to use the manipulatives. If you’re feeling a lack of confidence, give us a call. We’ll help you. We’ll walk you through some problems. Are you pulling out an instruction manual there, Gretchen? The instruction manual.
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:23.619
I’m just being your Vanna White because I know what it’s going to say.
Lisa Chimento: 00:23:25.586
Thank you. That instruction manual, I totally understand that lots of parents from maybe primer through gamma don’t touch the instruction manual because they’re like, “Oh, I don’t need it for the solutions.” But you know what? There is so much help for you there in how to deliver these lessons. There is a how-to-use section at the beginning of the instruction manual that lays out the four-step process. It explains the build right say method that is so critical for long-term retention and deeper understanding. and it also talks to you about the teach-back. I don’t know if you wanted to talk about that separately. But that’s a critical one for both you and your student so that you can understand what they understand and so that they are learning the skill of communicating their understanding to you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:24:22.690
Actually, I was going to set Sue up for that because Sue does such a terrific job–
Lisa Chimento: 00:24:26.646
Gretchen Roe: 00:24:27.739
–of asking the kids to give feedback. So Sue, can you talk about how the teach-back and delta really does serve our purpose to pull together the understanding of place value and the understanding of estimation and the process?
Sue Wachter: 00:24:44.533
To me, whether you’re using Math-U-See or not, using our teach-back method is so valuable. And the reason I know this so well firsthand is I’m an art instructor. And I literally will plan an art project that I don’t know how to do yet because I know the power of preparing to teach. So if you’re a student, his goal, to get to move on in the lesson, is to prepare to teach you the lesson as if you’re the student and they’re the teacher. The cool thing is it will put the information in the correct part of the brain for retrieval. Whereas, if they’re just trying to get this done to get you happy and get you off their back, they might not store the information correctly. So the power of the teach-back is so important. The power of being able to teach it back, the lesson, before you even delve very deeply into the worksheets is so effective, again, whatever curriculum you’re using.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:55.521
The teach-back is your opportunity for your student to codify their understanding, to really explain to you what they know. And sometimes we get in a conversation with a parent – and they have used the materials for a period of time; They’ve used somebody’s materials, whether it’s Demme Learning or somebody else – and all of a sudden, they say, I didn’t know my student didn’t know how to do this.” If your student is effectively utilizing the teach-back process with you, that’s no longer something that will occur for you. Lisa, I wonder if you as a– Lisa provides support for our Algebra 1 students, as does Sue. But Lisa says often that she finds that when she provides support to our Algebra 1 students, she finds that they’re weak in the skills of epsilon. And there’s a reason why delta precedes epsilon. And I wonder if you could talk about that, please.
Lisa Chimento: 00:26:54.806
Yeah. I have to tell you, this was news to me. When I was using epsilon for the very first time with my firstborn – we got to that level – and Steve Demme is in the video. And he makes this statement, “A fraction is a division problem.” I was astonished. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, “I had never heard this in my life.” I’d been able to whip off a page of fraction problems and never knew that a fraction was a division problem. It’s just astonishing what I didn’t know. So now I know. Maybe some of you don’t know that either. But if a fraction is a division problem, then it certainly serves us well to make sure that our students are really strong and have a thorough understanding of division before they even begin working in fractions. You can draw a circle, cut it in half, and teach your child, even a very young child, what one half is. But you can’t do the four operations with fractions unless they have a really strong foundation in division first. And I’m just going to say really quickly here, I’m using that word foundation, but for every level of Math-U-See that you’re using, you’re laying foundation. And I often say that learning math is very much like constructing a building. At every level, you want the building to be strong and secure. You don’t want to have half the foundation done, and then you start building heavy floors on top of it because the structure comes down. It’s weakened. And it’s like that with math. The higher level you go, the higher concepts as you go are weighty. And if there isn’t strong foundation below them, then the kids really feel it. So make sure that you’ve got that kind of foundation. Fractions is critical for success in Algebra I, and division is critical for success in fractions.
