I am a volunteer math tutor- over 20 years. When my 4th and 5th graders have essentially no recall of times tables, they cannot understand division or do long division. I see no point in telling them times table facts- by the time they write out the series to find the answer the student gets more and more disgruntled. I sent a note to the teacher asking if the student would be better off if we ignored the homework and worked on learning the times tables. The teacher was very upset with my suggestion and had the principal contact me. What should I do?

Learn times tables in addition to homework? Seems like an easy enough solution. Are you employed by the school?

Could you provide (to the teacher and/or principal) specific examples of times (heh) when the lack of knowing their basic facts is slowing down their ability to develop understandings of other concepts or making it much more difficult/harder to solve other problems? The way you initially phrased it might have been taken by the teacher as an attack (I know you probably didn't mean it as such) on their teaching. By phrasing it the aforementioned way, you would be able to back up what you are saying with hard evidence as well as approach if from a "this is what is better for the kids when they're with me because I observed [this]". I think I might have gone around in circles there, but hopefully it made enough sense

Learning basic facts has been de-emphasized in schools. It's frustrating. At my school, we're told that it's more important for students to have strategies for solving their facts than having them memorized. I nod along and then go right back to trying to get kids to memorize their facts because they need to have them memorized.

I say work on the times tables bit by bit while doing the homework, too. Ten minutes of drilling shouldn't cut into the homework time too badly. Here are some strategies my students use when they need to do division while they do not yet know the fast facts: - Skip-count on their fingers (e.g. 45 divided by 5, they would skip count by 5's until 45 on their fingers and then see how many fingers they counted off) - Use a times table visual (e.g. same example, they would go to the 5 row, scan it until they reach 45, and then go up to see which column it was in) - Allow then to use a calculator, under your supervision, for the "check" part of "guess and check" or for one digit at a time of long division Regardless of the support strategy, they should recite the fact (preferably sing it out a few times!) once they find it on their fingers, table, or calculator.

I've been teaching high school math since 1980. I agree with you that they'e important: BUT--- the students you teach need a tutor because they're behind. As a result, they're going to have to put in extra time getting caught up. That means learning their times tables AND getting caught up on 4th or 5th grade math. Doing times table instead of the current work merely trades one problem for another-- sure, they'll know the times tables, but next year they'll need a tutor for the work they've missed this year. It's nothing close to a solution, it's a band-aid. And a poor one at that. The good news is that they can learn their times tables on their own time. Suggest to mom that they spend an hour each weekend rewriting those times tables. (Not "7,14,21"... but "7x1=7, 7x2=14...") Start each session with a game of times table bingo-- you can provide a card with the answers, then rapid fire the questions. Keep track from week to week; the scores will improve if your students are putting in the time on the side. As a teacher, I would be very, VERY unhappy with a tutor who chose to undermine my lessons in the way you did. You were very much out of line suggesting that you had a better view of the big picture than she does. She knows how to do her job. And it doesn't help that, in my opinion, your advice was WRONG. She assigns homework because she believes it's necessary to drill particular material in order for the kids to master it. That's not your call as a volunteer tutor, it's her's as the teacher. Your job is to help the kids get caught up.

When I taught fourth and had students who didn't know their facts (which was every year!) I suggested they practice, in a variety of ways, for just 5-10 minutes a night - but only a certain amount of facts. If kids try to learn them all, they usually are not successful. I would go through and help them pick out 15 facts to learn at a time. If the kiddo would give me that small amount of time, it always worked.

I also want to mention that there are tons of really fun games and apps for practicing the math facts. Not all but many students have something at home, a computer or an ipod or their parent's smartphone or something, instead of spending instructional time on it you can "prescribe" 15 minutes a day of math blaster, times attack, or what-have-you.

There are great web sites that allow students to practice their multiplication facts and other basic facts as well. Sumdog.com is the favorite of my students. aplusmath.com is easy and free to use. It can be set up on sumdog.com that you can keep track of the actual amount of problems and time they spend on this site.

