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  1. #1

    Default Math facts - will the whining ever end???

    Okay, I know my kids feed off each other. If one starts some crappy attitude thing, the other will most likely try the same tactic. I swear I don't recall doing this as a child.

    Lately, the complaint of choice is about math facts. I firmly believe that math facts need to be memorized - no shortcuts, just memorize the damn things. I've worked with too many middle-school aged kids who didn't memorize math facts and they couldn't do age-level math work.

    My kids are good at math, it isn't their favorite subject, but they "get" the concepts and can do the work. When I was a child I absolutely LOVED math and was (and am) very good at mental math. I know this is why this drives me so crazy.

    My son (6, 1st grade) tells me he knows them, but whines and complains about every little exercise. I am trying to get him to understand the relationship between addition and subtraction (2+3=5 so
    5-3=2, etc. He looks at me like a deer in headlights. When I gently go over it with him, I hear the dreaded "Mommy, I know!!!!!!!" Honestly, I think he does know it, but he is as stubborn as a mule and can't be bothered. He once told me that he only wants to learn the stuff nobody else knows. He has an uncle who apparently was the same was a child and is now a physicist....yikes!

    When we play math games, he does well, but still will count the dots on the dice, etc.

    It has been suggested that he was "the G word". I don't know - he was only in school for pre-k and K and has a birthday a month before the cut off date, so he's young. He got great "grades" in K and is a very good artist and has a wonderful vocabulary.

    My question - should I just lay off the math fact stuff for a while? My dd is the same with her mult tables (but I think it is because she hears her brother whine about his math). Just seems to me it would be a whole lot easier to just give me the answer than to be so obstinate about "having" to do the drills....but then I am mom and have never been a 6 year old boy!

    Suggestions gladly accepted!
    Patty - homeschooling two great kids (6 & 8). My approach has completely changed since we began in 8/11. I thought "school at home" would be our style, but we are evolving, finding out what works for us.

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  3. #2


    Hmm, when my DS gets whiny about schoolwork it's because he isn't being challenged. For example, he much prefers more complex math equations to the simpler stuff; I can't bother him with simple multiplication or he'll get half of it wrong (lazy! He can nail triple digit multi in his sleep, go figure), but when he's faced with multiple step word problems or algebraic equations he's all over it and totally accurate.

    Or maybe it's drills that your son isn't responding well to. There are so many ways to make math sink in without filling in tables or spouting off the facts. If you need to make sure he's getting it, maybe try giving him the same information wrapped in a different package, like word problems or "helping" you estimate the prices at the grocery store. Using math in real life situations is a more realistic use for memorizing those facts than any worksheet, and IMO provides a more solid understanding.
    Mama to one son (12)

  4. #3


    No! It will never end. My older dd was like this about multiplication tables in school. She was identified as gifted by the school using standardized tests and she could solve problems without having them memorized. It just took her longer. She felt this was good enough and that the idea of boring herself to tears memorizing would be a stupid waste of time. What changed her mind was when they started doing timed tests and she wasn't one of the first ones done. It was her competitive nature that convinced her to just learn them and then she did it pretty quickly with no help from us or anyone else. Could you try some reward type strategy where you use a timed test or something like that? You could call it a race. Good luck!
    Last edited by Accidental Homeschooler; 04-23-2012 at 02:15 PM.
    home schooling two dds 17(still waters) and 10(force of nature)

  5. #4
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    I almost wonder if it's a brain maturity thing. Kids are very concrete at this stage, but not so great at making the ... conceptual connections that would make some things very obvious.

    I didn't really teach the 'fact families' (that's just me though) so I'm speculating here. But I've definitely seen it with my kids and other things.
    Finding the flowers on the road less traveled!

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  6. #5


    Repetitive computer games are what nail math facts for my kids. Try Fun4theBrain for some fun ones. My favorite is Math Wash Up because you can choose a specific number to work on (i.e. x6 multiplication) and it repeats each fact several times during the game. And it has the world's catchiest music.

    Both of my kids had a little trouble reversing the addition and multiplication facts they know into subtraction and division facts. I've having my daughter practice reverse functions back to back and it seems to help.

    I don't mind drilling for math facts because it makes doing math so much faster. Having to stop and count on fingers or skip count makes it so sloooooooow.
    Mother of two monkeys...daughter age 10 and son age 11.5.

  7. #6


    My ds is somewhat similar. iPad apps have helped somewhat. I have some that are of the drill type and some that are more game oriented. He's really good at mental math when he wants to be and I have a feeling that if he could cross over the line where he' had more of his facts memorized it would help.

    We use Singapore with ds which in the first year is very heavily focused o mental math strategies (and picturing the numbers). We just finished up 1B not that long ago and in the context of 1A and 1B he'd often get upset if it was a subtraction problem. Now that we've moved on to 2A and we're lining problems up in vertical columns and adding/subtracting with renaming/borrowing his anxiety about subtraction has diminished greatly.

