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Getting Ready for Multiplication in the New Year


As the end of the year closes in on us like the narrow end of a very pointy trapezoid, it’s easy to let your thoughts slip to holidays, presents and all things calorie laden… But for those of us with younger grade school kids, some might contemplate the beginning of next year when many schools kick off their math fact programs with real enthusiasm.

Now I’m not proposing stuffing stockings with multiplication flash cards, which I’m sure is barely a step above a lump of coal… But a little math prep over the holidays may be just the boost our young Euclid’s need to start the new year off with some extra confidence.

It’s easy to lose track of how difficult memorizing the multiplication facts can be. There are strategies of course, and we all seem to rely on memory tricks for a span of time, like the ones I’ve highlighted in my rules for learning multiplication post.

But if you need an in depth perspective, I found this article really reminded me of some of the mechanics that we went through learning these facts outselves. We may not want to continuously assess our kids in one of nine different phases of the process (I’d be needing something special in my eggnog if I was a teacher trying to follow this particular program program rigorously with 25 or more kids, for sure), but it does highlight how complicated the learning process really looks under the hood of the sleigh, as it were.

In the end, though, frequent readers know my thoughts… Keep drilling until your student has the facts down hard, cold and fast. Then, stuff them full of cookies, because math is hard work, and nothing says “Good Job!” like something with frosting and sprinkles. Here are some links to some multiplication worksheets to get you started…

Multiplication Worksheets

Fact Family (Mixed Multiplication and Division) Worksheets

Finally, for you clever folks out there looking for a little brain exercise to work off those Hershey’s Kisses that I think were supposed to be kitchen decorations in that little candy dish, but, they taunt me, oh, how they taunt me… Anyway, here’s a quick 12 question quiz for your inner 8th grader to mull…

Are You As Smart as an 8th Grader?

Printable Graph Paper is Back!

Graph Paper

There’s been some issues of late with the printable graph paper, notably some browsers didn’t like the way I specified the width of the lines that make up the grid. As a result some of the lines didn’t show up, so many of the pages looked blank. This has been fixed up and hopefully everybody’s browser is happy now. If you experience any trouble printing any of the graph paper pages, please drop a notes in the comments here and be sure to mention which browser and operating system you’re using.

As before, the printable graph paper pages can be found at this link…

Printable Graph Paper

I also tried to tune the margins a bit so that the pages would print on a wider range of printers without spilling onto additional pages. If you experience this with the graph paper, or even any of the regular math worksheet pages, remember you can often adjust your printing settings directly in the browser’s print dialog or via the “Page Setup” command. Turning off headers and footers or setting the printer margins to values like “Minimal” often give you more printable area on a page.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Questions About Common Core

Common Core Logo Question

The adoption of Common Core standards across schools is a topic that has a lot of people jumping to one side of the fence or another. It’s difficult to find a balanced view of this controversial topic, but this recent article from LifeHacker hit both sides of the debate and is definitely worth a read if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about…

The Parent’s Guide to Common Core

The math component of Common Core has drawn more perhaps more criticism than others, and Marina Ratner in the Wall Street Journal definitely wasn’t shy about pointing out some of the larger concerns…

Making Math Education Even Worse

Dad’s perspective? There’s definite value in assessing how well individual schools are doing with their math curriculum, and standardized testing is probably the most effective way to make these comparisons. And a renewed focus on true problem solving (not just the mechanics of symbol manipulation) is a positive step in teaching math concepts. But will Common Core be the final word on this? Probably not.

The larger problem in my mind remains one of inspiration, not creating the one sanctified list of what to teach and how (of which there’s certainly no single “correct” way), or even assessment (which is necessary, but will always imperfect, no matter how many tax dollars we throw at it). Rather, if we approached math the way that we did many other topics, like art, music or literature, where there was a a great story or beauty to be unfolded, I suspect much of the gap in STEM competency that everybody worries about would melt away. This inspiration is only going to come at the hands of talented teachers and engaged parents, like Seven Strogatz…

Teaching Math to People Who Think They Hate It

What are your thoughts? Has your school fully embraced Common Core math and how is that working out for your kids?

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