Sue Wachter: 00:29:04.228
I always say it just a little step farther because my brain goes what? I have to prove it. Every time I say this, it proves it once again to myself. So back in the old days, before they had the symbols we have now, they actually wrote a division problem. So if you had 20 divided by 5, you would write it 20 over 5. That’s how it was written. Or if you have one-half, that’s one divided by two. And that, as you can see real quickly, then when they’re changing a fraction to a decimal, it’s very easy to get there. But when I’ve tutored kids in fractions, I will mention that a lot. They’ll say, “What do I do here?” And I go, “Remember, a fraction is a division problem written vertically,” and they boom, they can get it. It’s a real key little sentence that can be pretty powerful. And even in Algebra 1, when they’re trying to solve a problem, I say, “Oh, remember, we’re trying to get everything to be a decimal. Remember, a fraction is a division problem written vertically, and then you just divide. You just divide the top number by the bottom number, that’s all.” For those of you who are out there and go, what? Division problem? So anyway, it’s one of my other favorite things to talk about. Yeah.
Gretchen Roe: 00:30:24.790
Briefly, I want to turn our attention to the questions because, man, we got some terrific questions this time. But these things, these are fraction overlays. And they’re probably the single most valuable tool you will use in a Demme Learning product. Why do I say that? Because right about the time you hit Epsilon is the time you get a child going to coin a line from an old popular movie. Manipulatives, I don’t need no stinking manipulatives. And the truth is, you need these. Don’t buy anybody’s bill of goods that says you do not because these are the difference maker. And I have to tell you, as three placement specialists here at Demme Learning, if the three of us and our colleague, Michael, who’s not here with us today, the four of us had a quarter for every time we’ve had to take a student who’s a high schooler back to this level because they didn’t understand how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide fractions, and make them go back and through and use these, we’d all have a very nice lunch together because it is huge. It is just unquantifiable how much of a difference maker these manipulatives will make for your student. So don’t let your students get away with not using them. But Sue, I’m going to come back to you. How do you negotiate with a kid who says, “I don’t need no stinking manipulatives because I love the way you do this”?
Sue Wachter: 00:31:59.458
It kind of goes back to what I talked about to teach back. you just have to say a hard and fast rule, “I don’t care how you do it. You can’t have just watched the video five minutes ago. It needs to be a 24 hour since you watched the video. But you do not get to leave the practice section of the book until you can do the teach back on the manipulatives.” And it just– even if you’re kind of a mom like me that would say that and then cave in, try not to cave in because it’s huge. I’ve seen parents get all the way through Epsilon and still don’t have the fractions locked in. And I’ll say, did you use the manipulatives? And 100% of the time they say, “No, we didn’t really need them.” Like Gretchen said, you do. It is what locks it in. You combine that, the powerhouse of those manipulatives and the teach back, and that is going to be locked in solid. Solid. And that’s why [crosstalk]–
Gretchen Roe: 00:33:02.844
Toward that end, I think it’s also important for us to say Lisa did a really good job talking about the information that is contained in here. As parents, if you have used Math-U-See Primer, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, you’ve watched the video and gone, “Yeah, I got it.” But the remainder of the instruction is in this book. And so you don’t have the complete picture of the instruction. Several of you said, “How am I going to do this? How do I get through the division lessons? They’re so hard.” And my question if I was talking to you on the phone would be, did you read what’s in here as well? Because it is a true game changer. I want to turn my attention to something [crosstalk]–
Sue Wachter: 00:33:47.949
Just to add to that real quick. The reason why– I always like to know the reason. I’m one of those, “Why?”. And the reason is, is the video was recorded. And then, as again, we’ve learned from the customer what additional things are needed to make it even more successful. Those successful tips and ideas have been added. It’s much easier to change a book than a video. And so it is real important. There are things there that are not on the video. And if they were added after the video, they’re even more important because they were added because it was realized that something extra was needed.
Gretchen Roe: 00:34:27.662
We’re always striving at Demme Learning to improve, and we learn as much from our families as our families learn from us. The evolution of Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for addition and subtraction and for multiplication came from the lessons that Sue and I learned from you families. And now we have both of these wonderful programs and they are truly game changers. But what’s important for you all to know is we wouldn’t have those programs if we hadn’t collaborated with families to know that there was a need. And the way we learn what your needs are is when it gets hard, when the struggle gets deep, you guys pick up the phone and call, because we learn in every conversation that we have. We had several parents ask us, “How do you make division fun?” I have an opinion. I will keep it to myself. I will let one of you answer that question.
