Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'll Show You Some "Mental Math," Alright!

I've met many a lazy student, but none lazier than Tom.  When it's time to work, Tom (who is fully capable academically) always seems to have an injury, illness, or need to use the restroom or visit his locker.  Yes, we know he has troubles in his life and may even have a disability (not diagnosed), but that doesn't make it any less annoying when he starts up with his excuses and avoidance tactics.

This morning in math, Tom spent fifteen minutes on the problem 3.4 x 5.2 because he likes to "do it all in his head."  He probably wrote four or five different answers (I'm not exaggerating) after being told they were still incorrect, each time refusing to just work the problem and insisting that he prefers "to do mental math." Finally, I told him, "Doing it in your head is a great skill to brag about when you can actually do it quickly, but when the entire class has finished the page and you're still on the first problem, that's your cue that your method isn't working.  May I show you how to do it?"

Of course, he said no and continued his dogged effort to avoid working. Why can't he see that it would take a tenth of the effort to just do it?!

Fifteen minutes later, when the rest of the class was nearly done with a quiz and Tom hadn't started it, I approached him and asked him to get to work. In a very whiny voice, he replied, "I just can't concentrate..."

That's when I had a flash of brilliance.  I knelt down next to Tom's desk, and in the most compassionate, kind voice I have ever mustered, said, "That's okay. I understand completely. You take all the time you need. You don't need to take the quiz right now. Why don't you just rest?"  Swinging to look at me with a, "Wut u talkin' about, Willis?" look on his face, he ventured, "Really?"

"Sure.  I've arranged it so that you can just take your quiz in the detention room today during your lunch and recess. There's plenty of room in there, and it's nice and quiet. In fact, you'll probably be the only student in there today.  You can also do yesterday's and today's homework in there, too, since you've obviously  been too distracted to do them at home.  Mrs. T will be expecting you."

I'll bet you're shocked to know that Tom then busted out an entire quiz in about three minutes.  As he was finishing, I pretended not to notice and called him over to show him the email I was sending to Mrs. T:

"Please expect Tom today. He will be finishing a quiz, as well as two homework assignments (pgs. 60-61 in his Math Journal.)"

"But I'm done," Tom insisted. "I don't need to go there now."

"Yes, you do," I replied warmly, yet firmly.  "It will give you the quiet place you need to get your other work done. You're welcome to go to recess after you're finished."

Tom's facial expression at this point would make a hilarious desktop background; I wish I could have taken his photo right then. (Of course, I would never take a photo of a child in distress; I'm much too compassionate to get enjoyment from a student's pain! (wink-wink)

Flash-forward 90 minutes later...

Would you believe that poor Tom ended up forgetting to go to the detention room at lunch time (maybe there is really something to his concentration problem?), but never fear; I was there to hunt him down like a dog find him and prod gently guide him to the detention room before heading to my Lunch Duty.

Believe it or not, when Mrs.T asked Tom to produce his Math Journal, he had lost it! That poor kid's memory problem sure is serious! Good thing Mrs.T just so happened to have an extra copies of the homework Tom needed to complete, so he didn't even need to go to his locker again to get it.

I wonder where she found those!

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