Archive for February, 2009

An English teacher’s approach to the times tables — the benefits of cross-pollination

Friday, February 20th, 2009

When my son struggled to learn the times tables through tiresome drills, I knew there had to be a better way. So I applied my skills as a university English lit teacher and day by day the mysteries of the multiplication tables unfolded. We discovered patterns for each of the tables. Patterns enhance memory and make learning fun. I published my method to help other families.

The question I’m asked the most is: “How is it that an English teacher would write an innovative math book?” Tom Kelley explains it best:

“Cross-pollinators see patterns and spot key differences. But they’ve also honed the skill of applying those subtle differences in new context. They think and often express themselves in metaphors, enabling them to see relationships that others miss. They’re matchmakers, creating unusual combinations that spark innovative hybrids.” (Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation.)

As an English teacher, not only had I learned to think and express myself in metaphors but also look for patterns. Patterns whether in literature or math reveal the underlying structure. There is an inherent simplicity in them, an inherent beauty. Math too can be taught in such a way that it engages your child’s imagination. In essence, I saw the multiplication tables as a text to decode. In doing so, I found amazing similarities between the tables and fascinating patterns. So my workbook is a result of cross-pollination of skills I learned as an English teacher applied to math.