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Quick Tips for Addition and Multiplication

Split Domino game - each player turns over a domino and whoever has the largest sum gets both cards
Split Domino game - each player turns over a domino and whoever has the largest sum gets both cards
photo by CPerkins

Now is the time to buckle down and make sure your child is on track in school.  If you're concerned that they may not be, schedule a parent conference soon and make a plan with your child's teacher.  Chances are the teacher would be eager to provide you with the standards that each student must meet and when.  As a team, set some measurable goals for the rest of the school year and be ready and willing to do your part at home.

I'll bring some tips for other subjects as well, but here are some quick and easy tips for math:

Early addition - 'Counting on' is a crucial strategy necessary for quick and confident adding.  Simply put, it means being able to start at the largest addend and then add the smaller one to it.  For example, to add 4 + 2, you would start with "4" and then count 2 more - "5, 6."  The best way to practice this is to use split dominoes.  Half of the domino has the typical dots, while the other half does not have dots but a written numeral.  In the previous example, there would be the numeral "4" written on one side, and two dots on the other.  You can make these easily with index cards.  Teach your child to say the written number and then add the other number by pointing to the dots one at a time.  This will help ease the transition between needing concrete representations of each number and being able to make sense of each number as a whole.

Multiplication facts - There is no getting around these, and for some kids they do not come easily.  This may sound antiquated, but start with a multiplication chart, flash cards, and a highlighter.  Figure out which facts your child already knows so you can spend the time at home concentrating on those that they don't.  When you get to a card that they know automatically, highlight it on the chart.  If they've been over them a lot in school, you'll probably be able to knock out all of the x0s, x1s, and hopefully the x2s, x5s, and x10s.  Once you have the 'knowns' highlighted, praise your child and show them that the facts that are left are not that overwhelming.  Be encouraging - this is daunting stuff if you're 9 years old and all your friends can do it with their eyes closed.  For the facts that are left, be creative and be patient.  One afternoon, just work on 6x4 and 7x3.  Make up silly rhymes like "The big bad wolf says open the door 'cause 6x4 is 24."  Then take a blank piece of paper and bubble-write 7x3=21.  Let them color it in and decorate it some way that takes some concentration - glitter, paint, glue on pieces of torn paper.  The more time they spend looking at it in a novel way, the better able their brain is to make connections that will stick.  Check out these super fun practice games online!

The most important variable in helping your child with school work is YOU.  The time should be valuable to them, meaning they are at ease and feel safe learning and making mistakes with you.  So be supportive of their effort and encouraging in their struggle.