Mr. AB writes about a fifth-grader with fetal alcohol syndrome who tackled multiplication with the help of a computer program in D— Triumphant and D— Resilient. After earning a 70 percent on a math test — up from 12 percent at the start of the year — D— couldn’t replicate his success, Mr. AB writes.
In discovering the possibility to succeed, D— simultaneously found the pressure to do so. People were watching, people were paying attention, and D— couldnâ€™t handle that. Week after week, I watched him start the test and, two or three minutes in, start to think he was going to fail and begin to tear up. Soon he was looking at me, looking at the principal, and sobbing instead of finishing the test.
But division brought new hope.
Over and over again, I had him write complete division problems and tried to help him see that it was just the opposite of multiplication. About a week ago he got it. Every day this week, ten times a day, he came rushing up to me with news that twenty-seven divided by three is nine. On the playground, before school, or during class I heard that nine divided by three is three. D— has begun to believe in himself again.
. . . Iâ€™ve also realized that there is a greater lesson for D— in these tests than math. Life is filled with stress and pressure, if D— is to find any sort of independent existence, he will need to learn to deal with them.
One commenter, also a teacher, thinks D— will remember the weeks of frustration, not the day he won the math T-shirt. She also criticizes “drill and kill.” Mr. AB believes students need fluency in math facts to learn higher math.