candy judge mathematics

I try to let the kids do their own homework without hovering. They want me to hover, and it would certainly go faster if I corrected them as they went. But, I value the skill of auto-correcting, realizing something isn’t quite right. Sometimes though, I can tell they need extra help, or they’ll never get through the page. Today’s homework was such an occasion.

10 is  ___ and 7.
4 and 5 are ___.
7 is 2 and ___.
___ and 3 is 9.

There were more, but you get it. Math problems, very straight forward… but still confusing because there is no visual representation of the numerals. It’s not a cartoon drawing of six cats and two mice, asking how many mice, or how many cats are going to go hungry without a mouse (Abigail would reason that none of the cats would go hungry, because they know to share). Instead, the kids need to visualize what each number represents. Plus, they need to know how to decode (“and” means “together with” or “plus;” “is,” “are” mean “equals” or “make;” etc.). Meanwhile, I’ve been teaching them this Montessori style since they were 3 (That’s 3 years more than 3 years old). And, today I was met with blanks.

“Come on,” I encourage. “This is like, you get to be a sneaky detective and learn the secret messages when you see certain words or symbols.”

“I don’t want to be good at this,” Abigail says. She’s tired and needs a break. I encourage her to take one, but she doesn’t want to stop. “I just want this over with already.”

Abigail often says that she wants to be a fashion designer. I tell her that designers need to know math, to make things even and proportional. “Really?” she says. I nod. She looks at her homework, then up at me. “Forget it. I’ll be a veterinarian then.”

“Vets are doctors, which means they go to school for a long time doing lots of math and science.”
“Yes, which is awesome because you’re great at math and science.”
“Okay, okay,” she says, her hands motioning as if to hush an audience, “I’ve got it.” I think she’s about to give me an answer to the math problem. Instead, she says, “I’m growin’ up to be a candy judge.”
“A what?”
“A candy judge. You know, I’ll taste lots and lots of candy and then tell people which is the best.”

This is where it starts. Food critics in the making, passion for food or passionately against math?



  1. She is determined to get away from math. My daughter was the same. She wasn’t so determined once she got better at it though.

  2. How about having them add and subtract candy like jelly beans or skittles to see the processes? I’m terrible at math, but my mom did show me basic math with m and ms and it was quite helpful back in the day.

  3. You should definitely read the book Nurture Shock! This is not a criticism at all, but one of the things they talking abou tis the inverse power of praise and how saying things like “you’re great at this” can sometimes really discourage kids. I only mention in it because it’s totally counter-intuitive and really made me think about a lot of things, parenting-wise.

  4. My 6-yr-old son was in Kumon’s junior program for math and it really helped. I was worried he would fall behind in his school math because he is one of the youngest in his grade (August bday). The workbooks are in most bookstores if you’d like an idea of how they work. He’s continuing in the regular Kumon program because it’s such a no-nonsense approach to math. He can’t move to a new concept until he’s mastered the current one.

    He gets his school math work done in ten minutes, but holy cheeses he hates his writing homework. He hates the prompts that are make believe. “I slid down the rainbow and landed in….” His answer? “Publix.”
    “You know that there is no such thing as a monster, but write a story about having a monster as a pet.” He wrote about our cat and how she is like a monster because she vomits a lot. Yaaaay.

  5. I did Kumon for years as a kid after leaving montessori and going to public school. Really helped me learn the fundamentals. Even though I never loved math, it’s so much easier when you have the basics down.

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