The dreaded multistep word problem.
These problems are painful for my fourth graders. They get the first step right. And sometimes the second. Maybe even the third. But then they’re ready to be done.
I’m willing to bet that many of them could do each isolated step. Especially if I was at their side to guide them. They could be meticulous. But all the steps in succession lead them to scribble out the ending. They stair step halfway up the incline, but then fall down a ravine.
So today, when I modeled a multistep word problem, we talked about math stamina. And they got it. They could understand the analogy. We talk about reading stamina, cardiovascular stamina, test stamina, writing stamina, and now math stamina.
Do we need all this stamina? I need stamina for things that I want to accomplish but am not necessarily motivated to do without an extra incentive. Stamina for running a long distance after I sign up for a race. Stamina for writing daily after committing to a blogging challenge.
But I don’t need stamina to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, read a good book, go for a walk, try a recipe, or plan an interesting lesson. These are passions. What about passion? Am I making school all hard and difficult and boring and stamina-requiring?
The other week we did a project. And like most of the projects I plan, it took eighteen times longer that I thought it would. I was ready to quietly drop it and accept whatever was done. But the kids kept asking me about when they could finish it. It didn’t require stamina. It ignited their passion.
Am I stamina-ing the passion out of their education? Do they need stamina first in order to find passions? Like most of life and education, I’m sure the answer hangs in a balance.