Fluent math fact recall is a struggle in SO many households. What should a parent do when they find that their student is using ineffective recall strategies? In this episode, we discuss WHY fluent fact recall is so essential and how Math-U-See’s Accelerated Individualized Mastery programs are changing the math world.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.323
Welcome to the Demme Learning Show. Our mission here is to help families stay in the learning journey wherever it takes them. This bonus episode was previously recorded as a webinar and was not created with the audio listener in mind. We hope you will find value in today’s episode.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:23.888
Hi, everyone. My name is Gretchen Roe, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you today to this presentation of the risks of poor math recall. We have so much to talk about and so many of you wanted to know, “so what are those risks and what does that mean for me, and for my students?” We’re delighted today to have the opportunity to share information with you, to give you some tools for assessment, and some suggestions going forward. So I’m going to let my colleagues introduce themselves and we’ll start with Amanda since you were here first. Amanda. And then Michael we’ll go to you.
Amanda Capps: 00:01:02.760
Sure. My name is Amanda Capps. I have been in the Customer Service Department of Demme Learning for the last 12 years. Something a little bit unique about me is that I’m a second-generation homeschooler. So I was homeschooled all the way through and I’m currently homeschooling my own brood. Of which there are eight. I have graduated my first. And I have seven coming up behind her, with our youngest being two. We come to you from Northwest Arkansas, where I work remotely for Demme Learning, supporting our customers and interacting with and supporting parents on a daily basis.
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:36.411
Michael Sas: 00:01:38.245
Thank you, Gretchen. Yeah, my name is Michael Sas. I’ve worked alongside homeschoolers since 2005. I’ve worked with Demme Learning for the past eight years. I have two kids. I have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old. I am a placement specialist with Demme Learning. So I help find the proper placement for your students for all of our different curriculums. I love talking to parents. Love having interactions to understand how things are going at home, and to be able to find the proper place to begin with the different Demme Learning curriculums, so. Excited to be here today.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:10.962
And my name is Gretchen Roe. My husband and I homeschooled six kids, 21 years. Five of them are now college graduates and they don’t live with us. So my husband says we can take a victory lap for that. And then our youngest just began his senior year of high school. And so, I am the Community Relations Coordinator here at Demme Learning. I’m delighted to welcome you all to this presentation today. I want to begin today with a couple of stories. So Michael, I’m going to ask you to tell me a story about what it means and perhaps an interaction that you have had with a family where a student has not had good math recall, and what you’ve been able to do and accomplish for a family.
Michael Sas: 00:02:58.436
Sure. Absolutely. Thank you, Gretchen. I mean, I speak to many families every single day. And one that’s kind of sticking mind today is that I worked with a family who had a 9th grade student. They were doing Algebra 1. She was really struggling. They had tears at the table every day I remember her mom telling me. And we started to look back to see where maybe some gaps were appearing and why the struggle was happening. And we found multiplication facts were not committed to memory. She did have her addition, subtraction facts memorized. Her multiplication we’re not. And in fact, she had less than 50% memorized. And it was a conversation because– it’s tough to have that conversation that we’re in 9th grade, working Algebra 1, and we have to look back at multiplication facts and seeing is that as the reason why they’re struggling? And we got those facts committed to memory. And it was amazing to see after that, what we’re able to skip and what we just had to do a little bit of focus on. Because she now was able to focus more on the processes and not have to think about counting. And so we did do a little bit more work in the fractions. And we did a little bit more work within pre-algebra. And I gave her actually, at the algebra one, readiness assessment when we got her caught up in about nine months’ time. And she got a 100% on it. And her mom said she’s doing cartwheels on the hallway right now. She’s so excited. And so it’s amazing how helping clear her mind by getting those fax memorized really allowed her to have success moving forward with math.
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:31.487
One of the things I think we failed to take into account is, as math becomes more complex, you have to bring a wider and wider variety of skill sets to the table. And if you’re weak in those underlying skill sets, it becomes progressively harder to stay engaged. Math is the only subject that we blame ourselves when it’s not going well. Everything else, we can look at the materials and say something’s not working for me. But with mathematics, we think we’re the problem. And often we’re not. We just have a weak foundational skill set. Amanda, I’d like you to tell me a story about what it’s like to work with a parent who says they’re not great at math.
