Rote learning is not primary to a quality education, but it is essential.
Take multiplication facts, for example. It is next to impossible for any higher math to be understood without having these down pat. The times I have rushed my children forward before they had memorized these beauties caused us all undue frustration.
The problem is, just how does one go about this business? Some children are OK with forging straight ahead with a brief introduction of the ones, twos, and so on, and then testing, but there are just as many who struggle with such an approach.
I have discovered that there is actually a way to get the job done that is logical and sinks the information into the brain like a hook into the mouth of a bass. All that is left then is for confident children to pull in the huge fish we call mathematics and enjoy the feast!
Here is how I go about it:
- Separate the facts into families and practice until mastered.
Instead of only a brief introduction of each family, a concentrated focus on the separate groups is very helpful.
I searched and searched the Internet until I found some free worksheets that are perfect for this task (which you can find here), with multiple pages devoted to each group in turn. I have printed these all out and stapled each family together so that they can be addressed systematically.
- Go by a certain order.
In other words, don’t attack them sequentially, but memorize the easiest families first. The one’s family is so obvious there is little need to work past presentation. The next group to tackle is the ten’s family, then the elevens, and, well, like this:
- x 10
- x 11
- x 5
- Doubles (2×2, 3×3, and so on)
- x 9 (this one is easier because the digits of the answer always add up to nine–just think of it, 9 x 2 = 18, etc….)
After this we follow what is left in sequential order: x 3, x 4, x 6, x 7, x 8. It helps to point out that having memorized the other easier ones will make the harder ones a cinch, since the rest are comprised partly of the easier ones! (Taking a highlighter and marking off the facts already learned in each list will help a child to see just how easy it can be.)
- Keep physical track of progress and offer a surprise.
Seeing a physical representation can be very motivating. You could make up a sheet, or even a board or ribbon with something that moves as progress is being made.
A nice surprise at the end is always helpful (I know we aren’t supposed to offer rewards for learning, but this is rote stuff; the real thinking part is, of course, its own reward). I try and make it truly nice and worth-while, not something that is offered regularly.
- Create something portable that makes studying easier.
I have loads of flash cards, but they are not much help for this type of approach. They are always so disjointed, jumping around all over the scheme of facts so that it sort of defeats the purpose.
Instead, I have the child cut out each portion on this page and past it on a 3 x 5 card. I then take the cards and staple them together so they can be put in a pocket and taken anywhere. Of course, their permanent storage place is in each child’s pencil box.
Then all that is left is to implement the whole program. Consistency is the word here, since interrupting the momentum could be very discouraging, even making math a hateful proposition to a youngster who might otherwise blossom and flourish.
Like everything else we do, this is not only cheap, but simple and effective. Narrowing academics down to their bare bones leaves more time for the fun things, like riding bikes, painting pictures, and baking cookies!