    All that to say that there is some benefit to persevering and continuing through trusting that with practice (and time) things may very well one day click like they haven't before.

  8. #7


    I feel like you're sort of talking about two different things. In early math, there's sort of two different kinds of work. One is to drill the facts - in other words, to just have kids repetitively answer the problems until they have them memorized. The other is to teach kids strategies to understand how to find the facts - that's the conceptual math stuff.

    Drills and fact memorization can help kids see the relationships, as you're talking about, but the typical purpose is to just have them regurgitate. Even if it may be needed, it's inherently dull work, honestly. Doing it through games (either online games or things like the RightStart games) can help pep it up though.

    Nearly all 6 yos can memorize math facts, IMO. Most 6 yos can also understand the basic numerical relationship you're talking about... but I think that's harder for some than others. We found that C-rods are especially good for that... but since you don't think that's the trouble and you think he does get it, then I'd move on. Build the drill practice into some computer time or playing some games (Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Zeus on the Loose...) and focus on other stuff. I think I'd also just try to back off a little. He is six, after all.
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  9. #8


    I highly suggest Big Brainz games. My children actually ASK to play! It covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a fun game type format that I personally find to be terribly repetitive but that my kids love for some reason. Recently the Homeschool Buyers Co-op had the pay version on sale although not sure if it's still being offered. It's great because my K'er can work on the addition/subtraction game riding around in his little boat, catching the pods that are thrown from the plants, and answering problems to defeat the evil pod plants, and my older ones can play around with multiplication by using correct answers to open doors in the dungeon, which released the troll, and then doing more multiplication problems to defeat said troll and gain the golden key! It's corny but hey if it works I'm not arguing Big Brainz even sends me an email weekly letting me know of their progress!

  10. #9


    like others have said, I use the computer for math drills. it makes it fun, and still has them doing it. I couldn't deal with the whining that happens with repetitive math worksheets/drills otherwise...
    Kristin, sporadically, eclectically, homeschooling mom to Wynter (Nov 1st 2003), Cassia (Nov 2nd 2005), Solaine (Dec 21st 2007) and Orielle (July 23rd 2010)

  11. #10


    I can suggest something that was instrumental in me helping my daughter not just learn to memorize and spit out facts, but to engage in real mathematical reasoning, and it's an easy read: "Beyond Facts and Flashcards: Exploring Math With Your Kids" by Jan Mokros. I got it from Amazon for a pittance. It's a thin paperback, but it revolutionized our approach to math, and she can now reason her way through things like "What's 23 and 34?" without getting out a pencil or paper, and without getting that deer-in-headlights look. She can also figure out what things like 13 1/2 and 25 1/2 are, again, without a pencil or paper or performing rote operations with numerators or denominators.

    The book really resonated with me, because I remember hating how math was SUPPOSED to make sense, but rarely did at the level of arithmetic, because it seemed made up entirely of a long series of memorized "facts" and operations I was expected to memorize and execute entirely on the faith that to someone, somewhere, they made sense, but that I couldn't possibly fathom the underlying reasons.

    Oh, and cool math games are wonderful! A schooled neighbor friend, who is 2 years older than my daughter, said, upon seeing those games, "Hey, that's not math!" because she couldn't recognize the mathematical reasoning in the games. they just seemed like fun, and she was used to math being the dull memorize-and-regurgitate methods she is stuck with at school.

    That website is just awesome. I enjoy the games too, and they have special selections for the younger ages, as well as games according to subject matter, even language and science, geography, etc. Well worth looking at, and free.

    It's a cheap enough book to get a secondhand copy of, and it's really been tremendously helpful. After all, we aren't trying to just get our kids to memorize and regurgitate, but most of us who were taught that that was math, in school, don't know what else there could possibly be. But there is! And she now has the confidence that she CAN reason through things herself, so math is no longer something alternately boring and arbitrary sets of rules, or else a frightening or embarrassing scenario for those who aren't sure of their memorized material.

    With any luck, she and I both will become the kinds of people who aren't lost at sea, when it comes to making change without a calculator, a cash register, or a pad and pencil to scribble things longhand with, and think this is also a good way to embrace the usefulness and fun of mathematical reasoning skills that are far above and beyond mere arithmetic and "bookkeeping math".

    That's my best suggestion, get that book and consider an approach to mathematical reasoning that isn't what we were taught in school. It has really worked for us. She was getting that deer-in-headlights thing from the flashcard approach of a lot of online arithmetic games, but after staying away from those in favor of building the reasoning skills, using an abacus and math in daily life, she got to the point at 7, where she is indeed figuring the "harder" arithmetic...but she's FIGURING it, mentally, and not from "drop and carry" methods. It's so cool!
    Last edited by crunchynerd; 04-26-2012 at 09:49 AM. Reason: addendum

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Math facts - will the whining ever end???