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3rd Grade Math Struggle

Date: 5 Jan 1995 18:27:52 -0500
From: Anonymous
Subject: math

Hi there. My daughter is in 3rd grade. Up until this year, math was her
favorite subject. Even though she struggled with it, she enjoyed it, and 
we were happy with her consistent C grades. This year is awful- she can't 
seem to grasp the basics of  subtraction, and is in a panic because she's 
getting F's in everything, even things she could do last year. As someone 
who loves math, what can you suggest for someone who used to love it, 
but is fast developing a phobia? Any kind of fun exercises she could do, 
books I could get, or even computer programs would be great. I'll try 
anything. Thanks for any help.


Date: 6 Jan 1995 12:17:22 -0500
From: Anonymous
Subject: Re: math

Hi Helen, I only have a few suggestions ready off the top.  I think
cuisinaire rods and other manipulatives are fun and useful.  Math Blaster
is a reasonable piece of software.  Family Math, run by folks at Berkeley,
is a good program and has published a good curriculum:

by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, and Ruth Cossey.
illustrated by Marilyn Hill.
1986. ISBN 0-9121511-06-0. Published by EQUALS
Lawrence Hall of Science
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720
Telephone numbers: (510) 642-1823 FAMILY MATH Program
642-1910 books
643-5757 fax

I'm also going to pass along your question to one of our guest experts 
and we'll see what she has to say.

This is a good question to pose on the k12.ed.math newsgroup, which 
you can access through AOL's Internet Center.

-- steve ("chief of staff")

Date: 7 Jan 1995 17:06:01 -0500
From: Dr. Sydney
Subject: Re: math

Dear Helen,

        I thought I'd add a little to suggestions made by Steve.  Perhaps
your daughter would like some flash cards that you could play with at 
home?  Maybe first you should go through addition and firm up the things 
she felt confident about last year.  Then she can attack the subtraction 
problems with more confidence.  More than anything, I feel it is of utmost 
importance to _encourage_ your daughter and let her know you know she 
can do it.  I feel like many people have a math phobia because they were 
discouraged early on and told that they could not do math.  

        Learning about neat things in math not necessarily relating to
addition or subtraction might be interesting for your daughter, as well.  A
book called _The Joy of Mathematics_ written by Theoni Pappas describes 
lots of neat things in math like the relationship between math and
music and the relations between math and nature.  I'm not sure if the book
would be too hard for your daughter (certainly many parts of it would be
-- it was not intended for a 3rd grade audience) -- but I know a few parts
might interest her.  If this book doesn't work, I'm sure there are others
that are written for a younger audience that your daughter might like.  Math
appears in so many different places...sometimes elementary schoolers don't
realize that there is more to math than addition, subtraction, multiplication,
and division.  

        Anyway, I hope that helps a little.  I know many people (including
math majors) who struggled early on with concepts like subtraction but
eventually came to love math.  So, encourage her lots, and also, feel free
to have her write us with any problems she might have.

--Sydney, a "doctor" of math

Date: 7 Jan 1995 21:49:44 -0500
From: Dr. Sydney
Subject: one more idea...

Dear Helen,

        Hello again!  I was just talking to my mother, and she had one more
idea about how you might help your daughter with math.  She suggested 
that you make flashcards and use them when playing games.  For instance, 
you could play the game "Memory" also called "Concentration" with 
flashcards that say things like 2+3 or 8-4.  Thus, you would be matching 
flashcards that both said 2+3 or something like this.  When you matched 
the flashcards, you could say what the answer to the addition or subtraction 
problem is. There are also many variations you could do on could 
let 2+3 and 8-3 be matching cards since they both equal 5 or something like 

        Also, you could play ordinary games like Sorry! or Checkers by doing
a flashcard with every move, or something like that.  

        Anyway, good luck.  I hope this helps!


Date: 8 Jan 1995 17:13:44 -0500
From: Stephen Weimar
Subject: Re: re 3rd Grade math fun!

Steve Weimar forwarded your "Ask Dr. Math" question about resources for your
daughter.  Manipulatives and just using math in daily life are probably going
to be the best in the long run....

In addition to the suggestions Steve gave (Family Math is a favorite of our
1st and 2nd Grade math teacher), on the book end of things you might want to
take a look at the Little Brown Paperback series books such as _Math for
Smarty Pants_, _The book of Think_, and _The I Hate Mathematics Book_.  It's
a great series with lots of ideas!

