Archive for the ‘Teach/teaching your child the multiplication tables.’ Category


Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Triggered by a massive earthquake, a tsunami unleashes its fury on Japan.  All of us saw the images on tv hardly believing a wall of water could be so powerful that it would crash through coastal cities upending homes, destroying buildings and churning down streets sweeping away everything in its path.  Minivans bobbed about in the detritus like corks. 

Friday afternoon, people would have been in their homes, offices or running a quick errand in cars as the earthquake struck. Children would be at school.  A thirty-second warning sounds that an earthquake is imminent.  People brace for the worst as the quake strikes with seismic force.  Some are buried in the rubble. 

But the earthquake wasn’t the worst of it.  Nature had a double punch. The energy of the buckling of the seismic plates on the ocean floor was displaced to the water, which came rushing to shore with all the wrath and fury of a monstrous wave depicted in Japanese woodcuts. The wave hit Sendai thirty minutes after the quake.  No doubt, the citizens were still in shock from the quake, perhaps searching for loved ones or salvaging photos and prized possessions.  How many had the presence to flee? 

Unlike the coast of California, the northeastern coast of Japan is flat.   There is no higher ground to escape to.  The only alternative to flee as far away as one can inland.  You can survive an earthquake if there are pockets of air in the building but what pockets of air remain after a wall of water rushes through?  Now, of course, there is the terrible threat of nuclear contamination since the reactors have been damaged.  A triple punch to Japan.

The tsunami . . .  how strong that imagery of total destruction wreaked by nature.  I’m also thinking of a tsunami in metaphorical terms:  the tsunami of our economy with citizens unable to find work, the tsunami of the unrest in the Middle East as rebels calling for reform are violently repressed by a despotic ruler and the tsunami facing our educational system where the establishment seems to care more for its own wellbeing than that of the children they are entrusted with.

Six Million Paper Clips

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Have you come across an award-winning documentary, Paper Clips, which documents the Paper Clips Project begun by an eighth grade class studying the Holocaust in rural Tennessee?  To better understand the magnitude of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, the students decided to collect paper clips after discovering that Norwegians wore a paper clip on their lapels in silent protest to the Nazi occupation of their country.

Begun in 1998, the Paper Clip Project gained traction when German journalists covering the White House began to write about it in German newspapers.  I remember seeing mention of this project on the nightly news.  The earnestness of the students and the poignancy of a single, mundane paper clip representing one life lost brought tears to my eyes.  Jews from all over the world began to send letters with photos of family members lost in the Holocaust.  Enclosed were one or more paper clips.  One person in Germany sent a 40’s era leather suitcase with mementoes of lives lost.  Soon millions of paper clips arrived at the school. 

As the Project grew, the German journalists felt that it would be fitting to find a boxcar in Germany, one of the actual boxcars that transported Jews to the camps.  This boxcar would be a museum housing the paper clips, letters and photographs sent by millions round the world.  At the inauguration of the museum, Holocaust survivors came to the ceremony.  As you watch the film, be warned that you will cry when the survivors speak of their heartfelt gratitude to the students.

Paper Clips is a beautiful, moving, poignant documentary.  Six million is too large for our minds to grasp. When represented by millions of ordinary paper clips, we comprehend the enormity of this number.  If you have children in middle school or high school, be sure to have them see this film.

Our California Summer Came After Labor Day!

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

We’ve had such a cool summer in Southern California but last weekend a heat wave landed on our doorstep with a thud.  At 5:00 p.m., it’s 103 degrees outside and feels like a scorching Texas, fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk summer day!

After running errands, I stepped into Barnes and Noble to cool off before coming home and turning on the AC.  My home office upstairs with plantation shutters shut tight is now tolerable.

To escape Sunday’s heat, we headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to Crystal Cove in Laguna.   Our blue Pacific was refeshingly cold.  I spent the morning riding the waves, bodysurfing.   Just two weekends ago, the days were so overcast that I was the only one in the water but yesterday O.C. residents dotted the beach with their umbrellas in hot tropical colors. After putting up ours, we rushed in the water.

After bodysurfing, I swam behind the green crystalline waves, ocassionally swimming out to a large one that was cresting.   After swimming most of the morning, we sought the shade of our umbrella and read Sunday’s LA Times, refreshed again by the sound of the pounding surf, knowing the cool water was just a quick dash from where we sat.  Here we were twenty minutes from home, enjoying a mini-vacation.  Loved it!

So our REAL taste of summer came after Labor Day!   We may yet have a furnace of an October as Santa Ana winds sweep in from the desert.  When they do, I’m heading for the beach!

Pattern Recognition and Intelligence

Saturday, August 28th, 2010



My method of teaching the times tables is based on pattern recognition. Did you know there’s a relationship between pattern recognition and intelligence? 


