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April 29, 2013

BACK TO THE BASICS

Local teachers say math is essential

TARBORO — Elementary school educators are getting “back to the basics.”

A North Carolina bill requiring teachers to instruct students in cursive writing and the memorization of multiplication tables has been approved by the House and passed its first reading in the state Senate on April 8.  Local educators spoke out on the importance of students learning their multiplication tables.

Mandi Vick, a third grade teacher at G.W. Bulluck Elementary School, called the memorization of multiplication tables “a very important part of third grade.”

“We practice every day through games and flash cards. They’re assessed weekly on it,” she said. “They learn a new fact family every week.”

Knowing the multiplication tables is a “life skill” that a person would use in the real world, for processes such as balancing a checkbook, according to Vick.

“Once they learn their facts, it should come naturally for the rest of their life,” she said.

Susan Wilson, a third grade teacher at Stocks Elementary School, did fact practice with her students Friday afternoon to help with the memorization of multiplication tables.

“They roll dice and they multiply it by the number that comes up on the Smart Board,” said Wilson. She often uses “fact families” to teach the students; for instance, four times five equals 20 and 20 divided by five equals four.

“If they don’t know the facts of memorization for multiplication tables, they know they can add to get the answer…We start out with the concrete and then move to memorization,’ said Wilson. The students might draw a picture of two groups of four objects to represent two times four, or put four marbles in each of three bags to represent three times four.

“Once they memorize the facts, it helps them with two or three-digit multiplication,” said Wilson. Amy Pearce, administrative intern at Stocks and former high-school math teacher, agreed that multiplication tables are a building block skill.

“It just helps them when we’re looking at more advanced mathematical processes so that they don’t get stuck on the basic facts,” said Pearce. Like Wilson, Pearce sees the need for students to not only memorize their multiplication tables but also understand the mathematical process of multiplication.

“They need to understand the process of multiplication and know that it’s repeated addition,” Pearce said.

Ann Kent, coordinator of development studies at Edgecombe Community College and board of education chair, said she has seen a deficiency in basic math skills in younger community college students.

“We find students who have to go into our basic math, but then they place out of algebra. They’ve forgotten how to do the basic things, but they can do algebra,” she said.

Kent called skills, such as multiplication, addition and subtraction “survival skills” that are needed in real-life situations, such as figuring out the cost of a discounted item in a store.

“Starting in the fourth grade, students get to use a calculator,” said Kent. “There are some things you ought to be able to do without the aid of a calculator.”

 

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