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We are now in lock-down, so while homeschooling my son I get to se exactly what he does for math. He has been getting a huge amount of repetitive practicing of really simple math, despite being quite good at math. My question is, given his skill level and his current enjoyment of math is there any point to this endless repetition, or should I go head to head with the teacher about it? Is there such a thing as the recommended number of repetitions?

By really huge amount I mean he will have to do between 100 and 140 additions of numbers under 10, mostly +1 and +2 additions, in one take, at least once a week. This takes 10 minutes without any breaks.

He has been doing additions of numbers under 10 for at least 1.5 year now almost without errors, and additions of numbers up to 100 for about a year. He does this for fun, he likes it when we randomly ask him to sum two numbers. Last summer (6 months ago) he liked showing off adding up much larger numbers, eg 367 + 58. This is outside of school. I think the started with additions in school about 1.5 years ago.

In addition to the above repetitive task his math tasks consists of more or less useful tasks. Each day of the week he does 1 or 2 tasks, the other tasks can be any of the following:

  • practice telling the time from a clock, or setting a clock to some time
  • (learning to do) multiplication
  • adding and subtracting from 10-20
  • adding and subtracting numbers < 100
  • proportionality (one ice-cream costs 2 euros, how much are 3 ice-creams)
  • estimating on an unmarked axis (eg placing 45 and 75 on a line marked only with 0 and 100)
  • various arithmetic 'games'. For example he has to write an addition as a substraction by moving numbers around, but also quite difficult ones where he has to find all the rows and columns that add up to 50 in a 3x3 square of numbers.

I cannot square the level of that last task with doing 100 sums of adding 1 or 2 to a number under 10.

It has been a long time since I was in school, but I don't think we ever had to do more then 50 sums in a row, probably not more then 25. Because we were writing down the answers we were slower, he does his tasks on a computer. Still, he could do less repetitions and do something else with the time saved by typing instead of writing. (Maybe practice writing).

The tasks are 'adaptive' and 'individual', so different children get different tasks, and are decided on by a computer program. Being a software developer myself, I worry that something has gone wrong here. Even if the computer program performs as specified, I worry that all this repetition of tasks my child already mastered will eventually rob him of the fun he has doing math.

When I ask him if he finds these tasks boring, he says he does. But he is also proud to get so many answers in a row correct. My guess is it is psychologically rewarding the same way playing minesweeper is.

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't go "head to head" with the teacher, but simply talk to them about it (?!). Incidentally, this school year might be the most stressful and horrible of their career (it is for me). I enjoy when parents are involved (without attacking me) in their student's education. It sounds like the tasks are too simple for your son and for that age. Maybe he can be accommodated with more challenging work. Education is complicated and messy, so there may well be solid reasoning regarding the assignments, but you would have to speak with the teacher to hear the details. It could be "admin made me". $\endgroup$
    – Carser
    Jan 27 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ That is a crazy amount of homework, imo. And research has shown that homework is not effective / useful in elementary school. (Though it might be for you son, for as long as he enjoys doing it.) $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Jan 27 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ @SueVanHattum sorry i was not clear, this is not real homework, this is the schoolwork we do at home now during the lockdown. $\endgroup$
    – Ivana
    Jan 27 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Carser I left out that the teacher told me she cannot change the tasks set by the computer. The manual I later found online says she can. Maybe the the manual is for another version, maybe she doesn't know, maybe she tried to brush me off. With this question i'm trying to find out if the current situation is harmful in any way. $\endgroup$
    – Ivana
    Jan 27 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ The tendency in people (or kids) is to repeat until they are no longer getting anything out of it or maybe a little longer. There are two reasons for stopping. They don't understand or they've thoroughly learned it. Sounds like he's just about in that latter category. I doubt though that everybody's magic number of repetitions is the same. Personally I find boring fun sometimes (for example piano exercises, but I'm still getting something out of it). $\endgroup$
    – Raciquel
    Jan 27 at 19:37
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A once per week ten minute session is objectively not using up that much of the kid's time. In addition, he's not even as much turned off on it as you are. Also, I think you will find that speed increases with volume, so it becomes nonlinear.

None of this is to say that I love the particular drill. Sounds too easy for a smart 7yo. Just that it's not so bad to do something non-optimal. I mean, heck Ralph Maccio had to spend a whole day painting fences and buffing cars. This ain't anywhere as grasshopper as that. ;-)

The bigger issue might be that he is ready for more challenging material. But even here, it sounds like you are getting 50-75% of a loaf. And that side issue is bigger than the ten minute weekly sessions.

In any case, there are limits to how much a group class can be individualized. I would avoid complaining about something that is this minor (10 mins per week). Life isn't perfect. Part of growing up is learning that, soldiering on, and doing good things regardless, rather than getting too tied up with minor issues.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree and would only add that while the +1 and +2 problems must be fairly annoying, things like 7+8 still have value. Maybe OP's son can see how many ways he can approach this: 7+7+1, 8+8-1, 7+3+5, 7+10-2, etc. (I also love the mental image of the producers of The Karate Kid actually forcing Ralph Macchio to do the chores his character had to do ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Thierry
    Jan 27 at 22:02

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