Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making Math Memorable #1

When I was a kid in third grade, I literally got stomach aches when it was math time. I LOVED my teacher because she was energetic and so much fun. So you're wondering why that specific time bugged me? We had timed computation quizzes for multiplication. You had to pass the tests with 100% in order to move up. First was _ x 0, then _ x 1, _ x 2, and so on. Many kids got stuck on 3 and 4, breezed through 5, then got stuck on 6 and up. 
Had my teacher used the approach that I do, I think I would have had a lot less anxiety. {First a disclaimer to any parents reading this: we encourage kids to use their fingers. They're considered manipulatives! They can use them in the real world, so we allow them in the classroom. Don't worry about what your teachers said, they'll memorize them eventually!}  So here it is: 
I use The Mad Minute. It allows me to differentiate because I can give different amounts or types of problems. The last time I taught third, my students were still weak with quickly adding and subtracting, so I started there. We would practice doing 30 problems within 3 minutes for several days before I graded them on anything. (Most were never able to stay within the 1 minute that the book suggests.)
First we discussed the associative property, and students knew that it didn't matter if they read a problem as 2x3 or 3x2. Then we did used the zero property (any number times 0 = 0) and identity property (any number times 1 = that number) to complete many simple problems quickly. 
A lot of my students knew their doubles from addition, so they would do the x2 problems or skip to any problems that included multiplying by 5. For some reason the skip counting, counting nickels, and using the clock numbers makes that easy for them.
Next, we skipped all the way to the dreaded 9s. Have you ever heard of the finger trick for multiplying by 9? Even if you have, don't you wish you knew it when you were a kid?!

Once we were done with 9s, the kids realized that they had very few problems left because they had already taken care of some of the 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8s when they multiplied by 0, 1, 2, 5, and 9! Most people know the 5,6,7,8 trick for 56 = 7x8 but I learned some tricks for those in other tough equations. These are not good pictures but my scanner isn't hooked up at the moment.
 Memory devices - visualizing
No one was "held back" on a certain time table and there wasn't any competition other than beating your own best score before the timer went off. Believe it or not, they actually would get upset if we skipped Mad Minute practice for the day!

This year I want to have students graph their number correct each time we test. It might be complicated if I give students different amounts of problems, but here is the graph for 30 questions!

See all Making Math Memorable posts:


  1. This sounds great! I wish I had this when I was a kid too! You sound like an awesome teacher!
    Rambling About Reading

  2. OH MY GOODNESS...I just found your site through Pintrest. This is a lifesaver! My son struggles even in 4th grade with multiplication...this (especailly the 9 bendo-over finger rule) is genious! Can't wait to show my son tonight!!

  3. Math was so hard for me as a child, 9's especially and one of the ways I learned was: 9 times whatever number, the answer would always equal 9. 9x8=72 7+2=9, that is how I checked the answer. If there is multiples of 9x1, 9x2, 9x3, etc. you know that 9x1=9 then just start numbering 1, 2, 3 all the way to the bottom and then start numbering back up 1, 2, 3, etc. as it will be 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72 and 81. First numbers are in numerical order going down and in numerical order going back up. Most children know 9x10=90 but the answer when added 9+0 is still 9.

  4. Like this info! Will try
    My blog

  5. Thank you so much for your post! I am a teacher and a parent of a child who struggles with math facts. I will be using your ideas! Thanks again!