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Novel Approach to Math Creates Confident, Independent Learners

October 27, 2019by The Gals

 

The traditional approach to teaching math seems to produce a small percentage of math lovers and a vast number who hate it.

    • When I was growing up, most everyone I knew hated math. (Well, of course they did; it was math.)
    • As a homeschool mom—until I learned what I now know, that is—all my kids hated math; not only was it the dreaded subject, it caused more resistance and negativity in our home than most anything else. (Of course it did; it was math.)
    • As a member of a homeschooling community, my friends and I commiserated that despite the fact that we had the “best” math curriculum money could buy, we didn’t want to teach math, our kids didn’t want to learn math, and we couldn’t figure out how to get them to do their homework without a healthy dose of force and negativity. (But of course we did; it was math.) The struggle is just as real for public schooled kids and their parents.
    • What about this? Have you ever noticed that there seem to be more internet memes about people hating math than any other subject? (Ha, FINALLY we get to laugh about math.)
    • And what about the innumerable math helps on the market. It’s positively dizzying. How can a parent possibly choose between them all!?

Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t you just hate that feeling when your child asks you for help with their difficult math problems??

I mean, we made it through our math classes, didn’t we? We’re out of school by now! I don’t know about you but having to sit down and wrap MY head around my CHILD’S math problem ranks right up there with pulling worms from little pockets and washing peed-on sheets.

Here are some of the things we’ve discovered that change everything. Yes, we’re out to give math a good name:

 

#1 – TIMES TABLES FIRST

We recommend that when possible, times tables and division facts are taught the MathHacked way BEFORE addition and subtraction. This avoids the mental and physical habits that form through the traditional sequence, habits that slow down mental math figuring and erode confidence. Our proposed sequence is iconoclastic (meaning it breaks with cherished tradition), but we’re happy to do so; we can’t deny our experience and believe that someday, this sequence will become the norm.

 

#2 – REDO TIMES TABLES WITHOUT ROTE MEMORIZATION

If the child is older and has learned times tables through rote memorization, we recommend that you back up and redo times tables the MathHacked way. Using memorization as the learning tool does not create a mind able to deal with numbers flexibly. Developing a flexible, agile brain is critical to quick mental figuring and confidence in math.

As it turns out, Stanford professor, Jo Boaler, agrees with us. Following are excerpts from a 2015 U.S. News & World Report article entitled “Should We Stop Making Kids Memorize Times Tables?” [http://bit.ly/2QeRexy]:

Too much emphasis on rote memorization, [Boaler] says, inhibits students’ abilities to think about numbers creatively, to build them up and break them down. [Boaler] cites her own 2009 study, which found that low-achieving students tended to memorize methods and were unable to interact with numbers flexibly. And [Boaler] is currently working on a study with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in which she is finding that the lowest performing students in the world are the ones who think math is about memorization. Also, Boaler argues that memorization of boring math facts, such as times tables, turns students off from math. Often, they’re high achieving students who have the kind of creative minds that would otherwise excel at it.

In short, learning times tables through memorization makes all future math work much more difficult. “Flexible brain training,” on the other hand, is not only a blast to kids because it makes them feel so smart, but creates a math foundation and level of confidence that becomes a springboard for future math success. This is why we speak so generally about math as we explain MathHacked to others. It is far more powerful than at first it may appear.

Incidentally, our way of teaching times tables and division facts contains other surprises too. For example, the traditional method is to start kids at the 1’s and go sequentially through the 12’s. Seems obvious. With our system, however, the 12’s are right up front and the 3’s (much more difficult) are saved till last, when the confidence and sense of empowerment have risen to match the challenge. We took nothing at face value; a ton of thought went into every aspect and we kept adjusting until it worked seamlessly for all kids.

 

#3 – GET THOSE MATH FACTS ABSOLUTELY SOLID

When building a house, we will take the time and care to get the foundation absolutely smooth and completely dry before building on it, right? Pretty good or just a little wet is not accepted, no exceptions.

Getting the math facts smooth and solid should be like that; they are the foundation upon which we build our math knowledge. Too often we press our kids to move forward and do the next lesson when the foundation is faulty, incomplete or wet! When we stop to think about it, it’s easy to see how discouraging this could be for kids.

No worries because it’s a mistake we’ve all made. But now you know: time getting the times tables and division facts absolutely solid—particularly the MathHacked way so your child gets the flexible brain training—is TIME WELL SPENT!!! In fact, it will transform their whole future math experience.

We were excited to chance upon the blog of a former school teacher and homeschool veteran of 18 years who made the same discovery we did. In her blog post entitled, “The Number One Reason Your Kid Hates Math (no matter which age or grade)” [https://www.annieandeverything.com/hate-math-multiplication-facts/], Annie said:

I can almost guarantee that the child who is [resisting math] has one particular characteristic […] and it’s a simple fix. […] And 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. 

As it just so happens, Abe Lincoln also agrees (he never told a lie ;)):

 “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Often, when a child isn’t doing well scholastically, we [especially homeschooling] parents tend to think the answer is in curriculum. We may begin asking around for what’s considered the best. When it comes to math, however, I predict that whatever curriculum your child is currently using (*with the exception of Common Core) will be perfectly adequate with the right groundwork in place.

*In my opinion, Common Core makes kids less able to unlock their hidden potential which makes it ever more important for parents to supplement their kids’ learning at home as much as circumstance allows. Keep in mind that it takes a tutor 1 hour and 47 minutes to cover all the child learns in a full day of school so there is time after school to have a much bigger impact than you might guess.

In fact, in a perfect world (generally not possible), I’d suggest that parents stop all other math work with their kids and anything else that got in the way for a couple of months, even taking them out of school if possible, just to make sure the foundation was done right. Put them back in school then, and you might think you have a whole different kid.

I’ll leave you with one of MathHacked’s very first verbal testimonials. It came from a 6-year old named Gabriel, one of our students who learned times tables the MathHacked way. I received ample evidence from the body language of all the kids we taught, the fact that they jumped in line to be next, and their sad countenances when the process was over, that my little homeschool system was proving to be universally successful. Still, I’ll never forget the day that with a 1000-watt countenance, little Gabe exclaimed, “Mrs. Linchenko, I LOVE how you have all the easy ones in here!!!”

Haha, ain’t no better praise than that!