During grades one, two and three, your 10 fingers and a scratch pad are pretty much all you need to get by in math class. Then comes multiplication, and things change: There is simply no way that a typical student can solve these problems quickly without memorizing the basic grade-school matrix we call the multiplication table. Aside from a number line, this square matrix is arguably the most important single pedagogic tool that an elementary student will ever master. And any style of teaching math that does not require its memorization is one that should be rejected out of hand."Rote" is not a pejorative, and in this case especially, there's nothing wrong with rote memorization. I dare say that students who do not have the multiplication table memorized (either up to 10x10 or, as Mrs. Barton required of us, 12x12) are at a distinct disadvantage vice those who do.
Until one masters the multiplication table, basic math is slow and frustrating. Then you memorize that magic box and the skies open up. Suddenly, you have the tools to calculate area and volume, speed/time/distance problems, unit conversion, and currency — not to mention division, exponents, algebra and all the rest.
Knowing the multiplication table makes math fun — or at least less non-fun...
I realize that the multiplication table is old school. But old school is making a comeback — at least in some parts of this country. A while back, Alberta switched to a “discovery” model for teaching math, whereby children were permitted to use “creative” methods to pursue correct (or correct-ish) answers to math problems. In an open letter to Alberta Education Minister, University of Alberta education specialist Ken Porteous blasted the program as follows: “The discovery approach has no place in arithmetic at the junior elementary level. There is nothing to discover. [It] just leads to confusion which ultimately translates into frustration, a strong dislike for mathematics and a desire to drop out of any form of mathematics course at the earliest opportunity.”
Apparently, someone was listening. According to a report in today’s Globe & Mail, “The Alberta government has bent to pressure from parents for curriculum changes and will require students to memorize their multiplication tables starting this fall, dealing a setback to the creative-math movement.”
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The Foundation of Success In Mathematics
It's a necessary, but not sufficient, tool for success in math. What is "it"? Memorizing the times tables: