Here is the simplest, yet most basic piece of math advice I have for you, regardless of your child’s grade:
Be sure your child knows his multiplication facts, no matter what.
You’re probably thinking….seriously? Don’t they do that in school? The truth is that it really doesn’t matter what your child’s school does in the area of multiplication facts. It varies from school to school, and it varies from child to child. Some kids pick it up naturally in the second grade, and some kids still can’t rattle of 6 x 9 when they are freshmen. All that matters is that you, as the parent, step up to the plate and get the job done – especially if your child is past the 3rd grade. It may not have been in your job description, but I just added it.
When kids aren’t fluent in their multiplication facts, nearly every math function is impaired from fourth grade on. Fractions, long division & long multiplication, scale factors, money, algebra equations, exponents, area, and so much more rely on the student’s ability to multiply. If your child is churning and burning over a long division problem, it’s probably because he hasn’t learned his math facts. So, he sits there and gets frustrated (tearing the paper, slouching, burying his head in his arm, whining, complaining, procrastinating, blaming the teacher, giving up, etc) until you just break down and give him the answer so he’ll get the darn homework done and be allowed to watch tv or play video games.
If you think I sound cynical, think again. As a tutor, I see this problem several times every week. I suppose it keeps me in business to some degree, but it’s sad to see perfectly capable children lag behind their peers because they can’t recall their multiplication facts. Of course, I can tell kids and parents that this job needs to get done, but I can’t enforce it. I wish parents would tell their kids that all devices with screens will be confiscated until multiplication facts are memorized. This proclamation would be an incentive for everyone, especially those parents who use screens as tools to get a little peace and quiet for themselves. (The truth hurts.)
So what’s the best way to teach multiplication facts? Depends. It takes several days and several ways to teach a child a new concept. Go to a learning store and get two 9-sided dice. Roll them and have your child multiply the two numbers on top. Make a game of it… if he can answer 15 correctly in a row (zero and one don’t count) he can stop practicing for the day. I also highly recommend the Kumon series of workbooks. Get the one with the tiger on the cover and have your child do 3-4 columns per school day, and 4 full pages each weekend. Try having your child skip count out loud. To skip count by 8, he’ll say: “8, 16, 24, 32, 40….” Or, just get a ball and pass it back and forth while quizzing your child on facts. Some kids learn very well when they are doing a rhythmic activity such as passing a ball or jumping on a trampoline.
Trust me. You don’t want your child to be the only one in 7th grade who can’t multiply. I’ve seen it and it isn’t pretty. A relatively small investment of your time will make the upcoming years much easier for everyone.