Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Are you smarter than a third grader?

Posted February 19, 2012

Recently, my daughter brought to my attention that she needed help with her multiplication tables. No problem, so I thought. I’m forty-something years old, surely I can recall this stuff.

I decided we would do it the old-fashioned way and made cue cards for each different equation. The cue cards sat on our kitchen windowsill and were often used at mealtimes until she nailed a particular table.

She also wanted to review these mathematical facts in the car as we drove to school. This became challenging as I could not use the cue cards while I was driving. I too had to memorize the tables again. I suddenly realized that I might not pass third grade math. I had become so reliant on the calculator in my phone that multiplication table knowledge had vanished into thin air along with my high school knowledge of French.

It was a wake-up call for me, the realization that learning doesn’t always stick, especially if we don’t use it. Are you smarter than a third grader?

“Sweetie, don’t worry about it. If you forget one, but you know the one before or after it, just add or subtract the number,” I said trying to be as clear as possible when my daughter got frustrated after missing an equation.

“No, Mom, I have to memorize them,” she said exasperated.

“I know. But you should also understand how multiplication works. That way you can always figure it out in your head,” I replied.

And I should know. I’m learning how to do it again thanks to my third grader…

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including two on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • thewayitis Feb 20, 2012

    I've learned so much as I'm teaching my kids. I don't even think it's stuff I've forgotten -- I think I never learned it to begin with.

    Anyhow, for math facts, try the Flashmaster. It has worked wonders at my house. I was amazed at how much faster my boys could do all sorts of math problems after memorizing their facts -- not just multiplication, but division, addition and subtraction, too.

  • Willie_11 Feb 20, 2012

    Remember back in high school math when you thought "I'm never going to use this stuff in the real world!" ??? Well, here we are not using it for a career but for the kids.

  • lseltmann Feb 20, 2012

    When my son was in the third grade, I ordered from Amazon the School House Rock video on multiplication. The songs help kids remember better. It also took me back to my Saturday mornings as a kid! You can get other School House Rock videos on grammar as well.

  • tidymaid Feb 20, 2012

    Hi! My girlfriend puts these cue cards all around her kitchen and as she is preparing dinner and the children are helping they are memorizing the card.