Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Live Blogging Homework Hour

Recently, I have become concerned about Ayaan's academic progress at school. One of the disadvantages of being in a so-called alternative school is they tend to be somewhat relaxed about this and I have started to feel the need to work with him on Hindi and Math. So, I set him some sums and Hindi writing every day . I don't want to say that sitting with him through it is a difficult process, but let's just say having a couple of teeth pulled sounds less painful.

For today's post, I am scribbling down the good, the bad and the ugly of homework hour as it unfolds.

He's doing the first sum. He stares at it for a minute. Then,
Ayaan: Mama?
Me: Yes.
Ayaan: Nothing...

Again, another minute of staring at what happens to be a subtraction sum involving money, specifically rupees.
Ayaan: Mama, I usually save coins so can I write coins instead of rupees? 
Me: OK (decide to let the fact that most coins are rupees slide for now)
Ayaan: Thank you.

He writes the first line of the sum, then looks up
Ayaan: You remember that time I flew a kite at the wedding at Neemrana? I didn't like that wedding. The food was not nice and I got a sunburn.
Me: Hmmmm... yes, I remember. But homework?
Ayaan: Oh, yes!

He finishes writing the sum out and then gears up to do the actual subtraction:
Ayaan: Mama, what is this number?
Me: Baby, you are the one who wrote it. You tell me.
Ayaan: I can't make it out.
Me: Oh-kay. Then maybe you should rub it out, read the sum again and write it neatly
Ayaan: *sighs* Okay, Mama

Now, the sum is finally written, we can all read it and he proceeds with the actual subtraction and proceeds to subtract 4 from 0 in the tens column, confidently putting 4 in the answer row. I correct him and ten minutes after we started, we are finally done. With. One. Sum.

The second sum inspires a desperate thirst for water and he takes off to the kitchen to ask the maid for a glass of water. When there is no sign of him after 5 minutes, I go to the kitchen to find him waiting for the maid to finish washing up before asking for water. I get him the water myself, which he proceeds to spill on the kitchen floor. He insists that he must be the one to mop it up - such dutiful behaviour is only seen when the alternative is homework!

Back to the second sum. He starts writing the first line out when he suddenly looks up with his face all lit up:
Ayaan: Mama, I read a story about a man who stole fire
Me: That sounds interesting but how about you do your homework now and tell me that story later.

He stares at the sum again . It is a very simple sum but I have put dates instead of say, crayons or beads. It confuses him. Before I know it, giant tears are dripping down his cheeks and he whimpers that he doesn't know how to do the sum. I talk him down from the impending tantrum and explain the sum to him. He finally gets it, honks into a tissue and gets back to the sum. After a couple of minor distractions and reminders, he has totally forgotten that this was supposed to be a subtraction sum and adds the two numbers. When I point this out to him, he starts getting really insolent so we have some words which end with me saying something to the effect of 'I am the boss of you, so don't talk to me like that'. He buckles down and finally gets the sum done.

Next, I ask him to recite the multiplication tables for two. We have been really struggling with this. We were writing the tables earlier but then all he does is to keep adding the numbers to get the next answer. Multiplication is about rote learning and there is no getting away from that.

He keeps forgetting his place in the table and has to start again. He starts getting really frustrated. I ask him to use his fingers to remember where in the table he is. But he doesn't want to do that because then he can't use them to count his way through the tables. And then, before we know it, we have stumbled into full battle mode - he refuses to recite and despite all my best intentions, I am saying 'I have all the time in the world to do this so we are just going to sit here till you recite the entire 2 times table'. And we are mulishly staring each other down. Sigh. I had so hoped that today was going to be different. It eventually ends with him getting smacked (yes, I am a terrible mother). I decide to take a break from the tables and we move on to another math problem.

We do some easy sums and things are looking up again. Till I realise that he is shaky on the concept of odd and even numbers. Somebody kill me now.

We move on to some reading comprehension. This is never a problem. He loves it. This is something he is good at so we don't need to do it at all but it is the one bright spot in homework hour so I am keeping it for now. I usually print out something that he has been asking me about. Today, it is all about where salt is found and how table salt is made. No problems with lack of attention or focus here.

Things are looking up. But next up is Hindi and the rollercoaster ride will begin again. I don't know what his Hindi teacher has been doing because he is in Class 2 and he still doesn't know the alphabet at all. They say I shouldn't worry and that he will catch up but I am not feeling so complacent. So I have started from scratch. It's not easy but it beats multiplication. :o(

While he does his Hindi writing, I turn to Google to shed some light on teaching multiplication tables to kids. This would also be a good time for any of you who have any insights to offer on this to jump in and share.

Hindi writing is done. It was relatively painless today. I have decided to skip the multiplication for today. I don't think either of us are in a frame of mind for it to be a productive exercise. I shall do some research on techniques for teaching multiplication and get back to it tomorrow.

