From the Tutor's Corner

A Message to the Parents of Children in the Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Grades

Most of the students that I work with (sixth graders included) are deficient in knowing the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables. The math program repeatedly assigns homework to strengthen this area, but the "no calculator" stipulation that goes with it is routinely ignored. It is extremely frustrating to try and teach algebra, ratios, fractions, word problems and the numerous other complex topics in the curriculum when these basic arithmetic skills are lacking.

Many parents would like to help their elementary school children more with their math homework but feel overwhelmed with the scope of the material. Not only has the scope of old material been expanded, but much new material has been added. Some topics that were formerly introduced at the secondary school level are now a part of the elementary school curriculum.

But one thing has not changed: The basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables remain the foundation of mathematics. The student who knows these tables well has a much better chance of progressing in math than those who do not. And this is where the parent can play a very, very important role. Schedule 10 or 15 minutes a day to drill your child on these tables until they can produce the answers immediately without any finger-counting or gimmicks. Imagine how awkward verbal communication would be if it took several seconds for our memory bank to come up with each word in a sentence. It is much the same in math. Operations involving the basic arithmetic tables are a part of almost every math problem, and the student who does not know them well only compounds the difficulty of the problem-solving process.

John Schwarz