Inside the Kid’s Homework: Writing Repetitive Math Facts

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 10.00.38 PMEvery night Braeden will be required to write his multiplication facts three times each and since this is a strategy that has been repeated without question over the years, many will swear by its perceived effectiveness.

Before presenting an opinion, let me remind you of a time long ago when teachers used “discipline sentences” to punish kids for things like talking in class. I remember writing “I will not talk in class” 100 time and I did it by writing all of the “I’s” followed by the “wills” and so on. We called this “columnizing” because we didn’t write whole sentences but columns of repeated words. To be clear, it didn’t work to keep me from talking then and it’s not the best practice for math now.

Today, while Braeden was working, I heard him say, “Should I stop when I get to 33 or 36?” I glanced at Braeden’s paper and saw that he was “columnizing” his repeated facts and in doing so, he skipped a number and made a mistake which threw off his pattern. He knew that something was off but again, he wasn’t connecting to the facts themselves but to the pattern that he knew he should have had.

Braeden’s method of fact writing was for no other purpose than to finish the task. It wasn’t about learning the facts. It was completely about getting through the assignment in the fastest possible way.

This method is not teaching the memorization of the facts themselves but the practice of writing numbers and patterning which may sound appealing except that to “remember” facts, one must first write down the pattern. Some teachers may argue that parents should monitor their children and make sure that they are not recording facts in this way but instead, writing the entire problem before going to the next. I actually did that with Braeden and as he was writing, he was also singing his math facts…turning them into his own little song.

Again, I am not advocating for writing in this way either but the song that Braeden made was quite joyous and memorable.

If the intent is that students learn math facts, then the follow through to that should be that the practice of learning them should be up to the student.

Braeden said…

“I would have rather made my own flash cards. I could have also made a few patterns on each one to show the multiplication. I would have loved to do that instead of writing these over and over. My hand hurts. I’m tired. Can I play minecraft now?”

Bonus Braeden Minecraft Challenge: Create a structure in minecraft utilizing various representations of this weeks facts up to 12 from the perspective of area. Don’t forget to include signage for each one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *