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When is not helping my son the right thing to do? Part 1

Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

Back by popular demand, we have dug up a three-part blog series from 2012 where our very own Dr. Tim Hudson explains that at times, helping your students through a tough problem may not be the best approach. Read on and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Some of the lessons students find most challenging in DreamBox are our Quick Images lessons. Right now, my own 5-year-old son is struggling with them. Despite how frustrated he might get and how much I want to step in and help, he’s at a critical point of learning that he needs work through on his own. He’s at a milestone every mathematician encounters, and he has to figure out some important things for himself without anyone else’s help. Let me start by explaining the design of the Quick Images lessons.

In our Quick Images lessons, students are briefly shown the representation of a number using counters on a Ten Frame or beads on a MathRack (there are no numerals displayed). The student’s learning task is to determine the number of counters or beads before the picture disappears (hence the “Quick” part). At first, the values are between 1 and 5. Then they expand to between 1-10, 1-20, and eventually even to numbers up to 100. My son, like many other students using DreamBox, doesn’t like that the pictures are shown for such a short time. “I don’t have enough time to count them all!” is the usual complaint. And that’s actually the point. These aren’t lessons designed for students to learn to count; my son already knows how to count by ones. These lessons are developing his habits of mathematical thinking. That’s why I can’t help him. In the next post, I’ll explain more about these long-term mathematical thinking goals and how DreamBox Quick Images are one way we accomplish them in a powerful way.

Tim Hudson