Sue Wachter: 00:35:28.642
I don’t have a fun way. So Lisa, you got fun?
Gretchen Roe: 00:35:34.721
Sue Wachter: 00:35:37.132
She’s scrambling here. Like, “Oh it’s all on me.”
Lisa Chimento: 00:35:40.177
You know what? I tell you, Sue, what you said before, about doing one step first, that certainly takes the stress out of the situation. And it might not ever be really fun, but if you can bring that stress level down, you have done a valuable thing there for your kids. Because when stress enters the situation, then learning stops. And so it’s just not going to get any better at that point. And you’re better to just walk away from it for a little while, let the de-escalation happen, and do something fun, and then come back to it when everybody’s in an okay place in their emotions. And I think probably also you want to observe a couple of things like when is your student sharpest? Some kids are really morning kids and they are good and sharp in the morning. Maybe that’s the time to do some math and tackle it then. For other kids, maybe it’ll be after they complete something that they’ve really just enjoyed a lot. Here’s another thing to think about, and that is, are the lessons too long? If you are having your kids sit there for half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour or more, let’s rethink that because, as I mentioned before, that plus-three-minutes rule, this is where it can really be beneficial to that student. We have learned and research shows that when you keep lessons shorter, it is better for deeper understanding of that new material and for long-term retention.
Lisa Chimento: 00:37:20.328
And so you might be thinking, “Well, we spent an hour and a half on this yesterday, and I know he got it, but he comes to it today and acts like he never saw it before.” Well, long-term retention is going to require the brain to have some rest time. Think about it like a muscle that an athlete is using. He has to stretch it a little past what he’s able to do, but the real strengthening happens during recovery, during rest. And so you need to have that student have a chance to rest. Push him a little bit. And anytime you’re having to learn something new that you don’t know yet, you are pushing your brain a little bit beyond what it knows. And then let him rest. You might need to let it go overnight. Let his brain rest and go to sleep and come back and look at it again tomorrow, and he’ll have a little bit of familiarity with it then and then be able to look at it with fresh eyes. So a couple of things there to think about, but I would say keep those lessons on the shorter side. You will get that– you will get that material done. More doesn’t mean better. I know the word rigor gets used a lot. And for some homeschooling families, rigor means you just work that kid until he drops. But that’s not going to accomplish what your goal is for his learning. So better short periods. I like to say small bites rather than gobbling up a lot of material in a single sitting. Take small bites over more sittings, more consistent, and let the repetition happen there. And with regard to repetition, more practice problems of something that you don’t understand doesn’t help you understand it more. The practice problems repetition is for after understanding happens. If they don’t get it, go back to the video lesson and watch it again the next day, not the same day. Go back to and pull out those manipulatives. Look at the written lesson again. For some kids, a key is reading the written lesson because it’s organized in a very nice way. When Steve Demmei’s teaching on the videos, he’s kind of talking off the cuff, he’s responding to the kids that he’s standing in front of and so forth. But the way it’s written out in the instruction manual is in a very organized way. And for some kids, that’s their key. That’s the way their brain works. They want to see it written out step by step by step. If I’m very linear, that’s what helps me. So consider that as well. I don’t know if that’s–
Sue Wachter: 00:39:54.641
So I did think of some fun. That was nice to have Lisa talk first so I can get a pause and regroup. So I thought of a customer that once that I was working with with a plan for success. And she emailed me and she said, “I just have to tell you, I don’t know if you remember me, but my 11-year-old used to cry every time we got the books out. And today he said, ‘I love math.'” And the reason is, we got clarity on what was needed to fill in those gaps and to help the student find success. Math is only going to be fun if you’re feeling successful. It cannot be fun if it’s always a drudgery. So the other thing is, I’m someone, just like your kid, that doesn’t like redundance. I hate redundance too. So be careful with that. If they just get overwhelmed by the worksheets, just circle every other one and say, go ahead and get those done and see how that goes. But I usually put a little caveat with it, but I want it to be worked through neatly. I want you to show your work because sloppiness is also part of what makes it messy. And so I’m the fun grandma. We will do less work if we can to get to the same place. So kind of make– but let’s make a deal. Again, especially if sloppiness is part of the problem or they’re overwhelmed by too many, especially long division problems. Our books are set up in sections, even in the review, where you could easily just say, okay, you want to do odd or even today? But I want to see your work. And I want you to take your time and work neatly through them. So I don’t know if that’s necessarily fun, but we can make it a little more enjoyable, I guess.
