# Math Fact Trouble

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I am a first time homeschooler so I am really not sure what to expect or if my expectations are too high... I am frustrated over math and really, should I be because it is just math?!!

My daughter is almost 7 and we have always homeschooled. She LOVES to read and rememeber her phonics sounds (abeka) after seeing them once. She is even reading the Boxer Car Children, book 3, along with other level 4 readers from the library without much trouble. So she is clearly VERY smart and can learn however... when we go through the same fact over, and over, and over and over and over and over for a week she still does not remember it from 2 mintues prior (or even 30 seconds prior...). Like 4+1=6. What?!! 4 and 1 more is....5. Okay then 4+1 more =??? I dont know.

This week we are working on 4+1, 2+3, 2+4 - but she can not remember seconds after telling me the whole fact with the correct answer. Hu? We have tried games for learning facts, we have tried card games (she loves war), I signed her up for the xtramath site and she gets a 10 or yesterday she had less then that, 3 facts right. I know part of that is she is not used to tablets as we are a low tech family.

I just want to back off and take it slow, like does it really matter if she does not memorize them?!! But then how will she ever learn to multiply or divide? Did your children remember all their facts within 3-4 seconds after asking them (without counting) and if not could they move on?

As far as curriculum... we started with Abeka i kindergarten but half way through it got to be too much so I just copied some the Rod and Staff Black Lines sheets and used them. This year we made it to lesson 98 in Rod and Staff 1st grade book but it will take her an hour to do it, mostly because she finds all the adding/subtracting boring, which I get. But even with all the R&S practice she could not get 4+1 without thinking forever and counting her fingers. I purchased Math U See Alpha for her right before Christmas - at first it was great - she could see the patterns 1+....=..... but the next day she would forever and we would have to start over... and this went on and on.  So, how come she can remember long passages of scripture and read anything around her but can not remember math?! We are currently using Abeka 1st grade math but on lesson 25 - she LOVES it. She says it is not math, it is fun :) But I know abeka and someday it will not be fun... because they move fast and without fact memorizing she will struggle.

I am clearly way too frustrated but all of my homeschooling friends have children younger then me, so they cant help. I dont know who to ask or talk to about this...

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Oh, let me give you a hug!

First, I want to say there seems like there is a disconnect between the memorization and the visualization.  I wouldn't work on the memorization until after she can visualize it every time.  The memorization comes after that happens, otherwise it's just nonsense.  We spent an entire month when we did MEP when it was just math facts up to 3: 0+3, 1+2, 1+1+1...and so on.  It seemed soooooooooo slow, but it was so right for my kid!  He needed to see the numbers build and do it again and again. Once he started visualizing as '5' bonds (5+..., 10+...) his brain made leaps and bounds!

Do you use manipulatives?  Are you consistent with them?  If not, I'd suggest getting a set of c-rods and have her build every problem you give her until she starts to see it in her head first.  Give her as much time with manipulatives as you can until she doesn't want them anymore, whether it's days, months, or years.

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Oh, let me give you a hug!

First, I want to say there seems like there is a disconnect between the memorization and the visualization. I wouldn't work on the memorization until after she can visualize it every time. The memorization comes after that happens, otherwise it's just nonsense. We spent an entire month when we did MEP when it was just math facts up to 3: 0+3, 1+2, 1+1+1...and so on. It seemed soooooooooo slow, but it was so right for my kid! He needed to see the numbers build and do it again and again. Once he started visualizing as '5' bonds (5+..., 10+...) his brain made leaps and bounds!

Do you use manipulatives? Are you consistent with them? If not, I'd suggest getting a set of c-rods and have her build every problem you give her until she starts to see it in her head first. Give her as much time with manipulatives as you can until she doesn't want them anymore, whether it's days, months, or years.

We do use manipulatives but not consistantly. We gave up MUS because she would get confused... Spending 5 minutes to prove to me that 2+3=6, which never worked and then she would realize she was wrong but by then I was frustrated and put them away... Math comes easy to me so I am probably not being empathetic to her.

I made the mistake of telling her to count on her fingers when she was little so she now hides her hands in her lap or behind her back to figure out the problems - she prefers this to the abacus. She say it is faster with fingers... Yesterdays math went well, we used chocolate chips to find the missing number but today I told her to try and do them by memory. Oppps... On that xtramath site it says she should memorize them not count so that is why I told her not to use them... I am probably messing her up by confusing her so much, always changing everything... What is MEP? Thanks!!

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We use xtra math to drill facts.

