Although he really liked math, when we first approached long division, my little guy was having none of it. Say the word “division”, and you could watch his brain shut down. You could watch it in his eyes. It wasn’t “clicking” at all; no spark. He’s a super bright little guy, but he gave up before starting.
So, what to do? We could go head-to-head and maybe, possibly make minuscule progress after a few hours each day. We could do the coaxing, pleading, begging route—gag!—I had no stomach for that. We could put it off indefinitely and study “underwater basket-weaving”.
Instead, I gently told him that I knew this skill was tough for him and that we both knew he needed to learn it. I expressed confidence in his ability to learn it well and acknowledged that he didn’t want to do it right now but that good character does hard things when they need to be done.
Then we tore 5 sheets of paper in half horizontally. Starting with the math lesson he didn’t seem able to look at and drawing from later ones, I wrote 10 division problems on each sheet. Each day, he had to do one sheet without complaining. At first, I sat beside him helping him walk through the steps with the understanding that I would spend less time each day by his side until he was working completely on his own for the last few pages. And it worked. . .beautifully.
Did it take 3 days to do the work that should have been done in one? Yep. But the work got done, he completely mastered the subject, and we moved on with minimal drama. (Not that he is given to drama.)
We all hit a brick wall on occasion, sometimes it’s smarter and easier to go around than to try to go through.
* Photo: By Pedroaraez198 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons