## Quotable: Learning the Math Facts

feature photo above by USAG- Humphreys via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

During off-times, at a long stoplight or in grocery store line, when the kids are restless and ready to argue for the sake of argument, I invite them to play the numbers game.

“Can you tell me how to get to twelve?”

My five year old begins, “You could take two fives and add a two.”

“Take sixty and divide it into five parts,” my nearly-seven year old says.

“You could do two tens and then take away a five and a three,” my younger son adds.

Eventually we run out of options and they begin naming numbers. It’s a simple game that builds up computational fluency, flexible thinking and number sense. I never say, “Can you tell me the transitive properties of numbers?” However, they are understanding that they can play with numbers.

I didn’t learn the rules of baseball by filling out a packet on baseball facts. Nobody held out a flash card where, in isolation, I recited someone else’s definition of the Infield Fly Rule. I didn’t memorize the rules of balls, strikes, and how to get someone out through a catechism of recitation.

## Conversational Math

The best way for children to build mathematical fluency is through conversation. For more ideas on discussion-based math, check out these posts:

## Learning the Math Facts

For more help with learning and practicing the basic arithmetic facts, try these tips and math games:

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## World Maths Day 2013: Register Now

It’s time to register for World Maths Day, which will take place on March 6, 2013. Last year, more than five million students from all around the world combined to correctly answer nearly 500 million math problems.

Would you like to help break the record this year? Register now so you can practice in advance!

• Play with students from schools all around the world. Individuals and homeschoolers are welcome, too.
• The competition is designed for ages 4-18 and all ability levels. Teachers, parents and media can also register and play.
• It’s simple to register and participate. Start practicing as soon as you register.
• And best of all, it’s absolutely free.

## How to Conquer the Times Table, Part 5

Photo of Lex times 11, by Dan DeChiaro, via flickr.

We are finishing up an experiment in mental math, using the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to explore multiplication patterns while memorizing as little as possible.

Take your time to fix each of these patterns in mind. Ask questions of your student, and let her quiz you, too. Discuss a variety of ways to find each answer. Use the card game Once Through the Deck (explained in part 3)as a quick method to test your memory. When you feel comfortable with each number pattern, when you are able to apply it to most of the numbers you and your child can think of, then mark off that row and column on your times table chart.

So far, we have studied the times-1 and times-10 families and the Commutative Property (that you can multiply numbers in any order). Then we memorized the doubles and mastered the facts built on them. And then last time we worked on the square numbers and their next-door neighbors.

## How to Conquer the Times Table, Part 4

Photo of Miss Karen (and computer) times 3, by Karen, via flickr.

If you remember, we are in the middle of an experiment in mental math. We are using the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to explore multiplication patterns while memorizing as little as possible. So far, we have studied the times-1 and times-10 families and the Commutative Property (that you can multiply numbers in any order). Then we memorized the doubles and mastered the facts built on them.

## How to Conquer the Times Table, Part 3

Photo of Javier times 4, by Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel, via flickr.

If you remember, we are in the middle of an experiment in mental math. We are using the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to explore multiplication patterns while memorizing as little as possible. Talk through these patterns with your student. Work many, many, many oral math problems together. Discuss the different ways you can find each answer, and notice how the number patterns connect to each other.

So far, we have mastered the times-1 and times-10 families and the Commutative Property (that you can multiply numbers in any order).

## How to Conquer the Times Table, Part 2

Photo of Eeva times 6, by Eric Horst, via flickr.

The question is common on parenting forums:

My daughter is in 4th grade. She has been studying multiplication in school for nearly a year, but she still stumbles over the facts and counts on her fingers. How can I help her?

Many people resort to flashcards and worksheets in such situations, and computer games that flash the math facts are quite popular with parents. I recommend a different approach: Challenge your student to a joint experiment in mental math. Over the next two months, without flashcards or memory drill, how many math facts can the two of you learn together?

We will use the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to explore multiplication patterns while memorizing as little as possible.

## How to Conquer the Times Table, Part 1

Photo of Evil Erin times 5 (and dog times 2), via flickr.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for any middle-elementary math student is to master the multiplication facts. It can seem like an unending task to memorize so many facts and be able to pull them out of mental storage in any order on demand. Too often, the rote aspect of such memory work overwhelms students, eclipsing their view of the principles behind the math. Yet rote memory is not enough: A student may be able to recite the times tables perfectly and still be reduced to counting on fingers in the middle of a long division problem.

We will use the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to learn the multiplication facts one bite at a time. But first, let’s take some time to think about what multiplication really means.