A piece of software that I really like (and the kids at school really like,
too) is Math Shop Jr.  The scenario is that you are in a mall, waiting on
customers in different stores --and, in each store you have to do different
mathematical tasks.  What stands out about this program, however, is that it
really involves thinking/mathematical skills, too, not just computation/drill
of facts.  I don't have the publisher info here, but if you have any trouble
getting it, let me know and I can round it up easily enough.

  --Good luck!  Feel free to write back for more info.

Jane Stavis
Westtown School

Date: 28 Dec 1995 14:11
From: Jan Rigby
Organization: Chevron Petroleum Technology Company

Another suggestion...

In 3rd grade she is between 8 and 10 years of age.

If she is competitive, teach her to play darts. I'm a steel tip player 
involved in youth darts. If you are concerned about supervision 
and safety, soft tips (flexible nylon) are available. There are also 
variations in velcro, or you can make a version for yourself. 
Many parents have told me their children struggled with math 
until learning to play darts.  Since darts is a game of multiplication, 
subtraction, and eye hand coordination it involves both mental 
and physical activity. If you would like more information about 
youth darts, please contact the ADO (American Dart Organization) 
at 714/254-0212 and ask Katie or Rich for information on youth 
darts. Or see CYBER/DARTS on the WEB.

Of math interest, the numbers on the board are 1 thru 20 with doubles 
and triples, and the bulls (25 and 50).  Since the game is played with 
3 darts, the multiplication tables (x1 through x9) up through the 
number 9 x 20 (=180) can be practiced.  


Date: 28 Dec 1995 
From: Anonymous
Hi Jan -

What a good suggestion!  I'll add your letter to the listing in our 
Ask Dr. Math archives, along with some information on the rules 
of darts and a URL for those who want to look them up on the 
Web.  Thanks very much!

Here's an URL:   

"Rules to the Darts Game of '01, (pronounced " Oh-One")

The game of '01 is the classic game of Darts, played world-wide. The
"01" refers to the fact that the game is played from a certain number of
points, always ending in "01". For example, the common tournament
game of 501 (pronounced "Five-Oh-One"), is played from 501 points.
Other variations are 301, 601, 801, 1001. The higher point games are
usually played by teams.

The object of the game is simple... each player starts with the same score
(501, for example) and the first to reduce his score to zero wins.

Players take turns throwing three darts each and subtract all points scored
from their own beginning score (501). Each player removes his darts and
marks his score before the opponent throws. Darts that bounce off or
miss the board do not score and cannot be rethrown that turn.

The difficult part of the game lies in the finish, known as "going-out". To
win, you must reach zero before your opponent, but you must also reach
exactly zero, and the dart that brings the score down to zero must be a
double. Doubles consist of the numbers in the outside narrow scoring
band and the center (small) bullseye which counts as 50 points and is an
actual double of the outer 25-point bull..."

Another possibility for children who are not competitive is cribbage.
Our family learned cribbage when a fifth grade math teacher assigned it
to improve math skills.  :-)

-- "Dr." Sarah

Date: Thu, 28 Dec 95 11:52:00 PST
From: Rigby, Jan - JLKN

Hi Sarah,

I've browsed the URL you listed. It's not an "official" page, rather, 
one created by an enthusiast and contains some information that is 
slightly inaccurate (though I applaud the enthusiasm of the creator).

301 and 501 are most often played. Besides the obvious difference 
of 200 points, 501 is called a straight start game. Any dart hitting 
within a scoring area starts the game. 301 is a double on game. One 
must hit a double before beginning to score. As one gets into the 
game more, there are strategies, percentage plays, what we call, 
wedges, transitions, lines (some geometry?) and all this must be 
learned to fully appreciate the game, though not necessarily to win . 
Like the games of "Chess", "Pente", or "Othello", the basics can be 
learned in a few minutes... but it can take a lifetime to master, and 
even the "masters" learn something each time they play. I'm still 

Another good math "dart" game is "half-it", the rules and scoring 
are again available from the ADO.

On a personal level, I've played darts for 20 yrs. I began playing 
professionally 13 yrs. ago. Played the "circuit" as a nationally ranked 
player for 6 yrs. I gave it up after a shoulder injury made travel and play 
difficult. I'm not a teacher by profession... I'm a graphic artist, and have 
used these skills to develop tools to teach darts and its finer points. 

A word of caution,  My suggestion may have inspired the next world 

Good thoughts,


Associated Topics:
Elementary Subtraction

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