Amanda Capps: 00:05:11.650
Well, that was my experience actually. Before coming into Math-U-See, my mother was the one who what I would coin math-phobic. I mean, she just had deep-seated anxiety when it came to math because she didn’t learn it well herself. And so then when you’re taking that and trying to then teach, a student and I can remember so many times saying, “But why?” And she would just say, “I don’t know. You just have to do it this way. You just do it. And you’ll get the right answer.” And so that probably was one of the biggest things in my math journey because I was following right in her footsteps because what we find is typically a kid is going to have a very similar math experience in math attitude as the parent who is doing the teaching or lack thereof. And so that’s really, really important. And so Math-U-See was the very first curriculum because I was the firstborn in our family of five. So I was the Guinea pig child or the bad pancake, whatever you want to call it, the experiment. The experiments were all done on me. And so I had done a lot of curriculum hopping because, of course, it was the curriculum that was the problem, right? And the reality was I’m a very, very visual learner. I have got to be able to see a visual representation of what is happening to really grasp and understand the concept. And Math-U-See was the very first math curriculum that we ever used that that was the case, that there was a visual and hands-on component that the why was really thoroughly explained. And I basically went from, in seventh grade, still counting on my fingers and struggling– because I had younger siblings that were starting at the beginning of the program, my parents made me back up and start over. And in a year and a half, I went through about six levels of Math-U-See with an incredibly strong foundation, finally having the understanding, finally mastering those facts myself. So it really is my own story. I know it works and it’s true because I’ve lived it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:24.031
Absolutely. And I think that gives you a wonderful opportunity to be able to talk to parents who are in the trenches. Often we’ll get parents who will say, when we’ll say, “Is your student counting for facts?” We’ll get a parent who says, “Well, I count for facts.” And the truth of the matter is, the reason we home-school is we want more for our children than we had for ourselves. That’s how I began my homeschool journey. My daughter was told she didn’t need to memorize her multiplication tables, and I knew that that was not an accurate statement. So that’s how we began our homeschooling journey. Michael I wonder if you could explain for our families what the goal of a Math U See experience is. You do this so well, talking about understanding, and I think that would set the ground rules for what we’re going to discuss today.
Michael Sas: 00:08:17.657
Sure. I see a lot of transitions for parents when they’re coming from– a lot of times it’s a spiral-based learning to a master-based learning, and in which case, the student has a small amount of problems and they work on them and they move on regardless if they’re ready or not. And a lot of times, students can do well in that environment, but eventually gaps tend to form because there’s just not enough practice. And so a lot of parents are used to the daily grading of a lesson. They’re going over the tests and making sure they’re hitting a certain percentage or threshold to keep moving forward.
Michael Sas: 00:08:50.944
When they come to Math U See, we have a different goal. Our goal is mastery, and really, what that means is that we are want your student to understand it well enough they can teach it back to you. And so for my kids, I’ve never actually graded a paper. I’ve focused more on understanding– or they understand the material. So this will be a video lesson for each lesson within Math U See from primer all the way through calculus. We want to use a parent to watch the video first. They’re not long. They’re probably 3 to 10 minutes all the way up to about pre-algebra; then they get a little bit longer after that. And then we want you to just make sure they’re comfortable with the concept being taught, whether that’s going over a few of them with the manipulatives or guiding them through the first couple of questions on page A. However you want to do it, we want to make sure that they’re comfortable.
Michael Sas: 00:09:38.791
We’re going to ask that they only do one page of practice a day. It’s going to go, you’ll look at it, and a lot of parents say this to me is, “We used to do an hour of math a day.” We’re not looking at that. We’re looking between 15 minutes and a half an hour, typically, because that’s the amount of focus a student has at that age. We want to make sure that we’re not overwhelming the brain, and usually after that, after the 15 to 30 minutes is done, your brain’s still working on it.
Michael Sas: 00:10:01.646
And so the next morning, if they want to move on, they have to teach it successfully to me. So if they do that well, they can skip pages B and C in our practice page. If they can’t, the great thing is we ask that they build it with the blocks, they write it down, and they say it back, and a lot of parents ignore the saying it, but the saying it forces them to become proficient with the material. And so that way, they can hear they have to know, I have to explain this to my mom or explain this to my dad, and so I better understand these steps. And if they can’t, we talk about those steps that day ad say, “Buddy, you’re doing really great here and here, but these steps here we;re struggling with. Let’s focus on that today, and hopefully, it will teach you well to me the next day so that you can skip page C.”
