In the years I have tutored, I have noticed a disturbing trend: students no longer memorizing multiplication facts but instead relying on skip counting or a calculator for math. This is a mistake. Several months ago, I helped a high school graduate prepare for the ACT. When she contacted me, she had already taken the test three times, but her math score was still too low for acceptance into her college choice. I learned she had run out of time during her prior attempts. The ACT math portion has sixty questions to be completed in sixty minutes, a minute per problem. While working with her, I observed her reaching for the calculator for even the simplest of addition and multiplication. I pointed out that mastering those operations instead of keying them into a calculator would gain her time. This was a key factor to her improved score and subsequent acceptance into college.
Also mistakes can be easily made keying in data or skip counting – a child who isn’t fluent in addition will have trouble with skip counting. As math problems increase in complication, skip counting takes unnecessary mental effort. It’s best to save those mental faculties for analysis. As I tell my pupils, “You will multiply 7 x 6 thousands of times in your life, it’s much simpler once you know 7 x 6 =42.”
So how do you help your child become fluent in multiplication?
- Playing math games makes learning facts fun. Multiplication bingo and card games can be found online or in educational stores. There are many games available for download over the internet; many for free, others for a nominal charge. No matter what game you choose, my suggestion is to play with your child and use auditory learning by having all players say the complete number sentence aloud.
- Use multiplication in real life settings. When attending events, ask your child to figure how many seats are in different number of rows. “How many weeks will it take you to save for a tablet, bicycle, etc. if you set aside your weekly allowance?”
- Drilling is not popular, but it is important to memorizing facts. First, your child needs to build confidence by becoming fluent with one fact family at a time. I like to start with 0,1,2,5, 10, and 11. From there, I move on to 4, 3, and 6. Once they’ve mastered these, they realize their goal is attainable and are ready to tackle 7, 8, 9, and 12. Make the drills more engaging by participating with them. This is easy to do on car rides. My students and I will takes turns repeating the sentences within a fact family. For example, if he starts with 1 x 6 = 6, I’ll reply with 2 x 6 = 12. Then we switch and repeat the process. Using silly voices will also make it more fun. Reinforce these exercises by letting your child write the facts in shaving cream or salt.
How about you? What are some methods which helped you learn, or what do you use when teaching?