Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Randy's Five Rules For Math Excellence

If your child is not doing very well in math, I promise you these techniques will create improvement.

Rule # 1. Fundamentals. Your young student must know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Adding and subtracting any single numbers should be as fast as counting to ten. Even better if your kid can add any two digit number to any other two digit number in their head. Multiplication up to 12 X 12 should be memorized and automatic. Division - any number that divides evenly up to 144/12 also memorized and automatic. Schools do not push this idea any more, and I believe it is the key reason why scores are down. Use this rule for a student of any age, including high school and college.

Rule # 2. Real Life. What does your kid care about that relates to math. Your boys will very likely care about baseball averages and other sports statistics. They might also be interested in measuring things they are building.

Your girls will likely be interested in what things cost, how to do discounts, and measuring for cooking. Clearly your child might have vastly different interest than those listed. But math has applications to almost everything we do. How can you make math real?

Rule # 3. Paper is Cheap. Many math errors are made by making numbers too small, scrunching them at the bottom of the page, scratching things out, or not lining things up well. Tell your child that paper is cheap. It is ok to use more of it if it will keep the numbers neat.

Rule # 4. Memorize the definitions of all terms. We memorize for English, but no teacher I know is pushing kids to memorize definitions of math terms. If we don't know the definition when the word is used in a word problem, how can we possibly work it out?

Rule # 5. Is the answer stupid? If the answer you get is the car was traveling 387 miles per hour, or the temperature outside was 712 degrees, it may require rechecking the math. This doesn't just apply to word problems. Use estimates of regular problems to see if the resulting answer is in the ball park.

If you use these methods and have success or not, let me know.

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