My youngest struggles in school, Autism + ADHD + Anxiety Disorder (NOS) = a very stressful school experience. He struggles the most with Math although other subjects have specific difficulties as well.
We did some chatting specifically about sitting in math class where I tried to get a feel for what his issues are outside of the learning material, should I ask for his seat to be in a specific spot? Does he need a different type of headphones? Would he benefit from a different kind of paper? Pencil? All that kind of stuff. Basically, can I minimize every other issue so that he can focus better on the subject in which he struggles most?
It was then that I realized a big issue, something that was ESSENTIAL to my own understanding of mathematics, something that could make a fundamental difference:
THERE IS NO MATH TEXTBOOK
I hate to constantly compare my education in the 80s-90s to education today. There was a lot bad about my education and a lot good but from 3rd grade on I always had a textbook. The idea was that the student would read the 3-4 page explanation of the math principle, which included vocabulary and example problems, then the teacher would go over it in class with more examples. Then we would complete some work relating to those problems. If I didn't understand the vocabulary, I could turn back 2 pages and look for the word in bold. If I forgot a step in solving the problem, I could turn back a page and look for an example that was similar to mine. If I took math homework home with me, the book came too. The fact is that I always had a REFERENCE to the material I was supposed to be learning until I was tested on it.
My son has no text book. When I volunteer, I make copies of worksheets, I tear pages out of workbooks but I've never seen a math book (spelling book, social studies book, language arts book...etc) on/in/near his desk.
This makes me wonder about the progression of education, I get that curriculum is different now and teaching is vastly different than my experience but at what point did books become obsolete? Where are the references and the examples that would help the vast number of visual learners like me and like my kids. Being able to see a page in a text book again and again, allowing a visual learner to take a mental "snapshot" of what is on that page is kinda key to someone who thinks in pictures and/or is a visual learner. You cannot do this with a white board or a computer screen unless you are willing to flash the exact same (to the detail) picture/explanation every time it needs to be referenced by every child. I can remember being in the 5th grade and closing my eyes during a test so that I could picture the page of a long division example, I could even remember the page number. I would have failed that test without that picture in my head.
In considering this issue, I attempted to look at it from the school's perspective as well. Books are expensive, I get that, I'm a book lover from way way back. I also hear from teachers that there is a paper shortage. That they are allowed ONE case of paper per school year. Should they require more, they either have to hope a parent donates some or buy it themselves. I'm not at all surprised at the paper shortage when I'm volunteering and making 30 copies of 10 worksheets per week just for math lessons.
The steps to solving a math problem out of a text book:
pull out lined paper
open text book
(**no copy paper required, lined paper is cheaper, books are a reusable resource**)
There were a lot of things wrong with the education of the 80s and 90s, access books and reference materials to every student was not one of them. I'm not going to lie, I'm kinda pissed about this. There are many changes to today's education that is in direct contrast to my sons' learning styles and I'm starting to think that the worst of them all is something that should be the easiest to provide. Technology is great, no doubt, but arguably the greatest invention of all time, the invention that spread the most information ever through out the entire world and through out time was the printing press.