Archive for March, 2010

“Who’s Afraid of the Seven Times Table?” Ian Stewart Asks

Monday, March 29th, 2010
Dr. Ian Stewart

Dr. Ian Stewart



I happened to come across an interesting article on,  the London Times’ website.   What caught my attention was the title:  “Who’s Afraid of the Seven Times Table?”  by Dr. Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick

When I developed my method for my son, we found table 7 the most difficult.  Why?  First of all, 7 in an odd number.   Even numbers are easy.  Table 10 has a super easy pattern and then tables 2, 4, 6 and 8 all end in some combination of 2-4-6-8-0!  How easy is that?  Now for the tables for odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.   Table 1 is a cinch, as is table 5 with its super easy pattern (don’t you love the rhyme?) and how about the pattern for 9?  Could any table be more fun?  Number 0-9 in the left column and 9 to 0 on the right.  See, you just completed table 9!   All multiples of 9 add up to 9.  Go ahead and try it:  18 (1  +9), 27 (2 + 9) and so on! 

I knew if the 9’s had a fun pattern, so would the 3’s because 9 is a multiple of 3 and math is always logical.  So my son and I sat down and guess what?  When you add up the multiples of 3, you get a 3-6-9 pattern.  Go ahead and try it:  12 (1+2), 15 (1+5), 18 (1+8).  So now only table 7 was left for us to ponder.  What I discovered is the last number decreases by 3.  So its pattern is the opposite of table 3 which increases by 3.

In Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, I present the tables in order of difficulty.  First, come tables 1 & 10, then tables 2 and 8 because of their similar patterns and then tables 4 and 6.  Now come odd numbers in this order: 5, 9, 3 and 7.   After publishing my book, it was gratifying to discover that mathematicians opined that table 7 was indeed the hardest to master.

In his article, Dr. Stewart states there are better ways of teaching the times tables than rote memorization.  That, in fact,  “times tables need not be boring at all.”  He goes on to say, “There are lots of hidden patterns in the numbers, lots of easy short cuts, lots of interesting fact with which to have fun.”  That’s what I found too.

Dr. Stewart describes the pattern for tables 10, 5, 9 and 7.  The last number of the 7’s, he explains, decreases by 3 .  He explains how you can figure out the 7’x on your mobile phone keypad.  You can do this because of how the numbers are configured on the keypad.   The column on the left is : 1, 4 and 7. Start with the 7 in the bottom row and work upward.  7 x 1 = 7.  Move up the keypad to 4 and 7 x 2 =14.  Move up to 1 for the third operation and 7 x 3= 21.   Patterns are fun!

Our mind is designed to search for patterns.  Patterns please us. Babies react more favorable to symmetical faces.  Symmetry is a pleasing pattern.

Patterns are easy to remember because we learn one rule and apply it to the whole.  If I told you my phone number was (214) 314-4114, you instantly would recognize a pattern and might not need to write the number down. So why not learn easy patterns for each of the tables?

My son loved disvereing patterns.  There’s excitement in discovery. I published Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables to help other families.   If all third graders thought “math is cool,” we’d have fewer school dropouts.  I won’t begin to ennumerate here the social consequences of children in the U.S. and elsewhere not knowing their times tables.  What I will do is urge parents to teach their children their times tables.   This skill is too important to be left to schools alone.  You can do it.  Better yet, you must do it.

Why Your High School Student Should Take AP Classes

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Many of my moms have children in high school.  If your student is bright and doing well in school, he/she may be aksed or encouraged to take AP classes.  Your highschooler  may resist because the AP class is harder and that this will affect his or her GPA.  Your highschooler might argue that after all the teacher is teaching the same class but not in the AP setting.  So you as a parent might think:  “Same course, same teacher, what’s the difference? ”

The difference is the other students in the classroom.  AP students are motivated.  They want to succeed.  The dialogue and debate in the class will be more analytical, informed and incisive.  For that reason, an AP class is an entirely different class.  Your highschooler will be challenged.  Better a B in an AP class than an A in a standard class.  College admissions will give greater weight to the B in an AP class.

Having spent fifteen years in the classroom, I can speak of the difference the caliber of students makes in a classroom.  It’s not that I lower the bar for them but rather they are not interested in clearing the bar or struggle to clear the bar.  AP students sail over the bar or set it even higher for themselves. 

Not only do your child’s classroom peers matter but those your child associates with after school.  In high school, peers have greater influence than a parent.  What is their attitude toward school?  If it’s a poor attitude and they disdain learning, your child will be influenced.  So pay attention to these friends and steer your child toward activities and sports where he/she will be with kids who have positive attitudes toward school and learning.

