The number one factor in determining success in math is the memorization of multiplication facts in third grade. Almost every math skill is dependent on it. Here are5 ways you can help your child master these crucial math skills.
Parents are often surprised when their children suddenly start to show signs of struggling in math around the third grade. Sometimes kids excel at math in the early years and then hit a speed bump in upper elementary school. It can be frustrating to parents who are now scrambling to find out how their child went from loving math, to dreading it.
In my experience, the number one factor in determining success in math from third grade on, is the memorization of multiplication facts. Almost every math skill in the upper grades is dependent on the rote memorization of facts. Division, fractions, decimals, exponents and algebra rely heavily on this skill and the truth is that many kids do not have it. It is nearly impossible for a child to understand the complex nature of algebra if they are using all of their cognitive energy to figure out 8 x 7.
So, what can you do to help your kids master this skill? Below are several ways to help.
1.) Assess the situation.
It is necessary to find out what your child may already know. Kids need to master their facts from 0-12, so give a little informal quiz. Most kids can count by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by third grade. If they can, great! You have an excellent start. If they can’t, don’t panic. Just practice.
2.) Start with the lowest set of facts that your child has not mastered.
For example, if your child cannot count by 2’s then start there. Use a sentence strip, or a long, narrow piece of paper and list the two’s facts from 0-12. For example, 2×1=2, 2×2=4, and so on. Hang this list by your child’s bed. Have him read the list two times every night before bed and two times every morning upon waking up. People remember things best upon wake up, so this is key. In a few days, have him read the list closing his eyes. Once this list is mastered, keep it there and hang the next list by its side. Practice the new list, but keep quizzing him on the old ones. Keep going until you get to 12. I skip the ones that my kids knew easily, like 5 and 10.
If your child isn’t making progress, try just counting by each number. List 2-24 on your sentences strip, instead of the entire problem. If your child can count by 2’s and 3’s, she will be able to find the answer quickly.
3.) Show them tricks.
There are so many cool tricks to help kids memorize their facts. My favorite involves the 9 times tables. Have your child put both hands flat on a table to try the problem 9×3. Starting from the right, count to the third finger and tuck it under. You will notice two fingers on the left side of the tucked finger and seven on the right. The answer is 27. This trick works for all factors of 9 from 0-10. Kids love it.Another trick involves the 11 times tables. When you list eleven’s multiples, you will realize that each answer is just doubling the number you are multiplying by. For example, 22, 33, 44, etc.
There are also many rhymes associated with multiplication. Eight and eight went into the store and came out with Nintendo 64 works for 8×8. Six and eight went on a date and came back as the number 48. Some of my athletic students told me that for 7×7, the sevens look like little flags in a football stadium reminding them that it was 49 (like the 49ers).
Do whatever works to help your child remember the ones they are stuck on.
4.) Play multiplication games online.
There are so many websites now for multiplication practice. These can be highly motivating for kids. Xtramath.com is a free website for parents or teachers. Not only does it provide great fact practice but it gives parents and teachers updated reports about each child’s progress. Math-play.com gives a huge variety of math games for every age level. For older kids, my middle school class absolutely loved xpmath.com. They got to battle against each other in a fighting math game.
5.) Make math part of your everyday life.
Practice facts in the car, before bed, and at the breakfast table. I use flash cards every morning at breakfast and reward them with TV time later in the day. Make up multiplication problems in the grocery store or while sorting socks.
The most important thing you can do is to keep at it. Once they’ve mastered their facts, do not let them forget them. All of your hard work will have gone to waste. Keep quizzing, keep practicing. It takes awhile before these facts become imbedded in their long term memory. Be especially cautious over long breaks. With multiplication under their belts, their math skills will grow exponentially!