Gretchen Roe: 00:41:44.552
Yes, and I think that that makes a difference. And one of the reasons I love working alongside these three ladies is because we do think in the same realm. And Sue said, messiness, neatness, it makes a difference. When you get to the Delta level, there’s not room. We give you space in the book, but in all honesty, unless you’re an engineer, you can’t write tidily enough to work those problems out in the book. And so I’m going to make two suggestions for you all. Suggestion number one is– see my notebook paper? This is the notebook paper y’all are used to seeing. I turned it sideways. And the reason I turned it sideways is because it allows me to use the lines as columns. Another thing that you can use is graph paper. Now, I’m hesitant to use graph paper unless it’s quarter-inch graph paper. And if you want to use that and that is beneficial, mother Google is a wonderful place to find that. We also have a quarter-inch graph paper as one of our supports for you through our support center. So you can find it there as well. Why do I say that? Why would I tell you to take– we’ve given you blank space in the book, why would I tell you to write it out on paper? Because sometimes the frustration comes simply from trying to cram all that stuff in there and make it work in the book. But here’s a caveat to that. As the parent, before you let your student work it out on lined paper or graph paper, I want you to look at the problem and make sure they’ve copied it correctly. There is nothing more discouraging than to work all the way through a problem, and you as the mom come blowing by and go, well, that answer is wrong. And then you go, wait, you didn’t work the right problem. That’s criminal, I mean to tell you, at least from my point of view. I don’t enjoy math in the first place. And to have to work the wrong problem sounds awful to me. How discouraging that has to be to a student. So in that capacity, if you’re going to transfer problems to the paper, just take whatever minute or two it is to look at what’s in the book and what your student has written on the paper to see that they have written it correctly because it makes all the difference in the world.
Sue Wachter: 00:44:07.832
Another sideline to that that just came in my head was the whole idea of too much tension when you’re writing. And that could be something you could work on separately because not only does it– they wear their hands out by grabbing that pencil so tight and pressing so hard, but they also make it hard to erase when they make a mistake. So whether it’s during this time or not, work on tension as an artist and I’m working with usually adults. That’s my number one problem as people is they don’t realize that you don’t grip your brush or your pencil so tight and have too much tension. So one of the ways you can do that is by the really cheap mechanical pencils and maybe not during math. If math is already stressful, don’t do this. But have them practice writing because if you press too hard with the mechanical pencil, especially the cheap ones, they’re going to break every time you press hard. So develop that muscle memory to write lightly, and it will not only help your math but your art as well.
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:16.527
Here’s a way to accomplish the teach-back. I’ll scribe for you if you’ll talk me through the problem. So we’ll sit down and I’ll write out the problem. And you’re going to sit next to me and tell me, “What do I do first? What do I do next? What do I do third”? Or even as Sue said earlier, we’re going to walk through the first step of every problem on this page today. So what do I have to write down first? What do I have to write down second? That is a way for you to accomplish the teach-back with a student who might be reticent to do that. So one of the parents said, “How do I reduce whining?” And I love her already.
Sue Wachter: 00:46:00.418
Is this about math or not?
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:05.950
I think the first place that you have to reduce whining is in yourself, in all honesty. I was a whiner about long division. And so if we can frame it in the affirmative for our students, you are laying Lisa’s foundation, you’re building a house. And you can’t build the third story until you have a solid second storey. It makes a lot of difference for our students.
Sue Wachter: 00:46:32.776
But as the grandma in the room again, maybe it goes back to what Lisa was talking about about how maybe you’re spending too much time on math. Maybe you’re dragging it out too long. That could be the case. And again, that’s why a consultation with us is so important because we can really wrestle all that to the ground and figure out you know what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, or make suggestions. We don’t judge what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate. But help you with some of those little tips on– because it really gets very personal, doesn’t it, you guys, in the end? You get to know the person and you start believing in that child and you say, “Okay, well, have you tried this, have you tried that”? So we could talk all day and we wouldn’t hit everything that we talk about because it does become very personal and it becomes very individual as to what we end up as the plan for success.