Myths about Homeschooling

Friday, March 19th, 2010

When I published my workbook in 2006, I went on homeschool sites, offering a free copy to any mom who wanted one.  I ended up giving 800+ copies to homeschool families around the country. Not only did I want their input but I knew if they liked my book, they would recommend it to others. 

Four years later, I’ve sold 9,000+ copies!  Having given out 800+ copies, I received emails, some extremely poignant, from moms all over the country who wrote to me about their children. What have I learned from homeschool moms?  That the following myths are not true:

Everyone who homeschools does so for religious reasons.  Not true.  Although many families do homeschool to promote their religious and moral values, there are secular homeschoolers.

Everyone who homeschools does so by choice.  Not true.  I’ve received any number of emails from moms, particularly from moms of special needs children, who tell me they had no option but to take their child out of school because the school was not addressing their child’s needs.  Some children had been severely misdiagnosed; others, horribly bullied or ignored by teachers.  Some mothers gave up the struggle and brought their child home.

Homeschool families homeschool all their children.  Not true.  As in the situation described above, a family may choose to homeschool a special needs child and leave other children in the classroom.

Homeschool families are white and middle class.  Not true.  I’ve heard from many African-American families who tell me they homeschool because they do not want their children, particularly their sons, to be “socialized” by underachieving peers. Not only do homeschool families represent all races and religions but social economic groups. As families depend on only one wage provider, some families  make great financial sacrifices to homeschool.  Budgets are often tight. 

Homeschooled children will not develop social skills.  Not true.  Homeschool children often have numerous siblings.  Their school is like the one-room schoolhouse frontier families attended.  Also through soccer teams, sports, music lessons and the like, there are numerous opportunities for children to socialize with others.

Homeschooled children may thrive in the elementary years but will suffer in the high school years because what parent could teach all those subjects?  Again not true.  I’ve found that in the high school years, moms find other homeschool moms proffcient in the subject, hire tutors or enroll a child in a community college class.  These children often take AP classes.

Universities frown upon homeschooled children.  Not true.  Universities like diversity in their student body.  Homeschooled children offer that.  Not only do they tend to be more self-directed and inquisitive but also well read.  Many have had opportunties for travel or have lived abroad.

Homeschooling families have rigid structures.  Not true.  Homeschooling gives families enourmous flexibility in scheduling.  Music lessons?  Why not in the morning when teachers are more readily available?  Five-day a week classes?  Why not four days and the fifth one spent at a museum or historical site?  Dad flying to New York on business?  Why not have the family go along and visit the Natural Science Museum and all the fascinating places the city has to offer?   Studying American History?  Why not a sidetrip to Washington D.C.?  There is great opportunity to make the world the virtual classroom.

Thank you to all the homeschool moms who shared their stories with me.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Survey of American Public School Teachers

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

In a continuing effort to improve education in our nation’s schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surveyed 40,000 public school teachers.  According to Vicki Phipps, the Gates Foundation’s education director, “Teachers are on the front lines of this work every day.  It doesn’t make sense not to be talking to teachers.”   The survey was conducted between March and June of last year.  Teachers were not told the Gates Foundation sponsored the survey.

Here are a few of the findings:

  • Supportive principals mean more than higher salaries.
  • 64% of teachers said merit pay was important in keeping good teachers.  
  • 29% of teachers belive a longer school day and year would impact student achievement.
  • 22% of teachers say evaluations by principals were an accurate measure of their work.  Teachers prefer evaluations based on how much their students learn.
  • 60% of teachers said setting learning standards in all states would hve a strong impact on student achievement.
  • 40% of teachers said students entered the classroom below grade level.
  • 12% strongly agree that traditional textbooks engage students.  Teachers  prefer digital media over textbooks. 
  • 97% of teacher said setting high expectations is essential in raising their students’ achievement. 

The Gates Foundation research will help shape our national debate on education.  I applaud them for asking teachers what they think.

Movie Recommendation: Precious, A Story of Triumph

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Because of its gritty subject matter, I initially resisted seeing Precious.  As you no doubt know by now Precious is the story of an illiterate African-American teen-ager, abused physically and mentally by her own mother and sexually by her father. 

Pregnant with her second child at sixteen, Precious is sent to an alternative high school  where she is placed in a small class of troubled young teen-age girls. Precious is saved  from a life of  despair and alienation by a caring teacher who asks Precious and the other students to keep a journal, each day writing their thoughts, feelings and events in their lives.  In a very real sense, the class is group therapy.   “I’m gonna break through or someone’s gonna break through to me,” Precious says early in the film.  The class is the catalyst for her breakthrough/transformation.

By writing her life,  Precious, in fact, “rights” her life.  She not only learns to read and write but creates a network of friends that love and support her.  After giving birth to a son and reunited with her daughter, she  now has her own family.  While working on a  GED, she and her children live in a half-way house.  Precious’ story  is a story of triumph. 

