Finishing up with one customer, another asked me where CalcuLadder was. I pointed to a shelf above eye level and wondered why anyone would use it. It seemed a lot of money to pay for math drill pages, yet several parents had asked about it.
Besides working at Shekinah Curriculum Cellar part-time, I also tested children whose parents wanted to know their child’s grade level. The more I tested children with the WRAT (Wide Range Achievement Test), the more I realized math fact drill work was exactly what many of our children needed.
Your child has his times tables memorized, you say? Try quizzing his addition facts. I’ll bet he’s still counting 8+5 in his head or under the table on his fingers to answer 13. Addition facts need to be memorized as well.
While giving the math portion of the WRAT, I realized many children knew the processes but were encumbered by not knowing their facts. Once the parent taught the math facts, they reported back to me how the child’s worst subject became a favorite. Knowing the facts meant the time spent on a math lesson was often cut in half.
One mother, whose son had been in special ed classes for years, lamented that he could not memorize his math facts. No one had tried teaching him by song, so I recommended a tape. Within a week her son could sing his facts and would lie on his bedroom floor elatedly crooning them over and over. What joy success brings.
Some parents set aside their math text while teaching the math facts. This isn’t necessary and only sets you back on your yearly schedule. Just teach math as two separate subjects for the day. Spend 10 minutes learning the facts, then do another subject or two. After that, do your text lesson for the day.
If my daughter practiced her facts each day, I allowed her to use what we parents would consider a “cheat sheet.” We called it an “input sheet.”
Our input sheet had the vertical facts in rows horizontally by families. The child needs to see the whole fact for effective input. Having all three numbers of a math fact on the front of the card is what makes Triangle Flash Cards (see below) effective as well.
If your child generally learns with difficulty, I wouldn’t use the kind of chart where he has to follow the path of the multiplier on the left side of the page with his finger and the multiplicand down from the top of the page to find the intersecting answer. It’s too much work for an already struggling brain.
The more we input the facts into our child’s noggin before we ask them to recall the answers, the better they’ll both learn and recall them. Using an input sheet of math facts while completing a math lesson allows the child to put his energy into the process of the problem, like the steps of division. He no longer gets side-tracked not knowing a product and then losing his place in the process. This temporary aid shortens the lesson at the same time it’s reviewing the math facts.
Implementing several approaches to learning the math facts was the trick for my daughter. One day she’d listen to a cassette, the next use the Triangle Flash Cards (to learn, not to quiz). Then she’d use the Math Wrap-Ups, and the fourth day she’d recite them orally without music.
On Friday, I’d give her a drill sheet with all the multiplication problems mixed up. Initially I completed the page myself (at a relaxed pace) and then gave her a minute longer than I had taken. When she could finish the page in that amount of time (doing it once a week), I subtracted 15 seconds (more or less to be just enough of a challenge).
When my daughter beat my time, I still gave it to her three times a week. If she successfully completed it on those days, I dropped it to once a week. Eventually we didn’t need to do it at all. Using a different method each day kept the memorization as interesting as it can get and worked for us. You might find just one or two of the methods work fine for making math your child’s favorite subject.
- Multiplication Songs (Kathy Troxel) Same tune for all tables. Also available: Addition Songs
- Times Table Toons www.teachingtunes.com: to hear excerpts and for ordering info
- Math Wrap-Ups / Rap music
- Triangle Flash Cards [All three numbers of fact (+and x) on front.] Input and output
- Output Math Wrap-Ups. When you don’t want to make your own drill sheet(+and x)
- Manipulative used to practice facts (+and x). Output but fun enough to use as input.
Copyright 2006. Bethany Bennett. Reprinted by CHEA of California with permission of the author.
Bethany Bennett served Christian Heritage School in Corona as a curriculum advisor and high school counselor for many years. She has been married to her husband Bob for 32 years.Bethany and Bob homeschooled their three daughters, graduating the youngest in1996. Since then, Bethany has been teaching nieces and nephews, two of whom graduated in 2002. Bethany and Bob currently reside in Redding, California.