Our children often think they know more than we do. When it comes to elementary school math, they might be correct.
As adults, calculators and Excel shortcuts make it easy to forget how to solve problems by multiplying fractions or calculating probability. If our children come home with questions about these concepts, we might be at a loss.
If you want to help your child strengthen his math skills but don’t have time to re-learn the skills you’ve forgotten, there’s an easy solution: drill basic math. By simply reciting the multiplication tables or practicing basic addition and subtraction, you’re preparing your child to excel in higher math courses.
The Case for Memorization
Among some educators, memorization has gotten a bad rap. In the past, teachers have overused memorization, at the expense of critical thought and analysis.
An overreliance on memorization can certainly be a disservice to students. However, avoiding memorization can rob students of the foundation they need to understand more complex concepts.
For example: A teacher might use colored marbles to illustrate the concept of multiplication. This is a great way to cater to multiple learning styles and ensure students understand where the multiplication tables come from. Nonetheless, if that teacher doesn’t require students to memorize the tables, they will struggle with every math problem they come across, as more challenging problems require multiple steps of multiplication or division.
Some educators argue that memorization and drilling are not developmentally appropriate for young elementary school children. I disagree – and the research backs me up. Much of the learning small children do involves “scaffolding” the facts they learn into their long-term memories. Their brains are primed to absorb and memorize information. The earlier they begin to recognize and repeat the multiplication tables, the less time they spend later counting on fingers and guessing at answers.
In my career as a Math Support Specialist, I worked with dozens of teachers and schools, helping them improve their math instruction and curricula. One of my initiatives was to incentivize math mastery by providing a pizza party for elementary students who memorized the multiplication facts. Not only did the students enjoy the challenge, their performances improved drastically.
Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have the classroom time to drill multiplication facts until each student has mastered them. Some students learn the tables right away; others take longer.
That’s where parents come in. Instead of head-scratching at the more challenging problems on your child’s homework, focus on building mastery of basic math skills, multiplication and division in particular. This is great use of your time together because it gives your student a leg up in the classroom. Best of all, working on memorization actually builds a better memory, which helps your child succeed in all school subjects.
At iLearn Academy, I consistently see the connection between multiplication mastery and a student’s overall math performance. Students who struggle in middle school math are often the ones who never memorized the multiplication tables. This slows them down so much that keeping pace in math class becomes difficult. Conversely, students who know the basic math facts by heart are empowered to learn new concepts.
Helping your child with her language arts homework? The equivalent would be memorizing parts of speech and labeling them within sentences. This easy exercise helps your student develop a strong understand of grammar, which makes for clearer, more effective writing down the road.
If your child is struggling with math, reading or writing, call 847-834-0791 and ask for Youngah Anderson. I’d be happy to help you find the tutor and learning plan that will boost your student’s grades and build his or her confidence.
My sincere gratitude,
Director, iLearn Academy