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View Full Version : When to give up and use Calculators



Jeninok
03-12-2012, 12:31 PM
Ds does not know his basic math facts, we have practiced them after school for years, and now are practicing them constantly at home. I have tried flash cards, math games, hundreds charts, skip counting, despite all blood sweat and tears they just don't seem to stick.

He is understanding the work we are doing with fractions with no problems, but half of the time is spent trying to find the answers to the basic facts. What should take 20 minutes is taking an hour or more because he doesn't know them.

So at what point do you allow them to use a calculator to solve the basic multiplication and division problems so you can keep moving forward?

laundrycrisis
03-12-2012, 12:38 PM
I decided I will NEVER give up. It is not acceptable to me that our son will live with a handicap and not be able to remember these. I have started him on a remedial math program called Mastering Mathematics. It is not secular but the religion is very easy to skip. It is a very logical progression through mastery of basic facts. Other programs I have tried simply skipped around too much in the basic facts and did not allow him enough time and practice, in a sequential manner that builds, to learn them. I started him over with addition. He is doing well with it. This is like the "All About Spelling" or "How to Spell" for math facts. Very logical, sequential, slow building mastery.

Christy
03-12-2012, 01:21 PM
How old is your son?

I would definately keep moving on, teaching him new math ideas even if they require use of a calculator. At the same time, I wouldn't give up on learning the basic facts either. I try to split my son's math schoolwork between time spent on practicing basic facts, and learning new ideas.

What kind of math games have you been playing? Do you mean math computer games, card games, or....?

ginnyjf
03-12-2012, 01:58 PM
Your son will need math fluency for upper-level mathematics. You may want to check out Reflex Math (http://www.reflexmath.com/). We've been using it for three months and Zack is now at 89% fluency from around 30% when we first started. It's $35 for a year, which is well worth it for us, but there is also a free trial period so you can give it a spin. Good luck.

Numericmama
03-12-2012, 04:54 PM
Re: Reflex Math -

My son needs to memorize the math facts. And after he is done his computerized reading program for his Visual Therapy - I was thinking he would like a math program. But I only want it to be for practicing essentially,not for teaching concepts. I want to teach the concepts myself.

Does it seem like Reflex Math will do that or is it more involved?

These were suggested for my 8.5 year old.

http://www.coolmath4kids.com/
http://www.mathsisfun.com

I think they are free - but I haven't looked into them yet.

ginnyjf
03-12-2012, 05:05 PM
Jennifer, Reflex Math teaches math fluency only; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts using a "fact family" approach. It does not address concepts. There are speed drills, fluency practice and games. The program continually assesses a student's fluency and tailors the questions and speed drills to those facts which aren't yet fluent so the student doesn't have to keep practicing facts he or she already knows. Gee, I sound like a salesperson, but I'm just a happy homeschooling mom.

Numericmama
03-12-2012, 08:12 PM
That sounds like what I am looking for!

dbmamaz
03-12-2012, 10:24 PM
btw, after doing it a LOT with Orion, i have him use a times table as a bookmark in his math book, and he is free to use it to do his math problems. I find that looking things up over and over have also improved his recall. In 4th grade we did some visual story-based times tables program, and he's done some timezattacks, but i was giving up by 9th grade - so i was surprised that his recall seems stronger now than it did then. I do sometimes let him use a calculator instead of doing large multiplication problems, too - because, you know, this is algebra. He is perfectly good at long mult problems aside from making tons of careless mistakes, and its just not worth it. he did years of mult. in public school

Avalon
03-12-2012, 11:22 PM
My daughter is 12, and I tackle math facts about once or twice a year. They don't really stick, ever, and it feels like a giant waste of time. They don't even stick from morning until afternoon. I am finding that simply USING the math facts while doing other work is helping, albeit slowly, slowly, slowly. It does take her a lot longer to do math pages than it would if she knew her facts, but I have decided that it's HER problem, not mine. I have a feeling that she will figure out her own system at some point.

If her math problems involve larger numbers, or the work is about word problems and stuff like that, I let her use a calculator. She actually understands math reasonably well, which is the most important thing. I know so many people who really, truly don't understand it. If she can understand it, and uses a calculator to do calculations, well, I'm okay with that.

Jeninok
03-13-2012, 01:01 AM
We practice math facts every morning, using online math bingo, the games at sheppard software, flash cards, homemade work sheets with skip counting and writing out times tables, we practice on the whiteboard and just in conversation.

