[Numeracy 247] Re: Knowing your facts / Reducing stereotype threat

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Kerry Trethewey ktrethewey at centralia.edu
Tue Mar 30 11:52:11 EDT 2010

I always support using alternative ways of allowing a student to solve math problems, such as using a calculator. But memorization of the basic facts involves more than just problem solving. It allows a student to see the relationships within a set of numbers. If a problem has a 3, 6, and 18, I automatically see a relationship because I know the basic multiplication fact. A calculator can't do that for you. Students who cannot see these connections will struggle to even set up problems for use with a calculator-do you enter the 18 first? Multiply the 3 x 18? Etc. If you have trouble recognizing some of the ABC's when reading, you will always struggle to understand new words. The basic facts are the ABC's of math. Some students will have to use modifications, but most just don't appreciate the importance of memorizing these facts and feel that they are too elementary.

From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Susan Kidd
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 8:56 AM
To: 'The Math and Numeracy Discussion List'
Subject: [Numeracy 232] Re: Knowing your facts / Reducing stereotype threat

I think it is highly advantageous for students to know their math facts - it ads fluency, but I wouldn't hold a student back from learning other aspects of numeracy - especially number sense, until they master the facts.

As far as some of the specific strategies go, Tic Tac Toe Math is a useful tool for some students, especially those who have a great deal of trouble memorizing discrete facts and are more comfortable with retaining and repeating patterns. It comes across as truly bizarre and confusing for the majority of students, so I'd keep it for those special cases where more traditional methods including multiplication grids and drill and kill don't work.

As far as drill and kill, multiplication bingo can be a fun way to mix up the drill and kill. Here's a link to a multiplication bingo card: http://www.multiplication.com/cmptrgames/bingo_card.htm It helps to have the students write out the problems that generate the answers for the numbers listed on the bottom of the card. I wouldn't try to use the game to teach the multiplication tables - I think there's lots to be learned from the multiplication grid, including the patterns that show up in it and the property of identity.

Calculator skills are also important, and calculators are pretty useless without good number sense and an understanding of the underlying concepts. I once tutored a high school junior taking algebra who could multiply but not add. His disability was pretty profound - he would add on his fingers, but since he was random about which finger he started from, he made numerous mistakes. His was a college-bound student who needed strategies. I felt, and continue to feel, that at that point in his life, developing good calculator skills and the willingness to check all addition with the calculator would probably help him more than drilling on his addition facts.


Susan Kidd
Program Integration and Faculty Development Coordinator
State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
office phone: 509-682-6968
skidd at sbctc.edu

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