I found the following on


Out of all mental abilities this type of intelligence [i.e., pattern recognition] is said to have the highest correlation with the intelligence factor, g.  This is primarily because pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment . . .  Patterns can be found in ideas, words, symbols and images and pattern recognition is a key determinant of your potential in logical, verbal, numerical and spatial abilities.  It is essential for reasoning because your capacity to think logically is based on your perception of the logic around you.  Your pattern recognition skills are expressed verbally through your long term exposure to language and your mathematical and spatial abilities are based on your perception of numerical data and 3D objects.




The webpage presents five problems that can be solved through pattern recognition. 


Back to “pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment.”  Don’t we feel relieved when we recognize a pattern when confronted with a chaotic environment?  We feel panicked and stressed in a chaotic environment.  Stuck in a long line at the movie megaplex?  You notice the line on the left is comprised mainly of families with children while your line has mostly adult couples.  Your brain takes this in.  It has found a pattern.  The line with the families will move more rapidly because there will be fewer transactions at the box office. You step into the left lane behind families and smile as your line moves more quickly than the other. You’ve made order out of chaos. 


We are happy when we make sense out of chaos.  We are frustrated when we can’t.  This is how many children feel when confronted with mastering the multiplication tables.  All those tables, all those math facts to learn.  For many children, the tables become a blur.  How to make order out of the chaos?  I believe my method of pattern recognition does just that. 


Summer’s winding down. Time to put away the lemonade stand?

Saturday, August 7th, 2010




It’s the first week of August and orders are trickling in. Either school starts early for many families or moms are taking the last weeks of summer to review the times tables with their third grader or maybe give their child a head start in math.


Many parents remember mastering the times tables as a dread rite of passage in their childhood.  But it doesn’t have to be for their children.  My method is fun!  And not just because I, the author, think so.


I’ve received countless emails from moms telling me nothing worked till they tried my workbook.  Moms tell me that they never had to say, “You’re going to do 20 minutes of math every day this week.”  Their child needed no prompting after a few minutes of exposure to my workbook to become intrigued and continue working on their own.   Of course, this is what I’d hoped for.  I wanted my book to teach your child serious multiplication skills but be a fun activity book as well.   I wanted my workbook to be a real page turner!


If you have a story to share about your child and my workbook, please submit if.  I love hearing from you.


             Image from

Does Your Attitude Towards Math Influence Your Child?

Friday, July 16th, 2010




At book fairs, some parents tell me they weren’t particularly good at math.  Some will go even further and say they hated math. Some go even further than that and say, “My daughter’s a dummie in math like me.”  What’s shocking to me is they tell me this with their child standing at their side.  STOP and think what this message conveys to your child:


·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math so maybe I won’t be either.

·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math and doesn’t expect me to be good in math either.

·     I’ll show up mom/dad by if I do well in math.  They won’t like it if I’m smarter.


If you say YOU hate math, be aware you are shaping your child’s attitude toward math, particularly if you’re a mom speaking to a daughter.  Your daughter loves you and seeks to be just like you.  She may pick up the false message math isn’t for girls.  Now most moms would never say, “I hate reading.  I hate books. I haven’t read a book since high school.”  Yet somehow it’s okay for parents to disparage their math skills. 


If YOU say your child is a dummie in math like you, you are setting your child up for failure.  Your child may choose not to disappoint you.  Like mother, like daughter?  Like father, like son?


My recommendation:  do not to share your negative math experience with your children but encourage them.  If you feel you must share this experience, frame it this way:


·      I had trouble with math but you won’t because you have a parent who really cares about your success in math and will help you.

·      Your teacher also cares about your success in math and will help you. 

·      You have resources I didn’t have such as fun workbooks, video tutorials, multiplication CDs and math video games.


My point is:  your negative experience should not influence your child.  Although you had a negative experience, you expect your child to have a positive experience.  You expect your child to succeed in math.  Your child will fulfill these expectations.  There are few parents who do not have the basic skills to make sure their third grader succeeds in math.   Do not project your negative experience onto your child but rather give him or her the extra help and reassurance your child needs to succeed. 


                      Image by Robert Hunt/

Multiplying by Eleven? Discover Fun, Easy Patterns!

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


Everyone loves multiplying numbers 1-9 by 11 because of their fun, double-number patterns:  11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 99.

For two-digit numbers, add the first and second digits and place the answer between these.  Example:  45 x 11 = ___.

·         Four plus five is 9.

·         Place 9 between 4 and 5.

·         The answer is 495.

When the sum of the first and second digits is greater than 9, increase the left-hand number by 1.  Example:  28 x 11 = ____. 

·         Add the first and second digits:  2 + 8 = 10. 

·         Add the 1 to the 2:  1 + 2 = 3.

·         Place the 0 between 3 and 8. 

·         The answer is:  308.

By teaching children these fun, easy patterns, we will instill in them a love of numbers and fascination with math.

A Deck of Cards to Practice the Times Tables?

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

deck-of-cardsHere’s a fun game your family can play to review the times tables.  For beginners, remove the face cards.  Give aces a value of 1.  Divide the deck into two. Take the top two cards of the each deck and have your child multiply these.  Example:  8 x 7 =? 

