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Topic: Math Facts Problems

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Subject:   RE: Math Facts Problems
Author: Barnhouse
Date: Feb 15 2005
On Feb 12 2005, tackweed wrote:

> 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.

While reading through the various
> messages accompanying these threads I happened 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.

> 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.

> 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.



Any doctor will tell you that all human beings are born with some degree of
brain injury.  In most, it is not noticeable without sophisticated equipment.
When it is more severe, the first place it usually shows is in some limitation
of visual ability.

Child development specialists at the Institute for the Achievement of Human
Potential have done 50 years of research on these issues, and their studies show
conclusively, I believe, that you are right in relating reading ability to the
mastery of Math facts.  

I have a Math degree from Harvard, and taught a year at Penn Charter and two
years at the Lawrenceville Academy in Princeton, in my youth.  My life developed
along another career path, but I am a part time consultant helping them with the
Math program at an experimental school they operate.  

If you have any more detailed questions, or would like to discuss our research
further, feel free to communicate with me through IAHP.  215-233-2050,
extension 2503.

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