Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mastering the Times Tables is Key to Math Success

Success with higher math hinges on having memorized the times tables. Working multi-digit multiplication problems is a frustrating if the student pauses to calculate each individual digit. Division also relies on a mastery of the basic times tables, and you may as well forget about "least common denominator" and "greatest common factor" until the times tables are committed to memory.

Here's a great tip for mastering the times tables that on the blog.  It comes from a homeschool mom Kelly who knows first hand how to make this work:

"Some kids learn their times tables in their daily math lessons. Others require daily drills and practice before mastering these facts. Luckily, it isn't difficult to find homeschooling resources for teaching the times tables.

One day in the not too distant past, after a particularly nonproductive arithmetic session, I just stopped doing math with two of my children. We focused only on the times tables for several weeks. Once this was mastered, we started back on our math lessons where we left off. It was a breath of fresh air. With the times tables firmly mastered, the harder math concepts finally began to make sense.

Here's how we did it.

Get a set of flashcards. The flash cards are to evaluate, not to teach or practice. (There are far more interesting practice methods.) Also, print a times table and post it in prominently in your study space.

The times tables seem designed to provide the initial success that is so encouraging to some students. Start with "the zeroes"! Teach or review the rule: Any number multiplied by zero is zero. If he can answer within a couple of seconds, he has mastered that fact. Chances are, he will demonstrate mastery of all of the zero facts immediately. If not, provide some fun ways to practice just these facts. There is no lack of multiplication games on the Internet. Choose a few, step back, and let him play some of them every day. Occasionally, get out the flashcards and assess your student's progress.

When mastery of the zeroes has been demonstrated, have the child shade those facts on his multiplication table. In the process of shading the table, the student will begin to understand helpful patterns. For example, he will see that he gets to shade a row AND a column for each family of facts he has memorized. While the quantity of facts to memorize may look daunting at first, he will soon realize that he only has to learn half of them, because if he knows what 6x4 equals, he also knows what 4x6 is.

When the zeroes have been shaded, proceed to the ones, the twos, and so forth. Help your child by first teaching a rule or shortcut for each fact family:

Zeroes: Any number multiplied by zero is zero.

Ones: Any number multiplied by one is that number.

Twos: Any number multiplied by two is double that number. (For some reason, "doubles" are often easy for children to understand.)

Threes: "Three, six, nine, twelve, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one . . . twenty-four, twenty-seven, thirty, we're all done!" (Sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells".)

Fours: Double the double. (For 4x6, start with a fact you already know: 2x6. Then, double the answer.)

Fives: Count by fives.

Sixes: Double the three facts. (For 6x8, start with a fact you already know: 3x6. Then, double the answer.)

Sevens: Leave these for last, because there is no easy way to memorize them. But, when the rest of the facts have been learned, the sevens will have all been mastered!

Eights: Double the four facts. (For 8x7, start with a fact you already know: 4x7. Then, double the answer.)

Nines: The sum of the digits of each nines fact equals nine. To multiply a number by nine, subtract one from that number to get the first digit in your answer. The second digit is a number that equals nine when added to the first digit. For example, to do 7x9, subtract one from seven to get the first digit in your answer: six. You would add a three to six to equal nine, so the second digit in the answe is three. The answer is sixty three.

Another way is to hold both hands up in front of you with the palms facing out. To do 7x9, start at the pinkie of the left hand and count over seven fingers. Bend the seventh finger down. (This would be the index finger of the right hand.) All of the fingers BEFORE the bent finger are the first digit in the answer and all of the fingers AFTER the bent finger are the second digit in the answer.)

Tens: Any number times ten is that number with a zero on the end.

Elevens: Any single digit number times eleven has that number for both digits in the answer.

It can be exciting to see those facts gradually conquered! When the entire times table has been shaded in, your child probably has the background he needs to return to your regularly-scheduled math curriculum. If your kids are like mine, they might still dislike math, but it will no longer feel like an impossible task."

In addition to these tricks to memorize their times tables, Kelly also uses Time4Learning in her math curriculum especially for the more complex math concepts including algebra, geometry, probability, and exponents. Now that's a combination that really works!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What can we learn about math from homeschoolers?

So I'm talking to my niece and she has 2 girls that are freaky good at math. This is more the exception than the rule in the real world. And so I learn that her secret is that they are homeschooled. But I suspect that their performance has less to do with homeschooling and more to do with the attitude and teaching style of their mom. A series of studies reviewed and published by the Math Forum clearly shows that these 2 things have the greatest impact on math performance by girls.

In this case their mom believes that math skills are important for girls to learn and her approach is very cooperative, different than the competitive approach she takes with her 2 boys. She also tends to spend more time creating exercises to practice math and their favorite is cooking and recipes. They get to experiment by doubling or cutting in half family favorite recipes. Not only do they get to learn math, they have a great payoff at the end of the lesson - dinner!

Monday, August 3, 2009

ugh......what's behind Door #1...?

It's August.
We're due to start school in a few weeks.

I know I am behind schedule. I don't know about your house, but in MY house, every penny counts. And I am VERY cautious about where I am spending this year. I have to buy Math, Science and possibly Spanish.....and I want to invest in just the right programs.

