Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Multiplication and Division Helps

At one time or another each one of our kids struggle with a certain concept.  When this happens, we slow down and look for new ways to present, learn and practice the new idea.  If the concept is crucial, we might stop new work completely and take a few days (or weeks) to focus on it.  If it's just not coming, we take a break and come back to it.  Homeschooling makes this so easy to do- moving forward and hanging back as needed.

Last March I shared about our attempts to find a spelling curriculum that works for one of our kids who was having trouble with spelling.  All About Spelling is still working well for us and I still highly recommend it.

But then there's 3rd and 4th grade math when multiplication and division are presented.  Those concepts fall into that crucial category because both really must be mastered before moving ahead. From here on out, those skills will be built upon.  And they come easier for some more than others.

Sometimes flashcards, manipulatives and worksheets just aren't enough.  For some times tables (like the 9s) there are tricks to be taught but sometimes facts just need to be memorized.  Games are great but usually require more than one person to play and I am often looking for tools they can use on their own.  Thankfully, we've found a few tools that have really helped things click.

The pattern became that while I was putting wood on the stove, washing up dishes, changing over laundry or what-have-you, I could ask my student to use one of these tools as a review before we jumped into math (the first subject we do together).  This additional review has really helped and we're back tackling new lessons in math. Non-homeschooled kids can totally benefit from these tools as well.

Wrap Ups.  You can buy these individually (for about $10), in a set like we have or make your own.    I think it would be pretty easy to make cardboard versions of these- cutting notches in the sides and affixing a string through the top (using a hole-punch for the opening). The set comes with a CD with some really catchy math raps that assist in the wrapping.

You can listen along as they rap the facts (like, "7 times 4 is 28") or just give you the problem so you can wrap the right answer on your own.  To check to see if your wrapping has lined up correctly, there are grooves on the back of each plastic card that show where the string should lie so you can see if you have it right.

Hot Dots.  There are sets for different skills.  We have the division set.  The special pen (sold separately) is pressed on the dot beside your answer choice.  If you're right, it cheers for you or says some encouraging words.  If you're wrong, it asks you to try again.  The sound can be turned off if it's distracting to others and the end of the pen will light up instead, letting you know if you got it right.

This last one is our favorite: Times Tables the Fun Way.  A friend of my sister recommended this book and I was so glad I was able to find a copy.  For some kids, memorization is just hard.  Linking the facts to a story or image helps them recall what they need to know.

Each picture incorporates the numbers of a multiplication problem and tells a story like this one below.

I decided to make my own drawn-copies of those we needed the most help on and had my student color them.  We then laminated them.  These act as flashcards now and are easier to refer to than finding the right page in the book.  You could totally create your own drawings and stories.

Sometimes I find myself saying, "Is the three a bat or a bow in this problem?" to help trigger their memory.  And it works!

All kids hit a snag now and then.  I've found that changing things up, slowing things down and taking breaks (without putting undue pressure on the child) works best in helping them over their hurdles.  

What math helps have helped your child? 
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  1. As a homeschool mom, I sometimes fail to make things "fun" and just want to get things finished up and move on to the next thing. I like these manipulatives! They add some fun into learning. I'm thinking of getting those Hot Dots for my 1st grade daughter (addition and subtraction). I think they'd help her with speed - she understands both addition and subtraction and we work on memory but she doesn't have the speed thing down. She'd like the talking pen and probably want to make it talk as fast as possible!

  2. I retired from homeschooling 6 1/2 years ago but my kids were always motivated to keep bettering their time with the Saxon worksheet drills.

  3. Our young'ns aren't there yet... but I'll be coming back to your blog as they get older! It's awesome to be able to know there are others who are a little further ahead that can see over the proverbial horizon of life... keep writing!

  4. I am a fourth grade teacher and have used the Wrap Ups and Hot Dots in the past. They are both fun for the kids and great tools to help those having difficulty with math facts.

  5. There are parents who should home school and those who shouldn't. You, Jane, are definitely one who SHOULD! Wow, what a wonderful way of learning you are providing for your children. It's a gift from which they will benefit their whole lives.

  6. My kids did really well with legos and math using the posts for the numbers, legos were great especially for division/fractions, and I had 3 boys so we had LOTS of legos!

  7. Thank you for the recommendations!! I homeschool our 3rd grade son and preschool daughter. Math has always been the ruin (literally) of our day. Early this fall I finally decided that I COULD NOT teach another day of math. We stopped doing math until I could find something that would be a better fit for my son and me. We started using Teaching Textbooks--one of THE BEST decisions I've made regarding homeschooling!! Math is going great these days!!

    My son needs more practice with facts--it just takes time! I hope to invest in these recommendations soon!!


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