“I need to be self-sufficient!” Naomi insisted as she covered up her blank paper.
I wonder who told her that?
All last semester Naomi had made the "self-sufficient" declaration whenever anyone tried to help her in math class. My testing confirmed that she was three years below grade level. So now we were sitting at the table in my room trying to catch up.
“There are eight ounces in a cup,” Naomi read. “How many ounces are in a pint?” She looked at the bulletin board in front of her. She looked over at the other wall. She looked at the computers. Then she lapsed into her “nothing” look.
“Naomi, do you need help?” I asked.
“Let me know when you have your answer then.”
She resumed staring around the room. I knew she processed things much slower than most students, so it sometimes was a guessing game determining when her “thinking” stopped and her “blanking off” started.
“Naomi, why don’t you read the question again,” I gently asked. After she read it again, I asked, “Do you remember how many cups are in a pint?”
I waited fifteen seconds.
“No,” Naomi finally answered.
“Look in your reference packet,” I instructed. Naomi slowly turned the pages of the yellow packet I had put together for her. She found the illustration showing the cups in the pints in the quarts in the gallon.
Naomi stared at the illustration for another fifteen seconds. “Two.”
“OK. There’s two cups in a pint. How many ounces are there in one cup?”
“I don’t know!” she snapped.
“They said in the problem Naomi. Read the problem again to find how many ounces are in one cup.”
Naomi looked back at the workbook and read, “There are eight ounces in a cup. How many ounces are in a pint?”
Fifteen more seconds passed, then “Eight.”
“That's correct. There’s eight ounces in one cup. A pint has two cups in it. So how many ounces are there in the pint that has two cups?” I was doing my slow, articulated speech. I waited, wondering if I should draw a picture.
“Sixteen!” Naomi announced.
“You’re right. There’s sixteen ounces in a pint because a pint has two cups, and each cup has eight ounces. Eight and another eight make sixteen ounces in all.”
Naomi hunched over her paper as she wrote her answer.
“OK. You’re ready for the next problem,” I continued. “Now the next two problems are just calculations that I know you can do, so let me know when you have your answers.” I watched to see how long it would take Naomi to look back at the workbook. Instead of looking at the workbook, however, she stared at the bulletin board in front of her.
After about a minute, Naomi turned to me and asked, “Do the other kids in my class know how to do this stuff?”
“Yes, they do Naomi,” I answered. I don’t like to point out to Naomi that she is behind other kids her age, but she argues constantly about having to work on math in the Learning Center. I felt no guilt answering her question truthfully.
“When did they learn all this?” Naomi asked.
“Well,” I hesitated, “They learned it before sixth grade.”
Naomi looked down at her workbook again. She closed the cover and studied the front of it. I didn’t see a blank look on her face this time. She was thinking. After about 30 seconds she said, “They learned this in fourth grade!” One of the lessons in her math book had been about Roman numerals, and Naomi had just had her “Ah Ha” moment with the IV on the front cover.
“Yes, they probably did.”
Naomi pondered this for a minute, then slowly opened her workbook again and looked at the next problem.
As she resumed working, I heard her softly mutter, “I wonder what I was doing in fourth grade.”