YES, it is important to memorize the facts. But it is a marathon, not a race. Work on it a little everyday using something like xtramath -- if you do it everyday the strangeness of it being a "tablet" should go away and the app gives you good places to stop. I try to get my daughter to do at least two rounds a day when we pick it up (Some days are too busy and we don't get to it)  Three on the weekend.  It is "computer time" I'm okay with because it is so important to learn these.and I have not found a better way (for my kids) to drill than xtramath. And then go on to regular math where they can get the answer any way they want (Even counting on their fingers). Long after my son learned the "Easier" math facts, I'd occasionally find him counting the higher ones. OR doing +5 in his heads and then adding one. But all of these are strategies.  If she can do the math, I'd just keep drilling the math facts in bits and pieces and not stress over it.

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You probably want to make her use manipulatives every time (try cuisennaire-sp?- rods like the PP mentioned, or anything she can count) and not worry at all whether she can do any fact by memory for a while, like a few months. Then you could check again to see whether she's making the connections, and make sure she is, before working on facts practice. FWIW "smart" can have very little to do with whether a kid gets a particular concept easily...doing super well in one area, or a few areas, does not mean they'll do well on everything across the board.

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We do use manipulatives but not consistantly. We gave up MUS because she would get confused... Spending 5 minutes to prove to me that 2+3=6, which never worked and then she would realize she was wrong but by then I was frustrated and put them away... Math comes easy to me so I am probably not being empathetic to her.

I made the mistake of telling her to count on her fingers when she was little so she now hides her hands in her lap or behind her back to figure out the problems - she prefers this to the abacus. She say it is faster with fingers... Yesterdays math went well, we used chocolate chips to find the missing number but today I told her to try and do them by memory. Oppps... On that xtramath site it says she should memorize them not count so that is why I told her not to use them... I am probably messing her up by confusing her so much, always changing everything... What is MEP? Thanks!!

LOL, see, now I don't want to give the information, because MEP is a full, rigorous math program and it would seem shiny and new..... :lol:

There are things that could help: Kate Snow's Addition Facts That Stick would be a big one.  You have MUS blocks, so I'd use those to play math with them for a few minutes each day with Gattegno or Education Unboxed. Just a little bit to ease into lessons.

Starting to see numbers as groups will help later.  If I was to make a recommendation for a full curriculum switch it would be to Right Start, where numbers are presented in a variety of ways, but focuses on making those groups of 5 and 10 to build from.  Even the abacus is groups of 5 of each color bead.  But you can do that on your own with making a 10 frame from an old egg carton to do addition at first.

My goal in math is to first be able to understand the question, then prove the answer (using manipulatives and teaching back to the parent), then mastery.  So my kid is first asked what should happen, then how to do it, and then learning how to do it automatically and finally memorization.

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Using her fingers is not the end of the world. She is, after all, only seven. She will memorize her math facts when she's calculated them a bajillion times, and not a day before. Until then, it's okay for her to use manipulatives, and fingers are manipulatives.

If you give her a problem like 4 + 2, does she hold up four fingers, then say "five, six" while holding up two more, or does she have to start by first counting "one, two, three, four"?

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Using her fingers is not the end of the world. She is, after all, only seven. She will memorize her math facts when she's calculated them a bajillion times, and not a day before. Until then, it's okay for her to use manipulatives, and fingers are manipulatives.

If you give her a problem like 4 + 2, does she hold up four fingers, then say "five, six" while holding up two more, or does she have to start by first counting "one, two, three, four"?

But she has calculated 4+1 at least a couple hundred times... It has been two years, not 'the day before' as you stated.

It is nice to know fingers are not the end of the world but to a NEW homeschool mom who reads the teacher manuals for multiple curriculums that state it is the end of the world (or more like dont do it, they should not 'count'). Everyone on welltrained mind says xtramath... But they also teach no counting!! How can you confidently say its okay to count with sarcasm about her age when us new moms are told over and over not too. Even MUS says she needs to recall 4+1 within seconds before moving on!

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I don't think Tanaqui was being sarcastic.  She's often very straightforward with her thoughts.  I think she raised an important question - does she need to start over counting when she adds more, or can she continue the number sequence without stopping?

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I don't think Tanaqui was being sarcastic. She's often very straightforward with her thoughts. I think she raised an important question - does she need to start over counting when she adds more, or can she continue the number sequence without stopping?

She has to start over. I though have tried the number line, counting up from, ect but she does not get it...

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Have you looked into dyscalculia?

Not being able to recall immediately that 1 more than 4 is 5, at age 6 sounds like an issue that goes beyond not being able to memorize her facts. This is about understanding the concept of addition and knowing how to count up to 5, and putting those two things together.

