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Topic: upper middle schoolers that haven't yet mastered multiplication facts

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Subject:   RE: upper middle schoolers that haven't yet mastered multiplication facts
Author: ihor
Date: Jan 26 2005
Geri writes:

For those few students that I've encountered in this situation, I've tried to
help them build on what they do know already.  I've not met a student who can't
count by two's or five's or ten's by middle school.  I've used this knowledge
and repeated addition to help them figure out what they need to recall in
standardized test situations.  The more I've removed the anxiety of the 'wrong'
answer inside our classroom, and the more they've worked with alternative ways
(more conceptual) to look at multiplication, the more confident my students have
become and the more success they've had.

David replies:

I've encountered many, and for the large part drill works.  It does so because
there are certain aspects of any study that are simply fundamental facts.
message here is that learning is also the responsibility of the student.  They
must pay attention, no matter the message or means offered by the teacher.
There is much truth to the old addage, "The onus is on the student."  Our
education is ultimately very personal. The times table does not take a lot of
thought, it takes a lot of effort, and they'll be surprised at how little time
it takes when they make that effort.  Parents can help by parenting:  No movie,
no TV, no anything until this very necessary task is finished.  Yes, parents are
also responsible.

Ihor chimes in:

Geri and David echo to interesting approaches to the same problem, but in my
thinking they are vastly different. I was personally the beneficiary of the
approach that Geri promotes and the victim of the kind that David espouses. And
yet I dont mean to suggest that David's suggestions cant be effective.  With the
proper support students can benefit from the more disciplined approach that is
neccessary to succeed. I didnt master my multiplication facts until I was a
teacher (really, that 7 x 8 was always a killer for me. I still sometimes think
its 54). But it didnt keep me from getting a math degree. What finally got me to
shed some perspiration towards learning hard things was some inspiration. We
know that perspiration resulting from practice is important. But how that gets
motivated makes all the difference.

By the way, Geri, the math section in the new book from NAP "How Students Learn:
History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom" is all the ammunition you
will ever need to be convinced of the richness of the path you chose.


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