My daughter pretty much skated through first and second grade math, but now it’s getting a bit more challenging and she has to memorize her multiplication tables. This is not something she enjoys and she has really been resisting it. But she is also is getting frustrated when she needs to use multiplication in math exercises because she doesn’t know her tables.
The other day I decided we needed to sit down with a pencil and paper and write them out the old fashioned way to help her remember them. She tried everything to wiggle out of coming to the table but I was in a good enough place to warmly hold the limit and I insisted she write the fours and the sixes. She got very angry with me as I started slowly reciting the fours and asking her to write.
I could see her muscles tensing up as she strangled the pencil through 4 x 1 = 4, etching it deep into her copybook. 4 x 2 = “Growl!” She didn’t like the look of the 2 so she furiously erased it and began again. 4 x 2 = 8 “This is stupid!” she yelled. 4 x 3 = , she waited a minute, then hurled the pencil onto the tile floor and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Two or three ear-piercing screeches later she took a breath and began a diatribe, “I am the stupidest kid ever! No one likes me! I’m too stupid to do this. I hate math! I hate school! I hate being me! You are mean and you are making me upset! You are the worst Mommy EVER!” And on for maybe five minutes.
I handed her back the pencil. The lead was broken. “I can see how hard this is for you, but I know you can do it. We’re going to write the next one. Four times three is twelve.”
I handed her another pencil. She screamed right at me. No words, just a long, high, powerful blast of noise. She wrote 4 x 3 = 12. By 4 x 4 = 16, the tears started. She went back to her litany of self-hatred, “I’m the stupidest kid EVER!”
4 x 5 = 20. “Ooh, look, you knew that one all by yourself.”
“EVERYBODY knows that, fives are EASY!”
4 x 6 = “Twenty-four,” I told her, “You’re half way there. You’re doing fine.” We made our way loudly through the fours, and she let me hold her in my lap for a minute before we struggled, still loudly and with much unhappiness, through the sixes. We thought that was enough math for the day.
The next morning, in the car, I asked her to go over her tables with me and she knew every four and every six, except 6 x 8, and rattled them off with ease. She can now run through her multiplication tables without becoming stressed and upset about them. She is now working on the 12′s. Working. Not screaming, sweating, throwing things, just working. It’s pretty amazing how much tension can wrap itself around something like memorization, but there you are. Here’s my math equation: Less tension = More learning.
- a mom in Santa Clara, CA