As I am writing this, Ayaan has hurried away to his favourite refuge and has his nose firmly buried in a book, having forgotten all the trials and tribulations of the last hour. Me, I am still taking deep, calming breaths. And wondering how many new gray hair sprouted today.


  1. These may be useful for Hindi learning:

  2. I am a bad teacher and looks like there are tough times when studies, homework and child are put together :-0
    I'm sure you'll figure out a way and I'll come back here when I face this trouble in future ;-)
    and thumbs up for the literature part..its great that Aayaan loves to read.
    btw, can you please remove the word captcha?

  3. I'm so glad you are back to blogging! How else will I get a chance to cry in your shoulder? :) ditto ditto ditto on the multiplication table. I have outsourced the job to the husband and it's highly entertaining for me to watch them together! * evil laughter* kidding aside, what is working for ashu is these below.
    Looking/ reading/ writing tables everyday even if it's for 5 mins.
    Lots of sums to practice.
    With tables, if it's one thing I have learnt the hard way it is this - when the kid is stuck or confused or wrong, just give them the damn answer instead of asking them to correct themselves. That has been the root cause of all evil in our household!!!

  4. Anonymous10:14 pm

    Prometheus! Give him Terry Deary's The Fire Thief series as soon as you think he'll like it! That is one massive riot!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Chanting yes - cannot get around that I guess.

    This might help though -
    Both mine were introduced to multiplication through it at the Children's House and it did lead to painless mugging up of the tables I guess. Do let me know if you need to buy this - utbt will know I'm sure but I can also track down a seller in Hyd.

  7. And Prometheus! Myth-mania on looks like!
    Please get him Terry Deary's Fire Thief series when you think he'll like it - complete riot that one is!

  8. Would reading Hindi to him out loud help? Just a thought

  9. Considering that I have similar issues though my son is older, I sympathise. It never is easy.
    Hindi is like a warfare at home. BUt ive realised the more i treat it like a quiz, where he answers questions and we reward him, he's doing well. and now he's picked up the language.
    Love the blog..

  10. Ok, one thing that has helped is the way Math is taught in school.

    They say every number and operation has a quality. Also the process of coming up with the question(not the answer) is important.

    This way the children look at the number, understand the quality of the operation/number and to the problem.

    Older child started with 'I hate math', but now begs us for Mental Math problems all the time. I suspect that she has figured out that she will be forced to do neat writing w/o scratching, that might be the reason too....

    Wk1: Set him down with a bowl of channa/rajma. 39. He has to come up with 39 in many many ways. He can use any operator. But the idea is to fill a page. You will find
    39 = 0+39
    39 = 1+38
    ....and so on.
    39 = 40-1
    ....and so on
    39 = 13 * 3
    39 = 78/2

    Pick another number, rinse, repeat.

    Wk2: Bow of channa. 14. Give some conditions. He has to write at least 5 equations with operator division. etc. Get imaginative with conditions.

    Wk 4 or 5: Take the channa away and ask him to to do it with no aids.

    Now the baccha is ready for abstract math word problems.

    Also I have found that the daughter enjoys beauty of language. So sums like 'divide the marbles such that all five ppl in the grp have one more than the other' works well. She treats it like a puzzle.

    Give it a shot.

  11. my son has an aptitude for math

    (you know i was the kind who was peeking at the back-answers, even last year in standard 1)

    and still tables are hard.

    i tried making him write: this went on for a month or so... (no luck at memorising)

    and then came the winning strategy: chant chant chant

    2 times 1 = 2 (10 times)

    my kid number 2 dozes off at the sheer boredom of listening...

    but as a mum i, sadly, cant.

    (we are progressing to 5 and 6 times tables now)

  12. Can I be honest and say when I read a post like this - "Oh thank God I am not the only one!" :)

    Sounds very similar to our homework times at home, now especially with my younger one who's still learning to write the alphabet and refuses to listen to what I have to say because he KNOWS how it's done! My older is sometimes a gem, and then sometimes makes me wonder if she has a secret identity.

    And I have no insights on that d*A*!&!& multiplication table.

  13. Oh lord. I have a feeling this is going to be me a year or so down the line. The 5.5 year old doesn't really have homework these days in upper KG - just a page or two every Friday, but he gets distracted so easily,and it bugs me so much. Loved the bit about insisting on mopping up, and finally running off to a book afterwards - my son is exactly the same.
    Mala (long-time lurker)

  14. Anonymous10:14 am

    Thank you!! My daughter is in class II too, and i lose my temper with her during home work and guilt kicks in at night :( I must say i am very impressed with the amount of work your son does!! Please do update the blog if you come up with any way to teach multiplication.