Because that's what it is: an investment...

So am I talking to myself? I wonder if anyone is reading. If you are here, gimme a shout out and telling me what you're using this year. We'd love to hear from you! One thing's for sure: I gotta get movin'!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

girls and Math

I have one son, Adam, who's REALLY good at Math.
Freaky good.
And his sister, Micaela, age 8 (almost 9)...not so much.
She has fragile x, full mutation. (If you are the curious sort, you can look at the
Fragile X Syndrome Checklist for more info...) But long story short, it makes math VERY tough for Micaela.
Especially when she sits beside the Math Wizard...

So I often split them up. And spend some one-on-one time with her, gently hammering away at the Math Facts. That's why she loves the interactive nature of

Online Math Curriculum - Time4Learning

It's completely non-threatening.....and colorful. (Color matters a great deal to my budding it engages her mind, and I'm all for that!)

And sometimes, I'll admit, I push Math more for Adam than I do for Micaela. He's just so darn comfortable with it and she's not. But then I ask myself, "Am I cheating her? Am I short-changing her by NOT offering it more often?"

So our compromise is to tackle Math with and a whole bucket loads of freebie sites that offer a wide range of ideas and fun for her.

Because Math SHOULD BE FUN, shouldn't it? Next week, we're doing CAMPING MATH. (Don't ask me what that REALLY means, I'm totally wingin' it.....)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

almost July

Anyone have goals for Summer Math?
I do. Adam was SUPPOSED to be done with all of his 2nd grade work but the summer sun is distracting him...greatly. Since he's more than a year ahead of his peers, I probably shouldn't hassle him too much, but he's lollygaggi'g. And I don't care for lollygaggin'.......

So our new goal is to knock out the remaining Units before the 4th of July.

It has been action packed around our house. Adam took a flying leap off the top bunk on Sunday night and had a nice trip to the ER. During whole drive in, my husband (smartly) was asking him math questions.....he knew as long as he was cognizant enough to do basic math, he probably would be okay. He escaped with a concussion and is presently resisting the doctor's order to lay low. My son doesn't DO laying low very well.

So our laying low includes Living Room Floor math. With many, many, many rounds of Math Bingo. My kids LOVE Math Bingo. And it's a FUN way to reinforce basic math skills. My kids detest flashcards but they BEG for Math Bingo. There are a million different sites where you can print off Math Bingo sheets. Give it a try for your kids and I bet they'll love it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

is Math music to your ears??

While most of you are loading up for trips to the Beach, we are getting ready to kick off The Summer of Science!! (which is such a misnomer, because it's HEAVILY involved with MATH, too...)

I have been busy combing the 'Net for the coolest project, funnest worksheets, and yes, the most memorable songs. One the things that Adam and Micaela dig about the site is the cool music. (He still sings that song about logging....)

So I was thrilled to discover this site:

Math Songs: Teaching Math Facts & Concepts (Addition, Subtraction ...

For my daughter, information is FIRMLY implanted in her memory if she associates it with music. I think most of all of us are wired that way. I mean, look at commercials and jingles! I'd love to hear from other parents how you taught multiplication songs.....that's where we are headed. I don't know....maybe Math Drills would be more fun if it had a beat and you could dance to it...

Music could help you get your kids over math anxiety, too...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

whatcha doing?

It's mid-June and the (infrequent) sunshine is distracting my kids.
It's summer and that makes it challenging to hold my kids' attention...any of you have that issue? The sunnier it is, the shorter that attention span.....

While I am talking and teaching about the finer points of multiplcation, they're just thinking "How long until I can go ride my bike?" I just know it....

So in my class, I try to use tools that will engage them. Make them WANT to learn.
Which is why we turn to as one of our online tools and it serves us well...

For Adam, who is 2 grade levels above his age range, he is very 7 and all about Science and Math, he enjoys all of the lessons in Science. There was some silly song he learned about logging that he sang for WEEKS. Drove me batty, but hey, he's learnin'.....I like that T4L doesn't hold him back, it sets him free to learn what HE wants to.

For Micaela, who is 8 and very much the girly-girl, she struggles still with reading. She has special needs (has fragile x syndrome, to learn more about that, click on the link below....)

Symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome

Micaela poses my bigger challenge. I can turn Adam loose and let him run. But Micaela is easily overwhelmed and when she doesn't immediately succeed, she's crushed.... For her, T4L is a confidence builder. It's non-threatening and fun and at a pace that she can tolerate. She's such an amazing kid and I have seen her gain skills while we've been homeschooling. It's not as scary to her as public school was.

So what are we doing this hot, sticky summer? Well, The Summer of Science, of course!
(Here's the Mom-trick that I didn't reveal to them: it also involves lots of Math, Reading and Writing...but Summer of Science sounds so fun, they eat it up!) We're going to have weekly lessons, vocabulary, spelling tests, experiements and public speaking: all under the umbrella of The Summer of Science!

I'll be posting here from time to time. I promise the blog will be more active! But if you can't wait and need a fix of homeschooling wit and money-savings tops, you can catch me at my personal blog....send in a comment, a suggestion, we want to hear from you!!

Just a bunch of nothin'