## King's X From the Math Monster## Sandra Dodd
The fascination some parents have with the magical power of knowing times tables amazes me each time I hear that question. I stopped counting up around the fiftieth time. "Do your kids do times tables?" What does "do" mean in relation to a table? Discover it? Too late. Write one out? This "table" of which they speak is a block of data, a pattern of numbers, involving relationship and function. What's to do? It's done.
What my kids can't do is to answer speed quizzes like "What is six times nine?" Meanwhile, they can calculate 6% (local sales tax) and 30% (the discount Kirby gets on gaming supplies) in their heads. Once a much younger Kirby wanted to walk to the corner store for a Dr Pepper. he asked what he could do to earn money. I whipped up a blank table with 1-9 across and 1-9 down, showed him what the multiplicatory deal was, and said I'd give him a penny a square. "How much money will that be?" "Same as the answer in this square," and I indicated the 9x9 square. Marty was only four or five, but he wanted in on this money-making puzzle, so I made him one too. They helped each other, filled theirs in, figured who was right when there were discrepancies, LOVED finding the patterns, and nearly forgot about the sodas. When they got back from the store (with change, as it hadn't occurred to them to stop when they had reached the price of the soda), they were still excited about that chart. We had a big new concrete patio, and one night the whole family and some friends were playing outside. When a spinning, jump-roping, free-for-all game got old and they were tired, I chalked out a chart about 8 feet square, and the kids started filling in the easy parts—2's, 5's… soon there were only six or seven squares left, like 7x8 and other intuition-avoiding combos. I have never before or since seen such total –doing- of times tables. Jody Hegener once told me a tale of having been challenged by kids from a Waldorf school who waited until they had an eleven or twelve year old Jody headed out on horseback at a ranch with them to ask the big question: "Do you know your times tables?" Jody told them she didn't know if she did or not, since she didn't know what "times tables" meant. Ooh, they had her good. But they told her what it was that she knew so little about, and they demonstrated, zipping on up to the times TWELVE they knew (way better than the nine or ten limit of public schools). So Jody was up with them and getting the pattern on the elevens and twelves, and said "What about 13?" They didn't have to know 13. It wasn't so fun anymore. Jody told me she was multiplying by 14 when they finally got her to stop. I imagine she was thinking of how very easy fifteens would be. But "times fifteen" won't be on the test. This summer Kirby was overheard explaining to some other teens at the gaming shop how to multiply by 18. Do it by 20, and subtract two for each one you have. No pencil, no paper, and the school-labeled "learning disadvantaged" friend totally understood. The adults who overheard this expressed amazement. The other homeschoolers who heard about it were amazed that adults had been amazed. Perhaps knowing the times tables, "doing" the times tables, is a magic safety from further math trauma. "I know my times tables" is like "King's X" from being tagged by the math monster. My kids think math is a tool and a toy and a game. Why would they want to be saved from it? "We don't have to know that" isn't anything I have ever heard my children say. Because there is nothing they –do- "have to learn," there is nothing that is off their learning list either. In artistic terms, without the object there is no field. In math-lingo, they have the infinite universal set. In a philosophical light, they avoid the dualism of learning and not-learning.
If you are new to math in the wild, I have some recommendations of things that worked well for us. First, don't be teacherly about any of this. Don't use the talking-to-a-poodle voice (and if you don't have one or don't know what I'm talking about, GOOD!). Then, gradually gather some subset of this sort of math stuff, plus other things it might remind you of:
The other day in my kitchen I said, "Hey, Kirby, I might make $100 for an article on you teaching someone to multiply by 18, and you didn't even know I overheard you talking about it, so I'll give you $10." "Cool. 10%. I'm like an agent or something." His 23-yr-old first-time visitor got big eyes and said, "You were teaching someone to multiply by 18?!"
The article above is a corrected version of what appeared in the January-February 2002 Issue of Home Education Magazine.
Lisa Wendell on the Always Learning list:
For example our son being 14 makes me worry sometimes (more like a fleeting thought) when he asks things like "mom, is 2+6, 8?" To which I answered "yes" THEN the very next day we were at Costco - which is a large wholesale place that sells in multi-packs - Hubby and I were looking at something that was 4 packs of 30 - Zac walked up and said there are 120 in the box. He did multiplication in his head instantly - didn't even stop to think about it. I could have sworn he does not know multiplication ;)
Memorizing 6's
My daughter when she was five had memorized the six times tables up to 15, but ONLY the sixes...that was done all on her own and done because the tax on a dollar here in Ohio was 6% at that time...so she needed to know how much money she really needed for things at the dollar store so then gramma and grampa started sending gift checks for $10.60...(tax included) marked on the check...she never bothered to sit and memorize the rest of the tables but seems to get along fine now and is almost 15 Beverly More on math, on mindful parenting, on ideas for parents. |