Michael Sas: 00:10:45.901
So we recognize that that is the test. If they can teach it to you successfully, you’ve won and they’ve won. And so the difference between spiral and mastery is we give them enough practice until they’re comfortable to move on and not have the curriculum dictate it, and so your role changes from simply grading papers to making sure that they truly understand what they’re doing and how to solve these problems successfully and understand the steps that go along with it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:17.640
Right. And I think that that makes a tremendous amount of difference for parents to understand. When I first looked at Math U See and I looked at the 15, 20 problems that you see as part of a daily work lesson, my thought, being a weak mathematician, was, “Well, that’s not enough math,” because I think we have a fallacy of belief here, particularly in the US, that more is a better experience, and it’s not. More is more. And Michael said something really important that I want to reemphasize, and then Amanda, I’m going to come around to you and ask you to talk about being the observer of your students, so setting you up. But what Michael said was, “Your child has an attention span for new information of their age plus two to three minutes.” And that’s one of the reasons that Math-U-See lessons are focused with under 20, 25 problems. Because we want to catch the student while the learning is optimum, and then we want to walk away before the learning has become a burden, and that makes a tremendous amount of difference. Now, the subject of our conversation today is the risks of poor math recall, and we’re going to delve into that in some depth, but what I want Amanda to talk about now is what you have a unique opportunity to do when you homeschool as far as observing your student is concerned.
Amanda Capps: 00:12:45.178
Yes. So one of the things that I think we can get very distracted by as parents is picking out the perfect curriculum, setting up the perfect schedule, having the perfect classroom. We can look at all of those things. And while they are important on some level, what’s the most important is how well do you really know and engage with your student. Are you having those intentional conversations? Are you looking at them and picking up on their learning preferences? Now, everybody has arguments about learning style and the ways we learn best, and there’s a lot of information out there that kind of puts a lot of noise around those topics, but the reality is we learn best with the more modalities and senses we can engage. That is just straight-up fact. Now, that being said, typically, our students do have some areas of learning preference. I personally am more of a visual, auditory learner, so if I can see it and I can hear it going in and then do it myself, I’m golden. I’m going to retain that information. The other thing about this, too, is even as an adult, if things get more than about 45 minutes to an hour in a meeting, in something I’m having to do, I’m checking out too. This isn’t just a kid thing and a kid that is struggling. And so I think sometimes we approach this, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh. If he’s wiggling after ten minutes, something is wrong. And we need to medicate, or we need to do these things to change the environment or change the curriculum.” When the reality is they’re just being a normal kid, and their attention span is maxed out. So if we start to notice those things and those signs, it’s our job as the parent to pick up on them and go, “Okay, maybe it’s time for a break. Maybe it’s time for some big muscle movement. Maybe it’s time to switch things up and do a different subject for a while, and if we’re still not done with math, we come back to it at a later point in the day, and we do a few more problems.” There is nothing wrong with breaking things up and setting your student up for success versus making them feel like they’re the problem and they’re the ones not paying attention or not really absorbing the material when it may, in fact, be us really not paying attention to what their needs are.
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:15.655
Absolutely. Michael, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what we say to parents as far as how to– where do you see– when someone comes to you, and they’re looking for a placement assessment, and they say, “I have a child who’s struggling with math.” What is the typical places where we see the wheels blowing off a kid’s mathematical wagon, and why?
Michael Sas: 00:15:42.988
Sure. Typically, the first place that we start to see it happen is division. Division is very difficult for students that don’t have their facts memorized because we’re now using all the operations at this point. We’re also putting numbers at the top. We’re putting numbers at the bottom. We’re moving numbers all around. And and it gets confusing, especially if I have to look away to count. So a couple of things are happening. I’m looking away to do my counting. I’m looking back and I have to remember where I left off. I have to remember not to forget steps. I have to not overcount or undercount. And my brain’s just working overtime. And so usually around division, we start to see that really kind of turn its head a little bit. And then we also start to see it as we get toward algebra because in algebra, we’re now using 10 to 15 step problems with multiple ways to solve it and multiple operations being used. And a mistake is bound to happen at some point. And what we sometimes will see is, especially if they’re near peers, they’re seeing their peers being done quicker and so they try to go faster and mistakes are going to happen. And so we typically see at those two places, division, and then again, once we get toward algebra.
Gretchen Roe: 00:16:51.389
And here is where going back to what Amanda said about you being the ardent observer of your student, you can ascertain why there’s a challenge. If you see a student who is making little ticky marks on the edge of their paper or Michael describes the student who uses the eraser as the counter for staying engaged, if you see those kinds of things, that’s a hint for you that things aren’t really the way they should be. And nobody wants to make math more complex than it already is. So being able to give our kids the ability to stay engaged is absolutely essential. Amanda, I wonder if you could talk to our families a little bit about what it means to have the expectations of what your child can do independently. Because sometimes I think we set ourselves up on the wrong side of the equation, if you will, as parents, because our expectations are inaccurate.