I still want him to do all these things, but doing our fractions lessons takes 5 times as long as it should because he doesn't know his facts. So even though he gets the concepts we are barely able to move forward.

Today we were going over fractions as part of a group, so it was finding 1/7 of 21, then finding what 3/7 would be. He knows how to do it in practice, but without knowing 21/7 or what times 7 = 21 it ends up being really frustrating.

Avalon
03-13-2012, 11:26 AM
We practice math facts every morning, using online math bingo, the games at sheppard software, flash cards, homemade work sheets with skip counting and writing out times tables, we practice on the whiteboard and just in conversation.

I still want him to do all these things, but doing our fractions lessons takes 5 times as long as it should because he doesn't know his facts. So even though he gets the concepts we are barely able to move forward.

Today we were going over fractions as part of a group, so it was finding 1/7 of 21, then finding what 3/7 would be. He knows how to do it in practice, but without knowing 21/7 or what times 7 = 21 it ends up being really frustrating.

I don't want this to come out sounding snarky at all, but frustrating for whom? My daughter often skip-counts by using her fingers to slowly count her way up by sevens to 21. It can be frustrating to watch, but you don't actually *have* to have them all memorized to proceed. I need to be patient or sometimes just walk away while she's slowly figuring it out, but she does get there on her own. On the other hand, if she were frustrated about how long it was taking, I would encourage her (again) to actually memorize the facts.

I realize it totally depends on your philosophy and on your kid. I have one kid who will probably memorize them all on his own pretty quickly, but since my daughter seems to have a problem with memorizing anything, I've had to try to look at things differently. It turns out that it is not absolutely necessary to memorize them to proceed, you just proceed more slowly.

Jeninok
03-13-2012, 11:28 AM
I downloaded TimezAttack this morning, he was in tears over the addition and subtraction demo.....it moved too fast.. :wasntme:

ginnyjf
03-13-2012, 12:18 PM
I promise I'm not a shill for the company, but please give Reflex Math a try. It's a free trial period and you don't have to download anything, so it's a no-strings kind of thing. We were at the point where Zack understood the process of multiple digit addition, subtraction and multiplication but was continually getting answers wrong because he'd forget a simple fact like 6x7 or he'd add 7+8 incorrectly. Math fluency is extremely important and this program has made it painless. The minimum time required is 20 minutes a day and he always asks for more time.

hockeymom
03-13-2012, 01:11 PM
That looks like an interesting program, ginnyjf. My son makes a lot of little mistakes like that also (I call them clerical errors, but they really do count) and this might be a less painful way to get him to review things he "ought" to be consistent in by now. I hadn't heard of it before, but we will definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

dbmamaz
03-13-2012, 09:20 PM
i let them only do a few problems per day. just skip a lot of practice problems. do every other one. unless your kid really needs a lot of practice to 'get' a concept, you dont need them all. most teachers have kids do every other problem, too

Avalon
03-13-2012, 11:11 PM
I promise I'm not a shill for the company, but please give Reflex Math a try. It's a free trial period and you don't have to download anything, so it's a no-strings kind of thing. We were at the point where Zack understood the process of multiple digit addition, subtraction and multiplication but was continually getting answers wrong because he'd forget a simple fact like 6x7 or he'd add 7+8 incorrectly. Math fluency is extremely important and this program has made it painless. The minimum time required is 20 minutes a day and he always asks for more time.

We tried it, and I'm glad you reminded me about it. I'm planning to let my son use it, since he LOVED it. My daughter hated it because she had to go fast. She hates going fast. Actually, she just hates multiplying and she is determined that nothing will make it fun no matter what.

Christy
03-14-2012, 02:47 AM
I downloaded TimezAttack this morning, he was in tears over the addition and subtraction demo.....it moved too fast.. :wasntme:


My son won't play online math games because he gets too worried about the timing and failing.

Do you want suggestions for homemade games? I'm hesitant to suggest some because it sounds like you guys are having such a frusturating time the last thing you probably need is strangers presuming to know what would work for you. I haven't the slightest clue if these would work or not... but.... we really like RightStart Mathematics at my place, because it offers strategies (like multiples of four as well as fairly easy ways of practicing the math facts. For multiplication my son liked starting off with games that didn't actually require him to know the multiples.... like having cards with all the multiples of six, and having to put them in order. Then playing games where we had two sets of multiples, and he had to put them in order then turn his back so I could switch two of the numbers around and he had to figure out which ones I switched.... then memory match games where he had to match up 3 with 18, 4 with 24, etc and say the multiples outloud while he did it. When we would start each new set, I would let him have the multiples written out in front of him so there was no pressure, just chances over and over to get familiar with them, and we would start with one set of multiples and work on it for a couple of weeks.