How many illiterate children are there like Precious?  If they are illiterate, they are likely to be innumerate as well.  Illiterate/innumerate teen-agers drop out of school.  They take low paying jobs.  They populate our prisons. The consequences to society are great.

 We need alternative high schools especially for pregnant teen-agers.  At risk teen-agers not only have children when very young but have more children, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and despair. 

This is a breakthrough film.  Mo’Nique is fearless in her depiction of the abusive mother.  She says she accepted the role to raise awareness of sexual abuse.  A victim of sexual abuse herself, she said playing this role was therapeutic.  Gabourey Sidibe inhabits Precious to such a degree that you feel as though you’re watching a documentary rather than a film.  Extraordinary performances by both!

Tablas de Multiplicar Multiplican Oportunidades para Sus Hijos

Sunday, March 7th, 2010


¿Cuándo perdió interés en las matemáticas?  ¿Nunca tuvo interés?  Tal vez, pero Eugenia Francis sabe cuando ocurrió con su hijo.  Fue el momento que todo niño enfrenta:  aprender por memoria las tablas de multiplicar.


Memorizar tabla por tabla fue una labor tediosa para su hijo. Eugenia decidió buscar un método más eficaz.  ¿Por qué no aprender cada tabla en contexto de las otras tablas y así entender la propiedad comutativa  (4 x 6 = 6 x 4) de las tablas?  Ella dibujó una matrícula para tablas 1-10.  Pronto descubrió patrones que descifró con su hijo.  Los misterios de las tablas se revelaron en una exploración diaria de la “magia” nunca discutida en la clase de tercer grado.  “Patrones hicieron a mi hijo sonreir,” dice Eugenia.  “Podía ver la estructura y supo que acertó la tabla.”


Nacida en México, Eugenia fue maestra de español e inglés en la Universidad de California Irvine.  “Patrones en literatura o matemáticas,” dice ella, “revelan la estructura fundamental.  Hay una simplicidad inherente en ellas, una belleza inherente.  Las matemáticas deben estimular la imaginación.” 


En casa, Eugenia aplicó sus habilidades pedagógicas a las tablas.  ¿Por qué no aprender las tablas en orden de dificultad?  Las tablas 2, 4, 6 y 8 son fáciles a aprender porque terminan en números pares: 2-4-6-8-0.  ¿Por qué no un método más creativo?  Así originó Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, Fast, Fun & Easy y la edición en español, Enseñe a Su Hijo las Tablas de Multiplicar, Método Fácil, Rápido y Divertido (en Amazon y


Fáciles de recordar, patrones facilitan el aprendizaje.  California Homeschool News reporta:  “Mi hija piensa que [el libro] es muy entretenido.  Ella tuvo varios momentos “ah-ha” al reconocer y predecir los patrones.”   Patrones ayudan la memoria.  “Niños con TDAH, dislexia y autismo tienen éxito con mi método,” dice Eugenia. Aprender a reconocer patrones desarolla la habilidad analítica del estudiante. 


Padres y maestros deben asegurar que sus hijos o estudiantes aprendan las tablas.  “Sin las tablas, su hijo está perdido,” dice Eugenia.  El estudiante que no ha dominado las tablas tendrá dificultad avanzar en las matemáticas más allá del tercer grado. Una reciente editorial en The Los Angeles Times observó que reprobar Algebra I es “el obstáculo más grande para obtener la diploma de secundaria” y la falta de dominar las tablas es una de las principales razones.


Según una encuesta de maestros de Algebra I en California, el 30% de sus estudiantes no dominan las tablas.  No es asombrante entonces que en habilidad matemática, los estudiantes estaunidenses de quince años ocupan un bajo rango entre las naciones industrializadas.  “Tenemos una de los más altos porcentajes de estudiantes que abandonan secundaria en el mundo industrializado,” indicó Bill Gates.  “Si continuamos con el sistema que tenemos, millones de niños nunca tendrán la oportunidad de cumplir su promesa.  Esto es ofensivo a nuestros valores.”


Maestros deben innovar y presentar la magia de las matemáticas en la clase.  Padres también deben cumplir con su obligación.  “Padres tienen una gran influencia sobre un hijo en el tercer or cuarto grado,” dice Eugenia.  “En secundaria puede ser demasiado tarde.  ¿Por qué no tomar la oportunidad de enseñar las tablas de multiplicar para darle a su hijo o hija una ventaja en las matemáticas y al mismo tiempo desarrollar las habilidades analíticas necesarias para el álgebra?  Dominio de las tablas de multiplicar es esencial para el futuro de su hijo o hija.”


