August 25, 2008

Multiplying Magic

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The start of fourth grade brought a boost in homework and a new addition to our -- read my -- to-do list: practicing multiplication facts. Somewhere between dance, gymnastics, playtime, homework time, dinner time, clean up time, bath time, and reading time, we needed to squeeze in 10 minutes of numerical quizzing, too.

I tried a number of different strategies, and each one worked. For a few days. We tried worksheets from school, but that seemed like just more math homework. It also involved me correcting papers and tracking Caitlin and Ellie down to go over any mistakes. We tried flash cards and playing math games with dice and cards, but the novelty of these soon wore off.

After a few weeks, I was sick of devising new strategies and decided that the best way to tackle this thing was to use them all, rotating methods based on the day's schedule.

On the day we drive Ellie to ballet, we choose a couple of tables -- 7s and 8s maybe -- and run through them each twice on the way there and home. On a day when the girls have a lighter homework load, we take out the worksheets and they do one or two each.

If it's not bath night and we have extra time before bed, we get out the dice or the cards. With the dice, we take turns rolling two and then multiplying the numbers that come up. (To hit some of the bigger numbers, you can use three dice and multiply the answer of two dice by the third.) With the cards, I take out the face cards, then give each of the girls a stack. They draw a card together, and take turns multiplying the numbers that come up.

And on a night when I'm tied up with Natalie, Caitlin and Ellie find the flash cards and the girls quiz each other or themselves -- with the answers on the back, I'm not vital to the process.

Now that this is almost a well-oiled machine, of course it will no longer be necessary. In fact, I'm counting on it.

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