What about math and English?

The thing about  immersion school – our kids have to learn English too. And of course, there is also math, science, social studies, art, PE.  It’s just that most everything is instructed in Spanish, except English of course.

English language arts is a core component of his education. Reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are taught daily. Comprehension is measured frequently. All the kids are leveled by skill and different books are distributed based on reading ability.  It’s a great program, taught by a great teacher. English reading, writing, and spelling are critical. Immersion schools understand this, but also have the added goal of mastery in both languages. I could write a whole post on the misconceptions of immersion schools and language instruction.  I will save that for another day.

The amazing thing to me is that reading comprehension, a skill that develops with practice, crosses both languages. So as our boy’s reading comprehension increases for English, it increases for his Spanish reading also. More on this in another post, based on report card results I received today. It’s time for a trimester update on progress on this blog.

What about math? How do the kids learn math?

As an engineer, I think that math is one of those subjects critical for our kids. And I don’t mean for them to be able to guess or manipulate numbers to get an answer. I mean, I think it’s critical for them to understand what is going on, what they are doing, and why. As a whole, the US public education system is falling down on the job when it comes to math education for our children. Our kids test scores don’t stack up against other developed nations. We don’t have the science and engineering students we used to. Instead, our kids get to college and just don’t understand even the basics of algebra or fractions.

Our school has adopted an amazing math program. And there is no surprise it wasn’t developed in the US. It establishes the fundamental understanding of what math is, and they build a deep foundation from the beginning. To grasp an understanding of what really what they are doing, the kids start with manipulating objects. They physically handle things like beans, flat discs, and colored blocks when looking at a problem. Then they get a visual illustration. After that, they see and begin doing computations. Finally, they do story problems. Yup, our first graders do story problems. Because LIFE is a series of story problems, right?

I remember being stressed about story problems as a kid. Everyone hated them! Our kids don’t know they are supposed to dislike story problems because they do them every day, starting at age six.

“Billy has 3 apples, Sally has 4 apples. How many apples do they have together?”

And think about this:  3 + 4 + __ = 9

This isn’t hard if you have blocks or beans to move around, right? Take a group of 9 beans and create a group of 3 and a group of 4. What do you have left? TWO! But look at it this way: 3 + 4 + x = 9. Solve for  x.

That’s ALGEBRA! But in this math program, this math starts in first grade. Except they don’t use ‘x.’

Last week I helped him do something like this: 3 + 4 = __ + 2

Admittedly, it’s on the fringe of his grasp. But it’s easy to do with Legos as a visual. Math (and maybe everything else) is more fun with Legos!

So that, my friends, is the answer to the questions about math and English. And I couldn’t be happier.

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