As a child, I enjoyed math in school and did fairly well at it. I liked the symmetry and order of numbers, and found multiplication a particularly scintillating procedure (and yes, I am serious; I was a weird kid). By the time I crossed the Rubicon from fractions and decimals into algebra, I could already see I was in trouble. For some reason, I could never get right orders of operations and other algebraic procedures. For some reason I felt, and continue to feel, ashamed of this intellectual inadequacy.

Of course, I am tempted to blame my math teachers in middle school, who were indeed dismal; both of my eighth grade math teachers clearly hated kids. Since I was getting more than enough of that sentiment elsewhere in my life at the time, I avoided them. So I suppose I am at fault as well.

Unsurprisingly, I have been and remain a terrible math teacher. I’ve developed some literacy lessons on both math and science, but they are more reading comprehension work than actual cognitive work in the domains themselves. That said, I have become interested (to some extent for obvious personal reasons) in helping struggling students improve their own understanding of the math curriculum they are expected to master. To that end, I’ve proposed to a colleague in the mathematics department at my school that we collaborate on developing some math learning supports for our struggling students.

This morning I wrote this super multiplication table as a start on this endeavor. I know this doesn’t necessarily augur great sophistication in this project; it’s worth considering, however, how many students who struggle with math do so because they never learned their multiplication tables. As with all of the material posted on Mark’s Text Terminal, this is a Microsoft Word document that you can chop and repurpose as many times as your circumstances require. Indeed, you may end up with as many versions of this as you have students.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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Math was NEVER my strong suit, and for the first half of my teaching career I was a pretty lame-o math teacher. Then for a brief span of time we had a fantastic math department, I took a year-long class with a master math teacher, and everything changed. I think you are right about multiplication being pivotal, but even before that — do they have basic number sense? You might be surprised to find out what they don’t know.

A couple of things about multiplication: It could be valuable for some students to use a blank grid and construct their own multiplication table. Another tip — when Anna was learning her “times table” her teacher had her make study cards using graph paper to model each equation on the table. For instance 5 x 3 was represented by cutting out a 5×3 rectangle from graph paper, gluing it to an index card, and labeling it 5×3=15. I don’t know if that is too juvenile-seeming for your students or not. Ken-Ken puzzles are good for building those math muscles, as are games. Teaching math is one of the things I really miss these days.

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