I've mentioned before that Bud has trouble grasping math concepts. His teacher and I have been working on ways to make math problems more accessible to him, and one of our first challenges has been trying to capture Bud's attention long enough to give him time to think about the question being asked.
This weekend, Bud's math homework included four word problems. His teacher had added a note for me: "Do you think you could adapt these types of problems with Teletubbies or Curious George's bananas?"
It sounded like a workable solution to me, so before we got started I sat down at the computer and re-worked the questions to make them more Bud-friendly.
So, for example,
Ruth had 7 stickers. Mrs. Rhoton gave her 3 more. How many did Ruth have in all?
Laa Laa had 7 flowers.
Po gave her 3 more.
How many flowers does Laa Laa have all together?
Bud read the whole problem out loud to me. Then he went back and read the first line ("Laa Laa had 7 flowers") again. I pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a picture of Laa Laa. Bud was fully engaged. Together we drew seven flowers next to Laa Laa.
Bud read the next line: "Po gave her 3 more." I drew Po, then together we drew three more flowers. Bud added dialogue: "Ee-ah," said cartoon Po; "Oh, thank you, Po," said cartoon Laa Laa.
Bud read the last line: "How many flowers does Laa Laa have all together?" I had cartoon Po say goodbye to cartoon Laa Laa, and I drew a border around Laa Laa and all her flowers. Bud and I counted the flowers together, then we talked through the math problem that our picture represented as Bud wrote at the bottom of the page:
7 + 3 = 10
Feeling confident, we moved on to the next problem, which was originally:
Mo is 6 years old. Her sister Ann is 14 years old. How much older is Ann?,
but now read:
Po is 6 years old.
Tinky Winky is 14 years old.
How much older is Tinky Winky?
I guessed that this kind of comparative thinking was going to present a greater challenge for Bud, so I tried to make the abstract concept of age a bit more tangible.
Bud read the first sentence: "Po is 6 years old." I drew a picture of Po next to a big birthday cake, and we counted together as I drew six candles on the cake.
Bud read the second sentence: "Tinky Winky is 14 years old."
"Po is six years old, so she had six candles," I said slowly. "But Tinky Winky is fourteen years old. So, what does Tinky Winky's cake need?"
"Frosting," Bud replied.
Okay, here's the thing. I will grant you that math is not Bud's strong suit. But it's hard to argue with that kind of logic.