Preparing for the Lesson 1896 painted by Hugo Loffler.
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
I studied my arithmetic,
And then I went to bed,
And on my little pillow white
Laid down my little head.
I hoped from dreams of dear delight,
Of sugar-candy bliss;
But oh! my sleep, the livelong night,
Was filled with things like this.
Add forty jars of damson jam
To fifty loaves of cake,
Subtract a cow, and tell me how
Much butter it will make.
Then add the butter to the jam,
And give it to a boy,
How long will 't take ere grievous ache
Shall dash his childish joy?
If twenty men stole thirty sheep
And sold them to the Pope,
What would they get if he should let
Them have the price in soap?
And if he slew each guileless beast,
And in pontific glee
Sold leg and loin for Roman coin,
What would his earnings be?
Next, if a Tiger climbed a tree
To get a cocoanut,
And if by hap the feline chap
Should find the shop was shut;
And if ten crabs with clawing dabs
Should pinch his Bengal toes,
What would remain when he should gain
The ground, do you suppose?
Divide a stick of licorice
By twenty infant jaws,
How long must each lose power of speech
In masticating pause?
And if these things are asked of you,
While you're a-chewing of it,
What sum of birch, rod, pole or perch
Will be your smarting profit?
I woke upon my little bed
In anguish and in pain.
I'd sooner lose my brand-new shoes
Than dream those dreams again.
Oh! girls and boys, who crave the joys
Of slumber calm and deep,
Away then kick your 'rithmetic
Before you go to sleep!
-by Laura E. Richards
I discovered this poem in a book entitled "Five Minute Stories" by Laura E. Richards, one of my favorite poets.
A Solution to Painful Math LessonsI have discovered, by long arduous experience, the best way to tackle math books with my students: we do half the lesson (sometimes the whole lesson) orally.
The lessons take so much less time now! It is also good for the memory, good for the attitude, and Whew! to get that math lesson out of the way in 15 or 20 minutes rather than half a day is such a relief to my students! And I no longer have the boring task of standing over them to make sure that they do their lesson.
So much of the math books are review: review of yesterday's lesson, review of some skill unused for a few months, or a review of last year. Of course we know the value of this-- to cement in the children's minds the things they have learned by frequent practice. But when faced with a page of simple multiplication review problems, my third grader would glaze his eyes, look out the window, play with his pencil, and slump for sheer boredom. Cutting down the amount of these review problems was a little help, but still we had the really long math lesson happening. Bribery can only do so much. I even had a time when we skipped the easy review problems altogether--only to have trouble later on when it was obvious that some of the facts were not at the ready.
Just turn all those review kinds of math problems into oral drills! You'll be surprised at how fast it will zoom by! The children also get momentum from seeing so much of their math lesson disappear, that they can do the paper and pencil part with alacrity.
Not only that, but they will be able to do more and more complicated math in their head. I am finding that my 4th grader can do nearly the entire daily lesson orally, and in record time. There are no tears and no more frustration. And, I hope, no mathematical nightmares like Mrs. Richard's!