Eugenia publicó su cuaderno de ejercicios para ayudar a otras familias.  “Si nosotros hicieramos para hijos ajenos lo que hacemos para nuestros hijos, aseguraríamos el futuro de todos nuestros hijos.”



                                 Datos sobre Eugenia Francis


Nacida en México, Eugenia Francis fue maestra de español e inglés en la Universidad de California Irvine.  Cuando su hijo encontró memorizar las tablas de multiplicar una labor tediosa, ella inventó su propio método – un método fácil, rápido y divertido.  Enseñe a Su Hijo las Tablas de Multiplicar y la edición en inglés, Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, se venden en Amazon y en


Benefits of Workbook for Children with Dyslexia

Friday, March 5th, 2010

I received an email  from a mom whose 3rd grade daughter has dyslexia.  She found my book on Amazon and decided to give it a try.  She mentions the following benefits:

  1. My workbook is entertaining to her daughter.
  2. Her daughter is amazed at the patterns she unlocks.
  3. Her daughter loves the repetition.
  4. Repetition is good for dyslexic children.
  5. The multiplication problems are in large font.
  6. The spacing of problems is good.
  7. Spacing has to be ample so the numbers don’t blur into one another.
  8. Her daughter likes that the first or last number is given.  This jogs her memory.
  9. The shading in the problems needing to be completed is a huge help to her.

This mom ends with:  “Thank you for all the help this workbook has given to us and the confidence it has brought to my daughter.”

The features also help children with ADD/ADHD.  If you have a story about your child and his/her response to my method, I would love to hear from you on my blog or on the CONTACT button on my website.  If your child has AUTISM, I would like to know how your child did with my method.  I know autistic children love patterns.

Many Thanks to Jackie in the UK!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

This review appeared on Amazon:

Best Multiplication tables book!  I bought a multiplication book, but then saw this one and bought this too. This is by far the best multiplication book. It is fun and easy and my little one loves it. I am glad I got this one. Absolutely perfect. 

My response  Jackie in the UK,
Thank you for your review! When my son balked at learning the tables through rote memorization, I knew there had to be a better way! Day by day, we discovered amazing patterns for each of the tables. I published my method to help other families. I smile when I imagine your son at the kitchen table with his mum in the UK much like Scott and myself when he was in the 3rd grade. Why not eliminate all that agony in learning the tables? Why not a creative, innovative approach that just might instill in your child a love of numbers and fascination with math? Thanks again, Eugenia Francis (the author)










Movie Scripts to Teach Your Child to Read?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Monday I posted tips on teaching your child to read in Teach Your Child to Read.  In my blog, I suggested downloading scripts of your child’s favorite movies from

 I just logged on to this site.  Out of 100+ scripts,  I found the following scripts that might interest your child:

Back to the Future,  Ferris Bueller,  Indiana Jones,  Jurassic Park, Princess Bride,  Spider Man,  Star Trek,  Stuart Little and Toy Story

You can decide which would be most appropriate for your child.  The format is easy to read as the descriptions are brief and the rest is dialogue.  If you can’t find a script for a favorite movie, you can often find the novel such as The Karate Kid, one of my son’s favorite movies.

My experience as both a mom and a university English teacher is:  discover what your child is passionate about and find books that nurture that interest.  When your child has a question, google the question or go online to wikipedia.  Thanks to the internet, we all have extraordinary resources at our fingertips.  Remember a parent is a child’s first and primary teacher.

Seashells by the seashore . . . Stimulate Your Child’s Innate Curiosity

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

By the time my daughter was eight, she had an amazing collection of shells from vacations at the beach.  One trip to St. Thomas provided a treasure trove of unusual shells, among them: cowries and conches.

“Mom,” she would ask, “what are the names of these shells?”   One by one, we would look at angel wings with their delicate plaid patterns and rosy clam shells and shiny olive shells.  “What are their real names?” she would ask.  “Real names?” I replied.  “Like in the dictionary, mom?” 

So off we went to the library and came home with books.  An olive shell, we found was an Olividae; a cowry, a Cypraeidae and a conch, a Strombidae.  We explored what these names meant in Latin. Each shell was placed in a plastic bag and tagged with its name.  When we returned the books, Gina asked if she could display her shells in the library display case.   Printed next to each shell was its English name and its Latin name. The local paper took her photo and ran a story on Gina and her shell collection. 

Just like a chambered nautilus, a child builds an intellectual framewrok from a tiny center, chamber by chamber.   Your child too can be an expert in his/her world.  Encourage collecting.  Explore how things are different and similar.  Learn to categorize in groups.  Why is a chambered nautilus called that?  Today we have the internet and can easily find answers.  Curiosity leads us on incredible adventures.