Why not also practice addition and subtraction at this time?  This will help reinforce the commutative property of multiplication and addition, i.e.,  8 x 7 is the same as 7 x 8.   The order does not matter.  8 x 7 = 7 x 8.   The same for addition:   8 + 7 is the same as 7 + 8.  However, the order  matters in subtraction.  8 – 7 is not the same as  7 – 8.  The order does matter.  8 – 7 = 1 but  7 -8= -1.  If  you owe someone $8 but give that person $7, you owe that person $1.  You are minus $1.

For more advanced students, include the face cards.  The King would represent 12; the Queen, table 11 and the Jack, is a wild card.  It can represent any number your child chooses.  Table 11 is easy because of its fun pattern —  the doubling of each number:  22, 33, 44 and so on.  Table 12 has to be learned.  If need be, provide pencil and paper and have your child actually do the multiplication.  This will give your child practice in double-digit multiplication. 

For multiplying numbers 10 to 18 by 11, notice how the middle number is the sum of the number being multiplied.  Example:  12 x 11 =  132  [1 + 2= 3 — three is the middle number.]  Another example:  14 x 11  = 154.   How easy is that?  When the sum is larger than 9 as in 19 x 11,  increase the left-hand number by 1.  Example:  11 x 9 =  209 [1 + 9 = 10.  The middle number will be 0.  Carry the 1 and 1+1 = 2]. 

Make learning math a GAME in your house.  Math is fun!

Bullying at School, the Phoebe Prince Tragedy

Friday, April 16th, 2010

I just read an article, “Girl’s Suicide Increases Urgency to Prevent Teen Bullying,” which appeared in The Seattle Times April 7, 2010.

Teen-age bullying is once again in the news with the tragic suicide of  fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince. This horrific story is all the more poignant as Phoebe and her family had recently immigrated to Massachusetts from a small town in Ireland and entered school only last year.   “She was new and she was from a different country and she didn’t really know the school very well,” Ashlee Dunn, a sixteen-year old sophomore, said.  (This quote and all others are from The Seattle Times article.)

I can see the movie version now:  idyllic Irish town where Phoebe is popular and respected by peers versus the daily hell of harassment she endured at South Hadley High.  After a brief relationship with a popular senior boy, some students called her an “Irish slut”  and began sending her abusive text messages.  District Attorney Elizabeth Schelbel said the events leading to Phoebe’s death were “the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm.”  Yet no one did anything to stop this harassment. 

On the last day of school, Phoebe was viciously harassed.  As she studied in the library,  students taunted her while others including a teacher watched.  A canned drink was thrown at her on her way home from school.  “It appears Phoebe’s death on January 14 followed a tortuous day for her in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse,”  Scheibel said.  Her sister discovered her body, dressed in school clothes, hanging in the stairwell.

Parents at South Hadley want accountability.  Why hadn’t teachers or administrators intervened?  Why wasn’t someone looking out for this young girl, new to the school and to America?  Last year in Springfield, MA an eleven-year-old boy committed suicide.  He too was unable to endure painful bullying.  Many of us experienced bullying at school but in our day other than a nasty phone call, bullying did not follow you into your home.  Today there is texting is at every teenager’s fingertips and Facebook is accessible 24/7  to friends and enemies.  The opportunities for bullying have grown exponentially. 

Parents, listen to your children.  Ask you child each day how the day went. If your child might be experiencing mood swings, depression or unwillingness to talk, seek out a therapist.  If there’s any hint of peer harrassment or cyberbullying, go immediately to the school principal. Ask the principal not only to speak to those bullying but their parents.  If this harrassment is happening in class, visit the teacher.  Ask to sit in the class. Speak to the school counselor.  If the school does not respond, consider removing your child from school and homeschooling at least for a period.   None of us would put up with this environment in the workplace.  Why should we put up with it in our schools?

We need a new model of schools, smaller schools with more counselors.  In smaller schools, students are better cared for and better supervised.  Teachers have fewer students and know them better.  Their job is easier.  No child in our schools need endure what Phoebe Prince endured.  No family should lose a child because of harassment or bullying by peers.  We must protect our children.   Coming to America should not mean losing a child to suicide because of teen bullying.

California spring is here!

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Like everyone else, I’ve been bogged down compiling receipts and statements to file my taxes.  The software does the math but still there is all that data to collect.    This is math time, number crunch times.  I always find it so darn . . .  taxing.

Okay, one step at a time, I tell myself and then glance out the window.    Spring has come and all the liquid amber in my garden shimmer in the sunlight.   Because of the copious amounts of rain in California this winter,  the hills are green.   The wild mustard in the canyons is now as tall as the hikers, bright yellow patches among every shade of green on the mountain slopes and beyond the deep blue of the Pacific.  So I’m heading out for a hike this afternoon.  The numbers can wait till this evening.