If you've met my kids in real life, you know that two of them are particulary easily distracted. Their creative minds seem to aimlessly wander towards anywhere or anything than the current task at hand. Work on a math page takes 30-40 minutes, but could be completed in 15 minutes with the right focus. Of course, if you know any 6-year-old, you know how hard it is any child that age to complete a simple (boring) task, especially when the child would rather be outside catching lizards and butterflies.
At our home, distractions are quite frequent and I pro-actively allot for them. Heading into our morning schedule I know that it will take at least:
7 full minutes (really, I counted) to get organized, find a pencil, sharpen it, locate an eraser, drop the pencil by letting it roll across the table, resharpen the broken led, decide to use a mechanical pencil, find the right color (apparently one can't do math with an orange pencil), beg to use a pen instead, agree that the orange color really is the same color as the sun or a canteloupe or anything other than a Clemson tiger ;), sit in the seat, find the correct page, complain about how hard it is, and s l o w l y begin.
5 minutes to see who has the least amount of bird seed in the feeders, loudly wonder why (again) house sparrows eat off the ground and from the feeders, ask if we'll see yesterday's cardinal again...all while investigating what the dog is currently chewing from the turned over garbage can (gotta love doing math by a large window)
2 intense minutes discussing why big sister knows more math, who is smarter (mommy of course!), and how many more days it will take to finish the current math book
and then today...4 minutes (at least) demonstrating that the number 12 can become an R if you write the 1 and the 2 very close together
Most of the time I can firmly corral the chatter (yes, sometimes I use bribery), but today was an interesting exception. K made it through 1/2 her math lesson quietly, when she looked up at me with the light of excitement in her eyes: "Mom, I've got to show you something!" As she ran to her room, I figured she had discovered a creative way to solve all the subtraction problems on her page.
But, oh, no she found a picture of a leopard in the National Geographic magazine she hid under her covers last night. I'm not sure how what a safari animal had to do with triple digit additon but she wanted to know all about leopards right then, right there! With her contagious excitement, I gave in and read the article to her.
She listened intensely, asked lots of questions...and calmly returned to her math. She quietly completed the rest of the page, content with her newfound love of African animals.
And I'm so glad I allowed this particular interruption. Just to see her delight was enough to inspire me to plan more units on animals.
Because if wild animals can lead to tame math, then I'm all for it!