Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hebrew Causes Maths Confusion

I was helping my daughter with her maths homework today. She and her friend (originally from the US) where having problems understanding tens and units. I went through it several times and they continued to get confused. Finally I worked out that the root of their confusion related to their switch from English to Hebrew; they now worked from right to left, not left to right and were therefore reading their numbers the wrong way round, ie 12 was read as 21 with the tens and units switched over. Once I explained that numbers should be read, ‘the English way’, they soon got the hang of it. I think this typifies some of the unexpected difficulties children sometimes have.

We find it easy to identify and respond to straight forward language difficulties but the switch in text direction also carries with it areas of confusion. Since coming to Israel my daughter has resumed some basic writing errors she had when she was much younger, eg. writing 9 as a P or 5 as a 2. Again it is the change of direction which has sparked this. Not only has she picked up errors but we discovered that she writes English with her right hand and Hebrew with her left. For some reason she just finds it easier.

I have not only had problems with ‘left and right’ this week but have had my share of difficulty with ‘up and down’ too. This week saw the installation of a stair gate in our house. Since the baby started walking she has become obsessed by getting into every nook and cranny and particularly likes climbing the stairs. The other day I took something out of the oven and in those few seconds she had reached the stairs and climbed half way up. I left the kitchen and looked for her but as I did so I heard, ‘thump, thump, thump… waaaa!’. The poor little thing had fallen down and lay flat on the floor in a state of alarm. There was that long silence and gulping of breath before the wail was emitted, which as all parents know, is a sure sign they are shocked and hurt. I scooped her up and comforted her. There was no damage and she was soon right as rain.

So today the stair gate is up and that is one less trouble spot she can get into. No sooner was it up then she had another accident. We were out in the garden and she was wandering around looking up at the trees and enjoying the exciting sights and smells that surrounded her. Suddenly she came across a ball and decided to pick it up. Unfortunately for her she was next to a tree and as she bent down she banged her head against it. Unluckily, the tree she chose has bark which is covered in prickles. Poor thing, I think, at this age, they can turn the most innocent objects into a danger zone, even stationary trees.

Sharona B