Back in September, I wrote this piece on timed math tests: Another Personal Rant... My frustration reared it's ugly head last week while working on math with my son. Here is some background information. In the morning when I wake my son up I count to 30 in a variety of ways. On Monday I count by 1's, Tuesday by 2's, Wednesday by 3's, Thursday by 4's, and Friday by 5's. I know it is strange and I can't remember how/why it started (perhaps it has to do with the fact that I constantly count steps, etc... in my head as I go through my day - I know...). A couple of weeks ago I changed up our counting routine.
In Skyler's homework packet there was a list of the times tables he still needs to pass (6's, 7's, 8's, and 9's). So instead of exploding, I decided that I would remain calm and try to figure out a meaningful way for him to "memorize" his facts. I made the connection to change my counting routine to include skip counting his multiplication tables.
So, I started with skip counting 6's up to 60 three times (Remember I have to count to 30) the first day, then 7's the next day, etc...
Skyler was feeling confident. I was feeling okay because I was supporting his desire to perform and making it slightly more meaningful than straight memorization (at least with skip counting there are all sorts of patterns to explore).
Then this past Monday as soon as Skyler got into the car he stated, "Mom, I did WORSE on my 6's!" I could feel my face turning red and the frustration boiling up. I replied in a calm voice, "I don't care how fast you can do your multiplication facts. If I ask you how to find 6x7, what will you say?" Skyler replied, "I'd tell you that it is 14+14+14." I replied, "You are proving to me that you understand what multiplication is and that you know what to do to find the answer. I'll say it again, I don't care how quickly you can solve multiplication facts." It was the next thing Skyler said that really got to me, "Then will you buy me ice cream? We are having an ice cream party for everyone who passes their multiplication tables next Friday." Here is where my frustration immediately turned into a heavy heart and I could feel myself sink in to the seat. I collected my thoughts and replied to my 9 year old son. "Of course I will buy you ice cream. But Buddy, if you want ice cream with your class, I will work with you to make that happen also. And I will do both if that is what you want. What do you want Skyler?"
Initially, Skyler said he didn't care if he had ice cream with his class. He later changed his mind and told me he wanted to do both. So, I figured out a way to use our skip counting to pass his tests. I realized that even though he could easily skip count he was missing the other factor.
- We decided that the very first thing Skyler will do is skip count and write the numbers at the top of his test page.
- Then, he will write the numbers 1 - 10 above the numbers so he knows the other factor
- Now he will have all of the answers at the top of the page for easy reference.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (This line second)
6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 54 60 (This line first)
Elementary teachers, please read the above link for other meaningful ways for students to learn their multiplication or any math facts. Please start your timers at zero and count up so that students can write their times down and as runners and swimmers do, beat their best time.
I have realized as an educator and a parent that even though I have issues with this, I need to support my son and respect what he wants. So, next Friday Skyler will have ice cream with his class and we will be going to Foster's Freeze on our way home.