My 14-year-old daughter takes after me. She is a word, not a number, girl. It's not that math is impossible for her. But the manipulation of numbers does not come as naturally to her as the manipulation of words. This is a child who was making up stories in her high chair.
This year Caitlin is studying algebra. She is progressing well, although at times the road gets a bit rocky. Generally she works fairly independently, but when she encounters a difficult lesson she lets me know and I spend some time watching her work through the troublesome problems. What we have noticed, though, is that I don't contribute all that much. It seems to be enough for me to come and sit by her as she goes at it. For some reason, just my being there seems to make the difference.
What gives? Well, as much as I would like to believe that it is my mere presence exuding maternal love and devotion that is responsible for her success, Caitlin and I have realized it is not that but something else. When I am next to her, she works through the problem verbally, speaking out loud the steps as she does them. Eureka! This is my word girl (as well as my highly tactile and kinesthetic can't-sit-still-must-always-be-moving-and-manipulating-something child). NO WONDER she does better when she talks about the problem. Yesterday as she and I were discussing this phenomenon it occurred to us that perhaps she should just always talk her way through her math lesson, whether I am there or not. It would be interesting to try it as an experiment and see if doing so gives her a greater success rate on the first time through a lesson.
Once again, I find myself thankful for homeschooling. No one in our house is going to care if there is someone sitting at the dining room table verbalizing her math lesson. In a regular classroom, she would be disturbing others. Here, if someone does mind (because maybe Someone is studying his chess), Caitlin (or Someone) can simply go to another room. Can't do that in a regular classroom, now, can you?