Math Worries

I’ve been struggling with B’s Math curriculum the past 2 years.  I did my research in 2010 and I thought Math-U-See was the right choice for B’s personality and learning styles.  He loves LEGOS and is so creative with them that I assumed Math with bricks would click.  I was wrong.  I know that multiplication is taught to 3rd graders in my county.  And, although I have heard a couple of public school parents struggle with getting their 3rd graders to understand multiplication, I was still struggling with B over addition!  How was I going to get to multiplication if I couldn’t even get through addition, let alone subtraction?!

In March, I had a rare day off from work that coincided with an informal get together in my homeschooling group.  The talk of Math came up and a friend of mine spoke about where her 3rd grade daughters was.  She said that when she started homeschooling this past Fall (her daughter had been to public school for kindergarten – 2nd grade), she realized that she had to start over and reteach her daughter principals of addition and subtraction and had not yet gotten to multiplication.  That made me feel better, that B was not odd man out.  It reminded me of so many homeschool authors I’d read that talked about when the public schools say kids should be reading – kindergarten and 1st grade.  These authors, like me, struggled with their boys over reading and finally stopped.  They read to their boys, instead, and all of the boys picked up reading by choice between the ages of 7 and 9.  And that is exactly what happened with B and reading.

When I mentioned my Math worries to my brother, he asked if I’d tried flash cards b/c they were used to teach the 2 of us in school.  So, I went out and bought flash cards for addition, subtraction and multiplication.  And I have learned that B can do Math in his head and is a wiz at flash cards!  I thought he wasn’t getting Math b/c he struggled with worksheets.  It’s just that he isn’t a worksheet and show-your-work kinda kid!  Phew!  Flash cards are so much cheaper than a Math curriculum and I can create word problems and find some freebies online.

I also got a great tip from another homeschooling mom – Timez Attack by Big Brainz.  It’s a video game with timed Math problems.  B did some addition on it last week and was getting upset by the timer (too short, IMO) but still did well.  Today, I had him take the pre-test in multiplication.  Man did that upset B!  He had not even been exposed to multiplication before that.  He was stressed over the time and frustrated b/c he didn’t know “anything”.  Well, he got 10 out of 66 right and I know he came up with the correct answers for a few others but just didn’t get them typed in fast enough.  He was not happy when I pulled out the multiplication flash cards after that experience.  So, I got a pad of paper and a pencil out and went over the easier multiplication problems with him.

  1. Any number x 0 = 0
  2. Any number x 1 = that number
  3. Any number x 10 = that number with a 0 on the end
  4. And to boost his confidence, I threw in any number x 100 and any number x 1,000 and he was pretty impressed with himself that he could multiply something by 1,000.  And that’s exactly what I wanted – to bolster his confidence that hecould do multiplication.  If I’d put the times table in front of him for memorization, he would have been lost, frustrated and given up.
  5. 1 through 9 x 11 = 1 through 9 in the tens and ones column
  6. 10 x 11 (follow the principle in #3)
  7. 11 x 11 and 11 x 12 = memorization.  These were the only 2 answers he had to memorize today so he could handle that and he remembered them!
Just using the flash cards that worked with the above 7 situations, B was able to answer 104 flashcards correctly!  The other 65 flash cards that do not fall into the above 7 situations I didn’t show him.  We’ll cover those another time.  He and I are just so proud that he’s got over 60% of the multiplication table down in his 1st lesson!  After I put the cards away, I actually went over multiplying by 5s with him, verbally.  Even telling him some of my tricks.  For example: 8 x 5 seems daunting.  He can count by 5s eight times to get there or he can do 8 x 10 = 80 in his head quickly and then cut that in 2 to get 40 b/c 5 is half of 10.  If he can’t remember what 11 x 11 is, he can do 11 x 10 = 110 in his head and then just add another 11 to that.  But I’m sure he’ll work the numbers out in his head his way.  He was so proud to tell the hubs that he “…had a great 1st multiplication lesson today, Daddy!”  And I am thrilled to unlock another mystery of how his brain works.

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