Gretchen Roe: 00:47:29.293
Several parents said to us, “Give us tips for helping our children not lose their place in the process because long division has so much process.” I think it’s important for you ladies to reiterate. It’s not the process that’s the challenge here. So can you address that one more time? I was going to let Lisa talk because I’ve been talking.
Lisa Chimento: 00:47:56.312
I’m going to say one thing. You’re going to come up with something even better though.
Sue Wachter: 00:48:00.268
Especially if you go first.
Lisa Chimento: 00:48:04.507
So there is a process and we do have to deal with that process. But there’s so many different pieces to all of it. I will say this that I did with my kids, and it was helpful for them. I let them– we sat down together outside of lesson time, and we came up with like short little symbols that they would recognize that they could use. And so what it was was the first symbol was a division sign. And then underneath that was a multiplication sign. And underneath that was a subtraction sign. And then underneath that was a down arrow. And then underneath that was like a swoopy up arrow. So the first one was the first step. You have to divide. The second one was you have to multiply, then you subtract, then you bring down the next number, and then you go back and you do the first step again. You start all over again. That five little symbol thing, we worked on it together, and then they were allowed to write it at the top of their page before they started their work in the morning. And they were permitted to refer to it. By the third week, they didn’t need to write it anymore because that process was now internalized and second nature to them. But it was one less thing that they had to think about while they were doing the rest of everything that you have to do when you’re doing division. The recall of facts and the understanding of the concepts. And maybe for those particular lessons, they had to work with manipulatives as well. That one little five symbol thing made them not have to do yet another thing or hold more stuff in their head. And like I said, by three weeks, it was second nature, and they didn’t need to deal with it anymore. That was one little thing we did. I don’t know if that helps anybody.
Sue Wachter: 00:49:57.724
And then also, I often recommend just doing one a day, like what Lisa said was excellent. But if you didn’t make, again, a whole page of it, just do one of those problems a day, doing it that way for several weeks. And then what I like to recommend too, when you do that, what I call a one a day, then take a couple of weeks off and then come back and see if it’s all still there as well. And then I will tell them, so you can print off several on the worksheet generator. And I’ll say, and you tell your student, they are not allowed to do more than one a day, not one. Don’t be catching doing more than one problem a day. And they just laugh. And I’ll say, and if they think that they’re going to get them all done, so then you’ll get off their back, say, nope, you still have to go back to one a day. And if you do more than one, it’s on you. So anyway.
Gretchen Roe: 00:50:50.678
Part of that is back to the things that we have talked about about working in the cooperation with the neurology of learning and allowing the brain, when it looks like it’s not working, to still be working. And Sue, I want to circle back to you just real briefly, because this is a lesson you taught me as you’ve provided support to Algebra 1 parents about when it’s rough, when you’re not getting it. Close the book and walk away. Can you explain that for our parents?
Sue Wachter: 00:51:18.849
Yes. Algebra 1 is where I personally learned that for myself because I was taking Algebra 1 for the first time because I didn’t get the grades in school to qualify for Algebra 1. So it was awesome to go back through myself. But the aha moment for me was I would watch the video. Now, this doesn’t happen as much in the lower level, but in Algebra 1, I would watch the video and I’d go, “I don’t understand a word the man said.” And so then I would get the book open. So just think a child, you have all this, he’s talking, Steve’s fun, he’s really good. But sometimes you don’t understand the first time you hear what he says. So you might get the book out and say, well, let’s try one problem. And let’s look at the answer key. See if the answer key is going to help us. And if it’s still like not getting it, say, “Let’s just go ahead and stop and let’s take a look at it again tomorrow.” And it became almost like a game because I knew I would get it if I hung in there. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but I would take it through the process of watching the video again. Or as a parent, if you’re understanding it, you could walk them through it again. Do one of the problems in the practice pages, see if the light bulb was going to go on, look at the answer key, see if the answer key helped. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere it felt, it would go, “Oh, oh, that makes sense.” But had I have powered through a whole worksheet doing it wrong, I would have spent time training my brain with the wrong information. So be aware of that, when they’re not getting it, especially in the math you see material, those first pages, that’s where the learning happens. That’s not about, that’s where you get a sheet done of work and then you grade it and decide if they passed or failed. But that’s where the learning happens. So it’s not like you have to get that page filled in. If they’re not getting it that day, don’t train the brain in the wrong direction. Come back to it tomorrow and say, “Let’s see if we’re going to get it today,” because that’s what learning’s all about. An intelligent child doesn’t get everything the first day. And I’ve told that– I’ve taken Algebra 1 calls. I remember one clearly and the young men, I told him that, I said, “The first pages, you’re not supposed to know everything.” He goes, “What?” He was shocked. He thought that all you have to do was watch the video, do the worksheets. And if you’re intelligent enough, you’re going to get it. And that is not the case. That’s what learning looks like. Learning looks like wrestling it. And the more you have to wrestle it, sometimes the better you’re going to get it. Then the person that gets it real quick fills in the pages and moves on and doesn’t remember it the next day or the next week.