  15. Hi Rohini, long time reader, rare commenter.
    You sound like my dad and mum, many years ago! :) They tried hard to get my sis and me to learn the multiplication tables and many a summer breaks were spent, learning it by rote.
    That never got me to fall in love with Maths. I fell in love with Maths, arithmetic in particular when I was prepping for CAT and someone got me a couple of Vedic Maths books - the basic concept is similar to that of logarithms, so knowing 2/5/10 tables and a vivid visual memory (which Ayaan seems to have plenty of) goes a long way in breaking down this otherwise demon. I looked for an e- mail ID to write to you at, but couldn't find any. Would be happy to help with more details, if you wish.
    Your little boy is one of the brightest children I know of, in the Blogsphere and with him, it might just be a case of how Maths is taught to him. He might love looking at it differently.
    (And here I realise I sound like a mild spectrum rambler, so will shut up).

  16. [Kanti] Thank you for that link. Will definitely be printing worksheets from there. And I have been hearing about Aksharit and wondering where to buy it, so thanks for that as well.

    [Uma] All the best for the future - you have my sympathies. Word verification removed, I had forgotten I had even enabled it. Enabled comment moderation though to be able to screen out the spam.

    [Boo] Outsourcing to the husband.... hmmm *gets an evil glint in her eye* Thanks for the suggestions, I am going to take multiplication out of homework hour and just keep reinforcing at various points in the day.

    [Chox] Yes yes yes, I want that bead board. Is it available in Bangalore? I am there at the end of month so I can buy it there as well. And thanks for the book reccos - I don't know where he read the story, probably at Treasure House. Is Fire Thief age appropriate for a 7.5-year old?

    [Pallavi] I tried. He barely pays attention.

    [Prats] Quiz idea? I like. What kind of rewards are we talking though?

    [UTBT] THANK YOU! Digging out the channa jar as we speak! He loves language too but converting story sums into maths drives him batty for some reason.

    [MIM] He dozes off? Then who's doing the chanting? You?

    [Aparna] That's all I need now. For the second one to require me to do homework with her!

    [Mala] Hi, Mala. Thanks for delurking :) All the best for next year.

    [Vidya] I certainly will!

    [R] Thanks for your comment - better late than never :oP I tried Vedic mats at CAT prep time and never got he hang but willing to give it another shot for Ayaan. Mail me at

  17. Rohini, when I get frustrated with the older one, all that takes me to calm down is the thought of me doing HW with the younger one. Then I realize what an angel the older one is!!!!
    The second one, is certainly outsourced to the husband.

  18. Anonymous7:32 pm

    Ayaan sounds like me. Math has always flustered me. Reduced me to tears. Even the most basic concepts just never stuck. This, despite being above average in all other subjects. And sticking my nose in books was my favourite refuge too. Some people are just not meant for numbers, I wish I had found my alternative school earlier in life. By 10th grade (which is when I shifted to an alt school), the math damage was done.

    My children's Montessori school in Bangalore gets their material from them - so can vouch for the quality. The website also gives their phone no.s etc.

    Hope this helps.

  20. [UTBT] LOL! Okay :)

    [Haathitime] Same here. Maths was always my Achilles heel.

    [Chox] Thanks. Will check them out.

  21. Sounds very very familiar. I am tearing my hair with marathi though. While I can read because the alphabets are similar to hindi but have no clue what many of those words mean anyway.

    Keep the posts coming. Love reading them. Lots of neat ideas here, need to bookmark this post.

    1. Here, Ayaan also has Telugu. I am not even going there.

  22. I haven't tried multiplication tables with Aryan yet, Class II, but AVM hasn't started yet.

    But I am in love with maths, and I agree with you, multiplication tables can work only on rote learning. I was fascinated by a small 'timepiece' at home when i was a kid, and by the rhythm of the seconds hand ticking, i would recite tables from 1 to 13 everyday.

    I don't remember anybody sitting with me or asking me to do this. But anything that is of interest to Ayaan should be used for this. A tune, a song, cars, books on his book shelf, lego blocks, (Channa) whatever he loves to watch or hear or handle... to bring a rhythm into the rote learning.

    Haven't done any research on this one, no need to, as yet. But off my thought train, this is some stuff.

    Hope you get thru the math tables and hindi alphabet soon....


  23. AVM is not doing multiplication yet? So cool. I could have done with another year without multiplication!

    And I HATED maths. Especially ppst-Algebra.

  24. I was terrible at math but the grand father wrote out this table from 1 to 12 for all of us! Everytime I got it right - I got something good to eat :) so it really worked! Sadly he couldnt transalate the success past the multiplication table but at least it worked :)

    1. In keeping with the fact that it is supposedly a material world and all, he has been promised ten bucks for every table he masters. :)