You’ve tried to help with math homework. You’ve explained it over and over, but all you get is a blank stare: “I don’t get it!”
Your kid’s not the only one who’s confused…
- Your child’s homework sure doesn’t look like the math YOU learned in school.
- There might be a few teeny things you’veforgotten (cough*long division*cough).
- And yes, there really are more word problems in homework these days!
In this age of technology, math education is changing–the bar’s been raised. Kids today need to know what math means and how to use it.
Here’s how to help with homework–and help your child UNDERSTAND math–in 10 minutes or less!
STEP 1: Change Your Math Language
Math words like “plus” and “times” don’t mean anything to kids.
That’s why, when you ask them to solve a word problem or use math in real life, they’re confused and have no idea what to do.
Start by making these four simple language tweaks to make math make sense:
- When you see a + sign, say “and”. 3+2 “three and two”.
- When you see a – sign, say “take away”. 7 – 3 “seven take away three”.
- When you see a x sign, say “of” or “groups of”. 6 x 2 “six groups of two”.
- When you see a ÷ sign, say “in (4) groups”. 8÷4 “eight in four groups”.
Changing your language can be half the battle when you help with math homework. Now the math makes sense; your child can start to picture it. That leads us to the next step:
STEP 2: Draw a Picture
This is where the a-ha moments start happening. All you do is ask, “Can you draw a picture of that?”
Keep it simple. Circles, lines, and stick figures are a great place to start.
Here’s what the math areas might look like:
Addition: 5 + 3 (five and three)
Subtraction: 8 – 4 (eight take away four)
Multiplication: 4 x 2 (four groups of two)
Division 6 ÷ 3 (six in three equal groups)
It works with fractions, too. (Read “times” as “of” in fractions.)
½ x 4 (one half of four)
4 x ½ (four of one-half)
STEP 3: Ask Thinking Questions
With a language tweak and a simple drawing, your child already understands the math better. But with one or two questions, you can help make some even more exciting connections.
Looking at your child’s drawing, ask:
- What do you notice?
- What patterns do you see?
Here’s the thing: there is no wrong answer.
This is where the magic happens! Your child already has the answer; now he can relax, be curious, and look a little deeper.
The concepts start to click into place. I bet your child will surprise you and come up with a perspective you’ve never thought of before–or discover something you just assumed was obvious! They’ll say things like:
- Every time I do “times”, the groups are the same size.
- It goes four, four, four, four. Like 4+4+4+4.
- This (division picture) is like my multiplication picture.
- 3×2 and 2×3 the answer’s the same.
Ask questions like: Why do you think that is? I wonder why it’s like that?
Your only job at this point is to be curious.
Model curiosity. Don’t teach right now; you be a learner, too–open to whatever discoveries come from your child’s drawing. For just a minute, let math be all about joy and wonder!
To Sum It All Up…
- Use everyday language to read the math problem
- Draw it
- Ask “What do you notice?”
This is my go-to method every time I help with math homework. I can’t tell you how many “a-ha” moments have come from these simple steps–even with kids who have never understood math!
Next Step: Play Games to Practice
Understanding math is the first step, but kids need practice to master new skills. The best way I’ve found to get kids to LOVE practicing math is to play games!
Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Learn Your Multiplication Tables
The 12 Times Table
Print one and put it on your wall, or paste it in an exercise book.
How to Learn
Your life will be a lot easier when you can simply remember the multiplication tables.
So ... train your memory!
First, use the table above to start putting the answers into your memory.
Then use the Math Trainer - Multiplication to train your memory, it is specially designed to help you memorize the tables.
Use it a few times a day for about 5 minutes each, and you will learn your tables.
Try it now, and then come back and read some more ...
So, the two main ways for you to learn the multiplication table are:
- Reading over the table
- Exercising using the Math Trainer
But here are some "tips" to help you even more:
Tip 1: Order Does Not Matter
When we multiply two numbers, it does not matter which is
(See Commutative Property.)
Example: 3×5=15, and 5×3=15
Another Example: 2×9=18, and 9×2=18
In fact half of the table is a mirror image of the other!
So, don't memorize both "3×5" and "5×3", just memorize that "a 3 and a 5 make 15" when multiplied.
This is very important! It nearly cuts the whole job in half.
|In your mind you should think of |
3 and 5 "together" making 15.
so you should be thinking something like this:
Tip 2: Learn the Tables in "Chunks"
It is too hard to put the whole table into your memory at once. So, learn it in "chunks" ...
A Start by learning the 5 times table.
B Then learn up to 9 times 5.
C Is the same as B, except the questions are the other way around. Learn it too.
D Lastly learn the "6×6 to 9×9" chunk
Then bring it all together by practicing the whole "10 Times Table"
And you will know your 10 Times Table!
(We look at the 12x table below)
There are some patterns which can help you remember:
2× is just doubling the number. The same as adding the number to itself.
2×2=4, 2×3=6, 2×4=8, etc.
So the pattern is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20
(And once you remember those, you also know 3×2, 4×2, 5×2, etc., right?)
5× has a pattern: 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. It ends in either 0 or 5.
9× has a pattern, too: 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90
Now, notice how the "ones" place goes down: 9,8,7,6, ...? And at the same time, the "tens" place goes up: 1,2,3,...? Well, your hands can help!
Example: to multiply 9 by 8: hold your 8th finger down, and you can count "7" and "2" ... the answer is 72
10× is maybe the easiest of them all ... just put a zero after it.
10×2=20, 10×3=30, 10×4=40, etc.
The Hardest Ones
For me the hardest ones are 6×7=42, 6×8=48 and 7×8=56. I often have to say in my mind:
"six sevens are forty-two", "six eights are forty-eight", "seven eights are fifty-six"
What About the 12 Times Table?
Sounds tough, but once you have mastered the 10× table, it is just a few steps away.
|Firstly, 11× is mostly easy: from 11×2 to 11×9 you just put the two digits together. 11×2=22, 11×3=33, ..., 11×9=99.|
And of course 2×, 5× and 10× just follow their simple rules you know already, so it just leaves these to remember:
And the "Big 3":
I also have a longer list of multiplication tips and tricks if you are interested.
You can test yourself using the times tables test.
You can try out Speed Math.
Learn Long Multiplication.
And if you are really good, see if you can beat the high scores at Reaction Math.
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