I'd cross-post on learning challenges.

(And it has nothing to do with being smart or not!)

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I wasn't being sarcastic this time, and if I sounded like I was, I'm sorry. I was, in fact, dead serious.

If she has to start from the very beginning every single time then I think it's time to be concerned. At seven, even a child who is not very confident in arithmetic should have enough understanding to be able to "count on". Adding this to the fact that her problems start with n+1 and her recall is very poor even minutes after she calculates that (or is informed of the correct answer) and I think it's time to get a professional evaluation. It does start to sound like a learning disability*.

And as others said, it has nothing to do with intelligence! (Indeed, in order to be diagnosed with a learning disability you have to be of average intelligence or higher.) But if you don't get this handled, and fast, she's going to start thinking to herself that she IS stupid. And then you'll really have a problem.

I suggest you drop math entirely for a while except for where it occurs naturally - doing baking or cooking, sorting things in the house, counting out cookies - and tell her simply that you don't want to continue until you find the right curriculum for her. This is the truth. And in the meantime, get her assessed. If you're in the US the schools should do it for free even if you're not registered. That's the law. They might try to evade the law or fob you off. Ignore this.

If you decide it's better to do it privately, be prepared to shell out some big bucks for that. Insurance should cover part of it. And while you're working on that, you really should crosspost in the learning challenges board. I know many people here have kids with dyscalculia, and at least a few posters have that disorder themselves! They can definitely help you.

* On the off chance that you use British usage, what we call "learning disability" in the US is what Brits call "learning difference". They use "learning disability" to mean something else, so I don't want to confuse the issue. If I just have confused the issue, forget this footnote entirely.

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I'd suggest just backing off your formal math curriculum for a bit and do something like The Cuisenaire Alphabet Book with Cuisenaire rods.

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I would be more concerned if there was a conceptual problem and she couldn't get the answer with manipulatives or her fingers. She is still really young and math facts are very abstract. I would keep using manipulatives and objects to make it real to her for as long as you need to- plenty of time for math facts later. You can use manipulatives with any curriculum you choose or just play math games with them. If she isn't able to understand with the manipulatives, I would look more deeply into what is going on with math, possibly with some kind of testing services.

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Please no number lines till 2nd grade, its too conceptual. Like why does zero have a dash when its nothing? Use number paths instead although I am not a big fan of using number lines. We use cuisenaire rods, Math U See blocks, a ten frame, rekenrek and an abacus. She needs to see and handle manipulatives right now (concrete), then pictorial (drawings), then abstract (written numerals).

http://www.rondout.k12.ny.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=20319882

Finger counting is fine at her stage, they are a handy manipulative.  :lol: How about striking a deal with her, "I see you like counting on your fingers. How about every other problem I will let you count on your fingers. But on the other problems I want you to use rods/blocks/rekenrek/abucus/tenframe."

Mental math strategies are something I teach in addition to our math book. We use Kate Snow's Addition Facts that Stick. We also use Building Math fluency from Evan Moore and I really like these. http://www.evan-moor.com/p/2555/Building-Math-Fluency-Grade-1

I also use Teaching Trove's addition and subtraction strategies resources

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When you do R&S arithmetic, are you doing the oral class time with her, including the flash cards and whatnot? And do you sit with her while she does the seatwork?

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We use Reflex Math to cement the math facts, and my child loves it. There is a one month free trial if you want to check it out.

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FWIW, fingers are another form of manipulative.  I have no issues with fingers being used if the child is still needing manipulatives.  The jump to abstract thinking can be a difficult one.

Also, frankly math fact memorization can take years.  And for some of us it has never happened, not entirely (and I mean my husband and I).  I still run the family business and my husband is a successful engineer.  Not having math facts memorized in their entirety, while making things a bit slower, was not the end of the world by any means.

If she is getting concepts then separate out the two processes.  Allow her to use a math fact chart or create her own and use that during normal math lessons so her resources aren't bogged down by lack of math fact recall.  Work on math facts separately.  Sometimes all a brain needs is something more to anchor those math facts to so having "real" math to work on without getting stuck in the quagmire of trying to find math facts in her head may help math facts solidify as she uses her chart.

That being said, this seems to go beyond just struggles with math fact memorization.  It seems she may have weak subitization skills and possibly low working memory.