Doing lots of long division problems teaches students to apply a procedure to automaticity. It doesn't teach a concept. It teaches a procedure. Have the students use multiplication charts for each step. This eliminates the guessing. With multi-digit divisors they will have to do multiple additions, but have them use the multiplication chart to estimate the starting point. Some kids just need to see the right answer time and time again instead of using methods that make them guess.

Just a note about memorizing facts: I teach SPED, and my students are re-evaluated every 3 years to determine if they still have a disability. They are given a variety of achievement tests to determine eligibility. Without fail, everyone scores in the "extremely low" category for math fluency. The math fluency portion of the test is simply recall of basic facts in a timed setting. I strongly believe that this difficulty has less to do with their disability and more to do with the fact that they were never required to master these facts with 100% accuracy. They were just kind of "passed along". I think math facts is one area where you keep reteaching until every single kid gets it right every single time. Their future success in any math course depends on it. Just my

I think the failure to get to the point where they can recall the facts has much more to do with how they are expected to learn the facts. All too often the idea of coddling comes into play when kids need ACCURATE OVEREXPOSURE instead of flash card activities or attempting problems without some sort of support that allows them to find the answer (not a calculator). I'm not saying just tell the kid the answer, but if they need to use a chart and are taught to say the facts as they look them up, eventually the fact gets committed to memory. Having them "recall" when they get it wrong over and over again makes them practice getting it wrong. I'm not saying this way of learning is appropriate for all students, but for those that struggle with retention and automaticity, continual accuracy is vital to creating the proper link.

Every year about 50% of my 6th grade class comes in lacking automaticity in multiplication facts. Since it's not a 6th grade standard, I don't spend time teaching them or forcing my students to memorize them. Instead, I teach them how to quickly make a 12x12 multiplication chart. It takes some practice, but every couple of days for a warm up we create one from scratch using patterns and counting strategies. Basically once you fill in the columns for the 1's, 2's, 5's, and 10's, and 11's, you can use them to help you with the tougher ones (i.e. you can double the answer in the 2's column to get the 4's column). In a couple of weeks most are able to create their own chart within 3-4 minutes, and then I let them use it during class. My thought is: what better way to memorize facts than using them in context over and over? By the middle of the year most students have them memorized. Maybe you can help your tutoring students learn to create their own multiplication chart and then use it to help them on their actual work?

I agree, Jeky. This is a really good way to practice in addition to skip counting or recitation. The old boring stuff usually did get kids to recall facts. I like when they start recognizing the patterns within the chart or within a set. The number sense starts to come along and this really helps when they move on to fractions.

Students without rapid recall of times tables I am very grateful that so many offered suggestions on teaching times tables. It is clear that all of you are convinced that learning them well is vital. I always felt that way, but with so many kids going into 6th grade without that skill, I needed to be reassured. Many teachers have been supportive of my efforts and suggestions. I will visit the sites mentioned (factor chart on Sumdog.com looks good) and keep skip counting. My chief handicap is time. I am expected to tutor 6 to 8 students per hour. We only have 9 computers for 40 kids. If I spend extra time on any one student, others get no help. Our kids are very poor and the parents in general cannot relate to teaching in the home. Math has been an essential part of my career, and I remain hopeful that I can pass some of that onto my students. Thank you

Ugh this is half of my problem. They memorize some song in 3rd grade and the kids sit there and count on their fingers taking forever and a day to get the answer. The kids of course think it is "too hard" to learn multiplication tables. I teach 4th grade and this is uber-frustrating. I am now going to require any down time (after a test/quiz/completion of classwork) while kids are waiting on their peers to finish that they work with multiplication flashcards. I have bought a set for each of my tables in the room and that is what they will do. That is how bad their basic facts are! So much for all my worrying about down time work.

I would make some copies of a times table to use during your tutoring time, and I would try to set aside five minutes at the beginning of each session to drill facts. They might need to be shown HOW to drill with flashcards. If no one is helping them at home, they may not have good study skills either.

YES!!!!! I teach Grade 4 Math too, and their previous teacher taught them songs for all the times tables... I thought this was wonderful at first... then I discovered they are simply skip counting!!! GAH! It's the bane of my existence.