# High School Students Who Can't Multiply and Divide

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Galois, Oct 6, 2012.

1. ### GaloisCompanion

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Oct 6, 2012

What do you do with this kind of students? Is there a faster way for them to learn these basic skills? I saw Brainetics on TV. Although expensive, does it work? Thanks for all your suggestions.

3. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Oct 6, 2012

I've never come across it; kids have to take a test to get into our school. While we do have several academic tracks, none of our kids are quite that low.

I think I would spend one period teaching each skill, then drill them to death. My Do-Now every single day would be multiplication and division. Every single quiz, every single test would include one of each example, as would every single night's homework.

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Oct 6, 2012

Middle school students here are allowed to use calculators, so they lose those basic skills even if they did learn them in the first place. I tutor a 9th grader and he admits that he is lost without the calculator. I let him use it, but help him to see where it can't really help him, or when he has to use other skills to augment its use. He didn't even know how to use the calculator to turn a decimal into a mixed number. It's a shame.

5. ### donziejoDevotee

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Oct 6, 2012

We have 6th graders that can't subtract, let alone multipy or divide. I'm not only speaking of the special education students. The latest thing is singapore math, Do the Math, Study Island, and success maker.

I'm not seeing any success, and this started last year. I'm not sure what's wrong with the old fashioned way...I've always struggled in math, but what basic skills I learned by rote seems to have stuck with me.

I can add, subtract, multipy, divide, fractions, change to decimals, percents, etc without the aid of a calculator. But I learned by rote method, homework, and practice.

If I had to learn the way students do now by tricks (lack of better word) I'm not sure I could!

6. ### Emily BronteGroupie

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Oct 6, 2012

Yes, I have come across quite often. But, I am also a special education teacher, and the kids who cannot do this at the high school level have disabilities which have impacted their ability to master this skill.

7. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Oct 6, 2012

I would let them use a calculator, especially it it isn't the entire class struggling with this (you really don't want to turn off the kids who already know how to do it). If they haven't learned it yet, you are just wasting their time and killing any hope of motivating them if you just drill them to death on stuff they probably think they know. I know many people here disagree with me, and I don't actually have kids that low in any of my classes, but I have worked with kids like that before.

With special ed, I might have a different opinion, but I think you just need to give them the tools they need to succeed at other math skills if mental math isn't there. They will always have phones and other tools to use at their disposal. Maybe offer ways for them to practice it at home, but unless 100% of the class can't do it in terms of basic skills, I wouldn't spend class time on it.

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9. ### giraffe326Virtuoso

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Oct 6, 2012

Agreed. If only 60-70% of my kids get something, I will reteach it to the whole class. I figure the rest of the class could use a refresher. If 80-90% get it, I will reteach the skill to a small group.

To the OP: We try. We really, really do. I have a few kids this year who can't even skip count! That means I can't even teach them to make their own multiplication chart As for your students, do they not know the facts? The process?

10. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Oct 6, 2012

You also teach elementary. I'm not talking about new skills. I'm talking about basics that aren't in your curriculum. It'd be like you spending hours teaching 5th graders how to count to 10.

It's very sad how much people here want to lower standards so that high school math becomes review of elementary school.

11. ### giraffe326Virtuoso

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Oct 6, 2012

I spent two whole days on subtraction of whole numbers. Same difference. If they can't subtract whole numbers, they will not be able to subtract mixed numbers. Sometimes you have to go back before you can go forward.

And, I am pulling two kids out every day to teach them how to skip count. For the first time since I left first grade, I have had to pull out hundred charts.

12. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Oct 6, 2012

Not at all the same difference. That would be comparable to reviewing solving basic equations in HS not comparable to teaching them 5*9. There comes a point when the calculator is the way to go.

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14. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Oct 6, 2012

I'm talking about 2 38 minute class periods-- 76 minutes total, then an additional few minutes during the Do Now.

My kids work bell to bell. They have homework every night. They don't watch movies or play games in my class. I didn't spend time on getting to know you games and I don't have to spend class time on classroom management issues. We laugh a lot, but we also work a LOT.

I can well afford an hour or two or three over the course of a school year to ensure that my kids graduate from high school mathematically literate. Have no fear; I'll cover the syllabus and supplement it when I can. A pretty decent number of my kids over the years have gone on to become teachers. I can't imagine that any of them could have taught elementary education, much less math, had they needed to rely on a calculator for basic math.

In other words, "The buck stops here." If someone else didn't teach you what you need to know, then I'll find a way. So I'll correct your grammar and spelling and throw in the odd bit of history or science when I can, so that you receive every bit of education I can cram in to that 38 minute period. And if only a few kids have gaps in their education, that doesn't make those gaps any less important. I'll pull them in for extra help and work one on one before or after school. But they'll leave my class knowing their stuff if it's humanly possible for me to make it happen.

The problem is that a lot of us who have been teaching a while have spent years cleaning up after those who told kids "You don't have to know that; you'll always have a calculator." In fact, we joked about that in class yesterday. How funny that it comes up here today.

I'm not lowering standards. What I'm doing is ensuring that my kids receive the education they need and deserve.

15. ### MathemagicianGroupie

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Oct 7, 2012

You're missing my point. If they haven't learned it by high school, 2-38 minute classes will not do the trick. You've mentioned that your kids are also not that low so I don't imagine you've ever miraculously taught a high schooler who couldn't multiply multiplication in 76 minutes.

Also, surely this won't be their only deficiency either. Next comes division and fractions and ...... You know the rest. You can't teach them 10 years of math in one year.

Besides this, imagine the rest of the class if you are teaching basic multiplication in HS. They'll be insulted.

Oh, and I joked with my class yesterday about making them do trivial things like find determinants or solve 3x3 systems without a calculator.

16. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Oct 7, 2012

To each his own. You've also mentioned that you've never had kids that low, so I certainly don't see your opinon as any more valid than mine.

And sometimes it's funny how filling one small gap makes the other so much less important. For example, a kid who now knows his times tables and has number sense will be able to do those fractions when he sees them in Algebra II and Trig. As a result, the numeric fractions become a non-issue. He's able to do the more difficult algebraic problems because he now has the tools to do so; the easy numeric problems are now possible. Math builds and builds and builds, and you know the line about a house built on sand.

As to "insulting" the rest of the kids, that hasn't happened. The kids in my class tend to understand me stopping for kids who don't follow. They know that when they have an issue, I'm not going to overlook it or make them feel stupid. They know that it's OK to be in the minority in not getting a concept; I won't wait for those things that have that magic "100%" not getting it. And, inevitably, I help clear up some misunderstandings of kids who were on the cusp of understanding, but had a hole or two of their own.

OP, I wish you continued luck.