Natalia’s Math Struggles
Natalia hated math, and the more her mom pushed her and tried to help her with her lessons, the less empowered she became until one day, she “hit the wall,” alarming her mother with the abject defeat she was exhibiting.
This defeat colored her entire world. Her confidence was shot not only in math but, as a result, in everything else. Natalia had no try left. She was absolutely convinced she couldn’t do it. She was convinced she couldn’t do anything, that she was just plain dumb.
Math had been a struggle for Heather Linchenko already with Natalia’s three older siblings. It was the push, the grind, the fighting, consequences, ultimatums and the oft-quoted mantra, “You’ve just got to learn to do hard things.”
“Math is hard. Nobody likes math, but you’ve GOT to do it.”
The Old Approach To Teach Math Completely Fails
She tried the same tired approaches with Natalia, but nothing worked.
My sister, Heather, confided in me one day that she feared Natalia was just…slow. She just couldn’t get it.
One day Natalia absolutely gave up, Heather was shocked into realizing the obvious: what she was doing just wasn’t working. She had been able to push her older children through their math lessons, but nothing was working with Natalia. Worse, it was destroying her confidence and fracturing their relationship.
In spite of all the conflict, Heather and Natalia still loved each other. But, they didn’t like each other very much. They didn’t love to be in each other’s presence anymore. Their relationship was very strained to say the least.
A quote Heather had heard many years earlier finally hit her consciousness with new force: “Learner inability is usually nothing more than teacher inflexibility.” Motivated to heal the damage she had unwittingly done to her daughter (in spite of plenty of love and very good intentions), she said to Natalia, “No more math until I figure this out!”
The Student Becomes the Teacher
Suddenly, Natalia became a valuable resource on this journey. Heather began to ask her questions: “Why do you hate math so? What is hard for you? Why? Natalia became the teacher, the adviser on this journey.
Heather learned that, although Natalia had memorized her times tables some time ago, they hadn’t “stuck,” and stumbling over them while trying to do her math lessons made everything SO hard, so laborious, so overwhelming.
A Better and Faster Solution Emerges
Heather set out to create a system for teaching Natalia her times tables in a different way. Memorization hadn’t worked. It was boring, tedious, ineffective. With a new paradigm, ideas started coming to Heather. She started questioning, “What would I like? What would be fun and interesting for me? What would be hard for me?”
A system took shape that was based on associations, not memorization. Heather saw Natalia engage from the first moment. Natalia felt like a winner, and her confidence exploded.
Surprisingly, her math facts were mastered in a fraction of the time it had taken to “learn” them before. But this time, her math facts were solid. She owned them.
Confidence and Competence Pave the Way to Success
With her math facts in tow, it was time to tackle Saxon Math again. Heather assumed she would have to stay ahead of Natalia, a step at a time, as she progressed through her math lessons.
As Natalia sat down to resume her Saxon math, instinctively her shoulders slumped and she looked momentarily defeated. However, a new realization hit Natalia; suddenly her back straightened, her chest lifted, her face brightened, and she took off; suddenly she knew she could do it!
Mom Gets Her Time Back
The biggest surprise to Heather? Her need to help Natalia was over. Natalia forged ahead, confident she could figure it out and she DID. Heather’s work was done.
After that, math became Natalia’s favorite subject even in high school (with no more help from Mom). What a transformation!
Slow, she was not! She had just been squelched by the typical way times tables and division facts were normally taught.
We have since discovered that Natalia represented that 80% of kids that hate math. The solution to her problem became a solution to theirs.
Trying the Process in a Private School
A few years later when, as a teacher’s aide in a private school, Heather couldn’t hold herself back from suggesting her program to the teacher of a 6 to 8 year old class. You see, she saw the same dejected look, the same slumped shoulders, eyes down, screwed up faces and heard the same whining and moans she had experienced with Natalia when “math time” was announced.
It had worked so well for Natalia and then her little brother. Why not for these kids? The six year old kids should be able to do it. At least it was certainly worth a try.
So, this good teacher agreed, and started a voluntary program lead by Heather. Before long, every last child in the class joined in–even the defiant, the shy, the unconfident, the goof offs. They could see how fun it was for the others, and were soon asking to be first like the rest. Math became the favorite subject.
Startlingly, every last child engaged, and every last child — 100 percent — absolutely nailed their multiplication facts.
I’ve never seen this happen in any class I’ve been in, and I’m betting you haven’t either!
The Power of Flexible Brain Training
It was in this class that Heather learned that a key outcome of the process (in the absence of rote memorization) was the development of a flexible brain, such that the kids immediately “got” their division facts. In one or two “light-bulb” moments, they realized they already knew them. Division was no new mountain to climb.
It was exciting to learn, also, that the six year old kids learned their math facts as quickly as the older ones. The visiting eighth grade reading helpers, on seeing these little tykes whip off their times tables facts would say, “How old ARE you? I can’t even do that!“
Addition and subtraction were a non event for the first graders after that. Manipulatives were not needed. The kids could figure it in their newly trained brains, and they felt brilliant! They had discovered they were brilliant through the process.
Multiplication Facts Mastery Makes All Math Easier
In conclusion, with experiences like this under our belt, we couldn’t agree more with Annie in the following blog post.
Well, EXCEPT for ONE THING: memorization is NOT the vehicle. Memorization is ALSO why your kid hates math.
The Rx for hatred of math is a solid foundation of multiplication and division facts learned without the use of rote memorization.
Annie & Everything Blog Excerpts
THE NUMBER ONE REASON YOUR KID HATES MATH (no matter which age or grade) “Annie & Everything”, 11/4/16A Blog for General Homeschool Encouragement
“Do I have to do math today?” You know you’ve heard this. In that whiny voice with the drawn-out words. Like doing math is the equivalent of being stretched on the rack or worse… I can almost guarantee that the child who is saying it has one particular characteristic.
There are other reasons out there, but my pretty-close-to-an-expert opinion is that this one cause is the main one, the most widespread – and it’s a simple fix.…here’s what I’ve noticed: by a large margin, the kids who hate math generally have one thing in common – they don’t know their multiplication facts.
The kids who love math, or at least tolerate it, are the ones who know their multiplication tables so well that they don’t have to think about them. Like at all.
And one of the things I want you to realize is that this is a COMMON problem…we don’t ever strive for mastery.
It’s like music. If you are trying to learn piano and you never bother to master the notes on the staff, how well would you do?
Math Topics Requiring Multiplication Facts Mastery
Here is just a sampling of the topics that depend on the multiplication tables:
–multiplication of 2- and 3-digit numbers and decimal numbers
–least common multiple and greatest common factor
–adding and subtraction fractions
–converting between improper fractions and mixed numbers
–word problems involving distance, rate, and time
–word problems involving money, tax, interest
–area, volume, surface area
–solving systems of equations
–factoring quadratic expressions
–graphing linear equations
–equivalent and similar triangles
–um, and basically all of trigonometry, matrices, and anything more complex like calculus, hello …
The goal is 1 second or less, y’all. If they can’t do most facts that quickly, then it’s time to stop plodding through math lessons…and instead LEARN those buggers.
Dare I say the dreaded word? MEMORIZATION. Sometimes ya just gotta do it.