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 Subject: Math Facts Problems Author: tackweed Date: Feb 12 2005
There seems to be little research into why some students cannot master their
math facts through repetition, etc.  I have had many students over the years who
have made a valiant attempt - but the results were discouraging.

to recall some experiments I did years ago pertaining to visual field. (visual
field being defined as the number of characters the 'reader' can clearing
comprehend at a given time.)  I remember having written a program which started
with three randomly selected letters displayed in the center if the screen.  The
viewer had a limited amount of time to observe them and copy the pattern.  If
they were successful, the time of exposure decreased to some preselected
duration.

Once that point was reached the sequence of characters was increased by one. If
they were unsuccessful, the exposure duration would be increased.

The point was to see if the 'visual field' could be increased through
practice.

Students who were good readers could get up to 7 or 8 characters fairly quickly.
Students who were poor readers could seldom get past 4 characters.

This increasing visual span was one of the practice methods associated with
speed reading - typically it was part of an eye exercise chart - I decided to
adapt it to a computer (a TIMEX-Sinclair 1000 as I recall).

The real shocker was when a colleague wanted to try the program.  Despite his
best efforts, he could not exceed the 4-character barrier.  Further discussion
led to the revelation that he had an extremely difficult time reading when he
was in school.

While this hardly qualifies as scientific research, it does make me wonder how
much 'math difficulties' are just extensions of  'reading difficulties.'

Students who read 4 divided by 6 and them write down  4)6   (imagine the over
bar) are not making a math error.

Similarly, maybe there is a perceptual component to math facts.

The fact       3x4=12     exceeds the 4 character limit but most students can
master this fact.   7x9=63  creates a problem as does     7+4=11.

I may really be making a stretch at this point, but it would seem that
familiarity plays a role.  Students are more familiar with 3, 4 and 12, but not
so familiar with 7 and 11.

Obviously, I have no solutions at this point.  I would be interested in whatever
observations others have made among those students who struggle with math
facts.

Jeff