Thursday was a special day at Daniel’s school; the parents were invited to come and sit in on their child’s first class from 8-9 AM. This was Math class for Daniel, and both Dora and I crowded into the back of the classroom with some other parents to see what goes on.

At 8 o’clock, a bell rang, and all the kids stood from their desks in unison. They then proceeded to wander through the classroom singing a song. It was a repetitive song that had them counting by 10′s at various points; Daniel said they do this each day. Everything seemed very orderly; in general the class seemed pretty structured, which I guess is a good thing when you have 1 teacher and 25 kids. One of the boys was having a bad morning (he said he didn’t get to sleep until midnight) and received a few stern warnings from the teacher during the class.

The class is currently working with numbers, particularly from 1-99. Adding them, subtracting them, odds/evens, figuring out what the nearest 10′s are, and Roman numerals (which are still used more in Hungary than the US). They started out with a brief quiz (5 questions), where the teacher read problems and the students had to mark their answer on a card. They then reviewed the answers as a group — it was just a self-graded exercise.

The class proceeded with more questions, which the kids answered in a little notebook that they have for the class before reviewing the answers. Interspersed in the questions were some fun adding games and competitions. Overall, it was pretty interactive (moreso than I expected it would be) and the kids were all engaged. They also seemed to cover considerable ground. One thing that may be tough is that if a child is having trouble, it might be difficult to detect since everything is done and reviewed fairly quickly. The teacher asks who got it right (most kids raise their hand, typically), and I suppose she has a good handle on who is struggling.

The thing that surprised me most was how tough the class must be for Daniel. We always assumed that math would be the easy class for him; he’s good at math and his lack of Hungarian shouldn’t hurt him much in a numbers class. Not true! Everything was done orally, so it was important for him to listen carefully to try to understand. On the first 5 question quiz, I was only able to understand 1 of the 5 questions; Daniel did much better and got 4 out of 5 right. Similarly all of the of the other questions were delivered orally. Daniel sits next to a bright and helpful boy; at times he leans over and tries to explain some things to Daniel. Daniel tries really hard and isn’t shy about volunteering answers or participating in the games. At one point, he was picked for a game where a number is afixed to a crown on his head and Daniel must use clues given by his classmates to figure out the number. The teacher was careful to make sure Daniel understood the clues his classmates provided, but Daniel seemed pretty good on his own. Overall, we were really surprised by the challenges Daniel faces but thrilled with his effort and enthusiasm.