Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mad Mad Minutes

The Mad Minutes are driving me mad. They are driving my son mad too. And my husband. We are all mad for Mad Minutes.

Mad Minutes have revealed one of those touchy subjects of parenting.

The inevitable comparison.

I try not to do it. I really really try. But it happens.

Comparison is a natural way for parents to gauge how their child is doing. If the child is an Only, we compare him to others the same age or in the same class. If the child has siblings, we compare them to any and all siblings AND others the same age and in the same class. Sometimes the comparison runs amok, and we measure the child by what we ourselves did at the same age, what our spouse or even parents did at the same age. Everyone is fair game.

Comparison, at its heart, is about competition. Is my child better or worse? Ahead or behind? More athletic or more musical? More talented or harder working? More artistic or more of a shit-disturber? Comparison among siblings is a way to gauge strengths and weaknesses. And among siblings, there are certainly different strengths and weaknesses, as living within a family can make so plainly clear.

We try our best to say each child is different, has their own special qualities, different styles of learning, different interests. We just need to honor the person our child is right at this moment.

Most of the time, this works pretty well. But what about when a comparison just slaps you in the face?

Like, how is this kid so different from his brothers?

Mad Minutes are a sheet of math facts to be completed in a fairly short timed period. My second grader is just starting them, so he is working on simple addition. In the years to follow it will progress to multiplication and division. The object of the Mad Minute is to master the math facts on the page so they can be done correctly and quickly.

My two older children sailed through Mad Minutes. They rarely studied for them, maybe a few practice sheets here and there, and they would pass each level and move to the next. Not my second grader. He has been stuck on the same sheet for a month.

His brain doesn't work the same way his brothers' do. He needs a lot more practice, a lot more repetition. It's much harder for him to concentrate and focus on accuracy and speed. I reluctantly got out the flash cards. They were still brand new, my other two never used them. The flash cards frustrated both of us. I tried explaining a few rules and tricks for memorizing the addition facts, and I think that just confused him. We were both frustrated, and he was still stuck on the same page.

My husband came to the rescue. He happens to be very gifted with numbers. He approached the issue with more patience and more concentrated time, and figured out how to help him learn to do the Mad Minutes. He observed what wasn't working and found a method that did. Now he is the official Mad Minutes parent. Apparently, I can't do it.

"Wow," my husband said to me after one long study session, "his brain works a lot more like yours."

By this he means: this could really be a struggle with this kid. Compared to his brothers, my second grader is way behind on his Mad Minutes. Compared to me at the same age, however, he is doing just fine!

So I guess if we are going to compare our kids to others, it matters who we compare them to!
This is me in second grade. Clearly I was much more concerned about dressing like Hollie Hobbie than math.


Anonymous said...

I am sure your 7 year old will be just fine. Look at you. He will just need someone to handle his business affairs. I can remember when you closed your checking account because it was too stressfullto balance your bank statement each month even tho you may have only written 2 checks.


Chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous said...


The Big Boss said...

Thanks for outing me on the whole checkbook thing. It brings back painful memories, it was very stressful and I had to end it.