Gretchen Roe: 00:54:13.227
Lisa, I know that you have talked about this in the past. I wonder if you could just recap as far as the idea of what you get wrong is really where the learning occurs.
Lisa Chimento: 00:54:28.859
Yeah, I got to say this to a mom just this morning that I spoke with. And this is especially helpful for those firstborn types like me and other children who struggle with perfectionism or they start beating themselves up because they made a mistake. This is our opportunity as adults to reassure those kids that in math, errors are opportunities. They’re not bad, you haven’t done anything wrong and there’s nothing to be punished for. This is an opportunity to gain deeper understanding of something if you can identify that error. And this goes back to making sure they show their work. If a student gets something wrong– and again, we’ve got a multi-step process going on here. So it could be that they got four of the five steps right, but one step inside that little process, there was an error made. If they had shown their work, they can go back and identify that error and correct it themselves. And when we find those errors and correct them ourselves, very often we don’t make them again or not very much. But if you haven’t shown the work, if you can’t identify the error, it’s probably something you’ll repeat. But we want to really stress that this is an opportunity to really gain deeper understanding and a better grasp on these tricky concepts. So let’s, again, frame it in a positive way so that the kids know they haven’t done anything wrong and there’s not going to be any punishment for it. But this gives just an opportunity to learn this even better, and that’s going to benefit us going forward.
Gretchen Roe: 00:56:10.017
If we’ve said something here that makes you want to continue the discussion, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re here because you’re here and we’re here to make your journey a successful one. So please, thank you for trusting us so much to be here this afternoon, and feel free to reach out to us and let us help you create that individualized plan. Lisa, if you will, give your closing thoughts, and then I’ll let Sue be the final word, because she’s been at this longer than any of us, so.
Lisa Chimento: 00:56:41.170
Yes, she has. I’m so thankful for her wisdom. One of the very first things she said today in our discussion was assessment. If your kids are struggling in long division, something that we said here today may have kicked off a light bulb for you, and you may know how to go forward from here. But if not, and you’re not sure what the problem is, please call us. There are four of us here. We are placement specialists. We can talk to you. We can provide you with diagnostic tools. And we can get to the bottom of this to identify any areas. That word clarity again was Sue’s and that’s what we want to do. We want to help get clarity so that that student can become strengthened in their math learning and move forward in a very equipped and confident way. We want them to feel confident and equipped. So please do give us a call. We’d love to help you.
Sue Wachter: 00:57:35.972
I just want to say that I would say this conversation when the parent calls and says, “My student is struggling with long division,” and it doesn’t matter how old they are, I kind of get excited, to be honest, because there’s so much we can do. And it also affects everything else moving forward in their math. And so it’s such a perfect time to pause and work it through, put a plan together that often it doesn’t even involve buying Delta, it involves using an upper level, but doing some shore up activities and different plans put together specifically for your child’s needs so that we can set them up for success long term. But like Gretchen said, the long division call is a red flag and it’s just my favorite because we can help put hope back into your math.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:33.769
This is Gretchen Roe for the Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at demmelearning.com/show or go on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it.
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Draw lightly. We often find that students who grip their pencil tightly fatigue rapidly, and it is difficult to stay engaged with the problem.
Here is the little code Lisa used with her kids. They would write this down at the top of their page every morning before they started their long-division work to remind them of the steps. By the end of three weeks, they had committed the steps to memory:Upcoming Episodes
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