As a tutor, I have worked with students of all levels – struggling math students who need to turn around a failing grade to International Baccalaureate students doubling up on a math class to maintain their standing in the advanced program. There is one consistent theme I have seen across all students, that if impacted would completely change their success in math.
What is it?
It’s learning the multiplication tables. I’m talking learning them cold.
I’m a little sad to say that our kids don’t know how to multiply. Not well and definitely, not fast enough. If your child has to think more than one second when you ask them what’s 8 x 9, then s(he) doesn’t know their times tables well enough.
Why does it matter?
If you don’t know your multiplication tables well, it’s difficult to excel at higher level math. Simplifying fractions, factoring, divisibility, equations, and equal groups word problems all rely on multiplication. And it’s even possible that your child may have a good understanding of the higher level concepts but may be making simple computation errors in multiplication resulting in a wrong answer. Unfortunately, in math…a wrong answer, even if you understand what you’re doing, is still a wrong answer.
So what’s the good news?
This is so easy to fix! Let me tell you how I learned. Summer of 1977…Brooklyn, NY…sitting at the kitchen table with one of these.
The last page of the composition notebook had really useful information. All I can seem to remember is the measurement conversions and the times table. One day, my mother sat me down. On the first day, I had to learn the ones. I learned them at breakfast and then at dinner, I had to recall them. I did it until I got them all right. Then the next day, we tackled the two times table. At dinner, we reviewed both the ones and the twos. I think you can see the pattern. In less than two weeks, I knew them cold. Forever. It’s the magic of continued practice which is one of the reasons I love Saxon Math.
The quick fix
I’ve had parents ask me how they can help. Of course, there are websites with catchy songs to learn the times table. But I think there is nothing better than investing in some flash cards and just doing them the old fashioned way. You can usually find them in the dollar section at Target. I know it’s low tech. I know it’s not fancy. But it works. In just two to three minutes a day, you’ll see miraculous results and set your child up well for all the “bigger math” to come. Then, once they feel they know it, check out these online tools that will help check accuracy and develop speed.
Math is fun – it flashes a question and times how quickly you answer.
Mr DeMaio’s Multiplication Songs – I love this guy. He and others at his school have done the multiplication tables to popular songs that middle school students could enjoy.