kitchen table math, the sequel: a parent on Trailblazers homework

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

a parent on Trailblazers homework

I encountered this in my 3rd grader's homework. He learned his math tables from 1-5 and knows the 10s and 11s. His homework consisted of 30 multiplication problems; 7 of them were problems that he had never seen before.

9 x 9, 6 x 9, 7 x 6, blank x 7 = 49, blank x 6 = 36, 9 x blank = 63, and blank x 9 = 45.

The worksheet was called "Tracking Down Facts." He was upset by this. It was not covered in the classroom so he had no idea what to do. Leaving them blank is not an option for him -- he hates to get in trouble. He likes to do his homework on his own so he doesn't want to ask me for help. His feelings were anger, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, desperation and finally he broke down and asked me what the answers were.

I sat down with him and asked him what 9 x 10 was and he knew and then I asked him how he could do some easy math to figure out what 9 x 9 was. He got it and painfully worked out all the other problems. This is how my child is learning math with Trailblazers. How did this scenario play out in all the different homes in town?

This is not helping children think through math problems -- it is teaching them how to cope.

I think parents assume that homework is a review of material covered in the classroom -- at least in early grades. I think that parents would be shocked to know that this is one of the core principles of Trailblazers: let the child struggle through problems they have not seen before and come up with their own strategies to solve them and then painfully explain their answers.


farmwifetwo said...

I disliked this because it shouldn't be taught like this. There are math rules for finding missing numbers and instead they are guessing.

I taught my son how to do it properly. And long form...

rocky said...

I like it. They should gently remind the kids of the meaning of multiplication. Using rows of 9:

6x9 =
ooooooooo (1)
ooooooooo (2)
ooooooooo (3)
ooooooooo (4)
ooooooooo (5)
ooooooooo (6)
so 6x9=54

For [blank]x9=45, we ask how many rows of 9 do we need to make 45.

After doing this exercise, tell your student in your best Foghorn-Leghorn voice that, Fortunately, I say, Fortunately I have memorized them for just such an emergency.

lgm said...

I remember these from Houghton Mifflin. HM gave them as word problems instead of straight numbers. The thing to remember is the 3rd grade objectives: a. knowing and understanding the concept of multiplication b. learning to solve problems by drawing a picture or finding a pattern etc c.there is more than one solution to find the answer

.."asked me what the answers were"....ouch. His teacher needs to be stressing solution, not answer.

It played out well here b/c the instructor did a very good job and the class was diverse enough to get many child offered solutions. My kid did learn a lot of Polya's strategies from this. My kiddo didn't have to be remediated that year; his sib who was taught finger tricks for multliplication did have to put the summer into making-up 3rd grade.

CassyT said...

Shouldn't a child who knows his 5s tables be able to answer "blank x 9 = 45?

I'm surprised that he hasn't mastered / learned his 6s, 7s, 8s, & 9s yet.

Anonymous said...

ok for example, 9 x _= 63
The first step is to write out all the numbers from 1 to 63 (or 100 so that you could use this approach for every fact in the table). Start with 9, circle it and circle every 9th number. Then write out all the circled numbers in order. '63' would be the 7th number in the list. So 9x7=63.


lgm said...

Sure, using a hundreds chart is a valid solution. Another approach is to think "I already know 5x9 is 9x5 is 45, so add another 9 and 9x6 is 54 -not high enough - add another 9 and 9x7 is" A kid that has grasped the multiplication concept can do this easily in Gr. 3imhe at this time of year no matter what the curriculum.

Mom is living in the land of denial right now, thinking it's Trailblazers. It's not - the concept of multiplication is part of every public school curriculum. Polya's problem solving method and strategies are also included in many curriculums. If she wants her child to excel, she needs to provide remediation as he's missing several key concepts that both the 2nd and 3rd grade teacher taught. She needs to regard this as a wake-up call and understand that no school is going to remediate this child b/c no school remediates average children to get them to above average. Excellence is not a goal of public school.

Catherine Johnson said...

Shouldn't a child who knows his 5s tables be able to answer "blank x 9 = 45?

I didn't ask, but I assume the issue with that problem is that the elementary schools here mark kids wrong if they don't do homework the "Trailblazers way."

e.g.: if a child has the computation 8x8 & answers 64, the answer is marked wrong because he was supposed to estimate, not multiply. This has happened to the children of at least two parents I know.

So, in this assignment, if the child simply 'filled in the blank,' he would be marked wrong.

CassyT said...

Catherine said: elementary schools here mark kids wrong if they don't do homework the "Trailblazers way."

Words fail me.