I would honestly run her through the Ronit Bird materials to solidify subitization skills.  She may or may not have a diagnosable math issue of some kind (such as dyscalculia) but she obviously has some sort of disconnect that is making this process harder than normal.  Try the Ronit Bird materials for a couple of months and see if she can start to improve her subitization skills.  Probably start with the e-books.  It will be basic.  She may need that.  I think somewhere along the line she missed a basic step in the process of building number sense and some kids are not born with those basic building blocks that just come naturally to others.  Some kids need those very basic building blocks taught explicitly, from many different approaches, before they internalize.

http://www.ronitbird.com/

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Let her use her fingers! Why Kids Should use Their Fingers in Math Class

My oldest was a lot like your daughter. She did very well with reading but math was not her thing. Rod and Staff math did not work for her. We switched to Developmental Mathematics. It was a much better fit for her. Christian Light would also be better than Rod and Staff.

Susan in TX

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I wanted to come back to this and add some things to this discussion.

First, big hugs.  What seems so simple to you is hard for her and you don't know why or how to help.  That can make this a rather painful process.  Hang in there.  Many times many a homeschooling parent has walked this road. You are not alone.

Second, this isn't "just math".  This is math.  Math can be an incredibly challenging subject.  If you browse through old posts you will see that there are a TON of kids that struggle with this subject.  Embrace that for your child this may take quite a bit of time and effort on your part to find ways to help her but also try not to stress.  She is young.  You have time.  AND you are homeschooling, which means you can go at her pace, work with her to find things that help this particular child.  Try hard to be understanding.  Her brain may be working 10 times harder than yours to move a tiny step forward.  Something isn't clicking.  It isn't her fault.  It isn't your fault.  It just is.  Work to help her while also supporting her.  This may take a lot of time and patience.

FWIW, math was a hard subject for me.  My grandmother taught math for 33 years.  She was brilliant at math.  So was my dad. So is my brother.  Not me.  It was hard for any of them to help me because they intuited things that I could not.  I needed a slower path, with a lot more explicit instruction, instruction they honestly had no clue I needed because that level of understanding was just THERE, in their heads.  My teachers could not help me much, either though.  Unfortunately, I was in ps and slowing down, going at my pace, finding materials that worked better for me, was not an option.  I got behind.  I got lost.  I have discovered I do enjoy math but it took a long time to get there.

One bit step for me, though, was separating math from math facts.  Conceptual understanding of what I am doing has helped so much more than rote memorizing.  I had to come to the understanding that some brains do not rote memorize with any success.  My brain is one of those.  I don't easily rote memorize anything and retention long term for something rote memorized is usually very poor.  My daughter is the same.  What we need are associations, and the "meat" of math to help us anchor to math.  We need something for our brains to hang information on.  Rote memorizing anything does not give us that.

I can divide/multiply and do a host of other math processes without having my math facts entirely memorized.  I have things to anchor to.  I can skip count.  I understand the concepts behind these things (up to a point) and can use mental and physical manipulatives to figure out answers.  I have other tools in my tool belt as well.  I have successfully run the family business for 20 years.  I handle all the finances.  I just had to find other ways to tackle math than relying on rote memorized math facts.

Does that mean people shouldn't try?  No.  Memorizing math facts can be a HUGE help.  What helps more, though, is actually understanding what one is doing and why they are doing it, IMHO.

Again, though, for some there are basic building blocks that most people are born with but others are not.  Those building blocks have to be built and it may take time, even years, to do so.  I really think your child is missing one of those foundational pieces.  Look at the Ronit Bird materials linked up thread.  See if running through those might help her build a better math foundation.

Hugs and good luck.

ETA:  On a side note, CLE math actually incorporates math fact practice as a separate thing from math lessons all the way through elementary.  Kids can use a math chart as needed.  They work through math concepts and algorithms with the chart as they need to while they slowly internalize math facts from separate math fact practice and the application of math facts in their lessons.

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Haven't read all of the above posts -- but we had these sorts of issues. Dd is a fantastic reader and an eager learner, but part of her personality is that she does everything really slowly. I stopped to spend a month and a half last year just on addition facts, and I don't think she really showed much improvement. And it was not just flash cards, I found all sorts of games and Kate Snow and all......And I just gave up on focusing on the facts. We picked up our regular math curriculum and she was SO relieved to do something other than math facts. She has the ability to pick up concepts much more quickly than the facts. A year later, I can confidently say she is a lot faster with addition facts, and has had a somewhat easier time learning her multiplication facts, but is still slow on them. This is something I have just decided to let go of. She is making progress on her own terms, even if it seems ridiculously slow to the rest of the world.  I figure it is much better to understand the concepts and be able to apply them, than it is to just know the facts.

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