findemerson
03-14-2012, 05:17 AM
I use Chris McMullen's books for this kind of study. We use online things, too. But, rarely ever do I find my kids retain anything they learn on the PC that translates onto paper. So, writing it down in black and white is sometimes best in our home. If you search "Improve Your Math Fluency Series" on Amazon, you'll see what I am talking about. I have the book of 10,000 problems. Sometimes we time; sometimes we don't. I also got some workbooks that teach mental math. Seeing this changed perspective and it is now teamwork to get faster. The other thing I did was stop going forward. Continually going forward while your child is lagging can really drain confidence and you'll find the slightest suggestions and errors will emit tears. I sat down and created a plan and (lucky me) it's working. We'll be back on track by summer. No more "I hate math" attitude. No more sitting for hours or watching tears stream down the face. No more panic. If you want more information about the specifics-just PM me.

But, no--never in a million years would I go to the calculator. I mean, when I explain things, I do the math and simply show what I do by saying it out loud on the board/paper. When we work together--I also do the math. I hold the pencil and say things like --okay now we multiply the 67*54, now 7*4 is? Some are known and others aren't..if it takes more than a few seconds I just say 28 and continue saying everything that I do: So, we put the 8 in the 1's column and carry & on and on. If you say the whole problem, you're kid is less likely to feel "dumb" or feel like he's being reminded again and again that he has to learn it. Also, if it takes an hour to complete 4 problems--just give him 2 problems maybe twice a day or no more than 4 at a time. As a matter of fact, I don't see how keeping a kid at the table all day gets any learning done. If it were really bad, simply do one problem at the top of the hour/after meal times/whatever works and call it a day. If he knows the concepts as you say--It just makes sense (from the outside looking in) that he spend time doing the simple drills rather than spend his time with multiplying fractions. I'm sure if you took a break and just focused elsewhere for a while--you both could come back to this calmer and more stress free, (IMHO).

hockeymom
03-14-2012, 06:18 AM
I mean, when I explain things, I do the math and simply show what I do by saying it out loud on the board/paper. When we work together--I also do the math. I hold the pencil and say things like --okay now we multiply the 67*54, now 7*4 is? Some are known and others aren't..if it takes more than a few seconds I just say 28 and continue saying everything that I do: So, we put the 8 in the 1's column and carry & on and on. If you say the whole problem, you're kid is less likely to feel "dumb" or feel like he's being reminded again and again that he has to learn it.

I use that strategy too, findemerson, when I really want the math done but I can tell he's having one of those days when he'll get hung up on the small stuff. Sometimes I can just *feel* his relief at not having to be the one in control of the pencil; he's still doing the math (and mentally, how he prefers to) and I'm just the record keeper. :)

Jeninok
03-14-2012, 10:06 PM
Thank you for all the input. I guess I am just feeling anxious about him and math in general. They taught using a system fairly similar to Everyday Math, which was a disaster for him. Then he was going to the resource room for math the last 2 years and I have a feeling she basically did it for them out loud then let them play games on the computer, rather than work with them on any kind of remediation.
I would like to be able get through 2 pages of the math mammoth per day, which is one lesson usually. I also only have him to half the problems if I see he gets it. I also write for him on days I can see it is going to be extra tough.

Right now I am thinking I should just hold off on fractions and download her multiplication book. He seems to like the way her pages are set up, it has just the right amount of color, good spacing for him visually, and I think the way she builds on the previous lesson.

I wonder if I could actually use both multiplication 1 and division 1 at the same time to re learn both.

findemerson
03-15-2012, 10:17 PM
Right now I am thinking I should just hold off on fractions and download her multiplication book. He seems to like the way her pages are set up, it has just the right amount of color, good spacing for him visually, and I think the way she builds on the previous lesson.

If you wanted to look at something different--Kumon has a line of workbooks that continually build too. It's a method of teaching a man in Japan created to teach his son to learn mathematics. I know they are on Amazon(there should be a lot of reviews), but if you are near a B&N, they tend to carry a lot of them so you could get a feel for the product. I've had success using more than one concept--measurement, word problems, add & subtract for example all at once--I just scheduled a few pages from each book on different days. Through all of the struggles, this was the only book that wouldn't generate that tension that tended to build up with the simple thought of doing math *sigh*.

(Although, there is something to be said about keeping with what works.:))