Amanda Capps: 00:17:58.670
100%. And I have this conversation with parents quite frequently, actually. And they’re talking about a child who’s struggling to maintain focus or to finish a page or whatever they’ve been assigned. And then I go, oh, okay. And well, how old is the student? Well, he’s 7. And I’m like, are you kidding me? Because a 7 year old isn’t going to sit by themselves and do assigned work. They’re going to daydream. They’re going to fiddle. They’re going to doodle. They’re going to look for any way they can to get out of doing what they’re supposed to be doing because that’s just the age and developmental level that they’re at. I have seen kids who are able to have things assigned to them as young as maybe 8, 9, 10, depending on the kid, the birth order, the personality type. Again, all opportunities for observation as far as what you know they’re capable of and what they’re able to do. But I have also seen kids at 12, 13, and 14 need consistent parental involvement and having some kids– if their love language is quality time, they need you to have some quality time, right? They’re next to them. They want that engagement and that connection of you’re right there if they run into something, if they have a question. And so you need to be able to make yourself available and not go into the schooling experience with unrealistic expectations that at 8, you’re going to be able to give them a week’s worth of assignments and they’re going to come to you on Friday with them all completed in perfect penmanship and ready to go for you to grade. That’s just not the reality for, I would say, 98% of kids.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:44.863
I know in my household, my eldest son was brilliant. He taught himself to read at the age of 4. But he couldn’t be left alone for a single math problem until he was close to 17 years old. And by that, I mean, I had to be there at the table next to him, not because he was disengaged, but the fact that he didn’t remain engaged without my encouragement there. And so I think it’s important as parents for us to recognize that every child is different. Michael, you’ve done a wonderful job with your boys of helping them understand how long they have to be engaged. So can you talk about your duplo example of showing them how much time they’re going to have to invest? Because I think this is really valuable.
Michael Sas: 00:20:33.924
Sure. Yeah. I have a son who’s 6 and a half, he’ll tell you. Because he is. So he likes that extra half age, but he has a severe ADHD. And it’s hard for him to sit for long periods of time. And so it’s hard for me to say, “You have 15 minutes.” Alexa set the timer for 15 minutes. And then he understands that he has to wait till the arm goes off. He doesn’t understand that time. So what we have done is we’ve gone duplos out, and I put 5 of them out there at a time. And I said, okay, let’s see. We got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 duplos, okay? When these duplos are gone, that means you can get up and we can do something else. Okay? And so after every three minutes, I’ll take one up and I’ll show him. I’ll say, “Grayson, one duplo is going while you’re doing a great job. We have four duplos left, okay? Four duplos. Make sure that he sees it and understands, look, the timer is getting shorter. We are losing duplos. And then once that’s done, he can go. And we use that actually at the restaurants. We use that at church. We use that in a variety of different ways. It’s not just math. And so that way he knows. I have to stay here, while we wait for the food to come or while we wait for the sermon to get through. Or whatever the case is, then we can get up and go for a little walk and come back. And so that’s kind of my way of helping them understand time frames and to help him be able to understand his expectations as well, so.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:00.995
I think his parents forget that at one point in time, we didn’t know how to estimate time. And perhaps as a parent, you don’t still estimate time well. There’s a lot of us who do not. But it’s up to us to make the environment capable of learning for our kids. And sometimes if we leave them to their own devices for too long, we’ve forgotten the ability to have them remain engaged. And that may makes all the difference in the world. I want to elaborate for you all about what Amanda talked about different senses and the value of build right say. Particularly depending on how you process information. So Amanda, we learned a really valuable lesson a couple of weeks ago in a round table about being an internal processor versus an external processor. So can you illustrate that, and then I’ll bring this back around to why it makes go bright say so important.
Amanda Capps: 00:23:03.574
Absolutely. So I tend to be an internal dialog person. I have got a running conversation and a to-do list and all of this is running in my mind at all times. That’s just the way that I’m wired. And I was expressing to a friend of mine, my frustration with my second daughter’s reluctance to want to drive. And she just is not interested in the least. It makes her very nervous. She’s just not excited about it. And I was just bemoaning this to her, and she goes, “Well, how often when you’re driving, are you actually communicating to her all of the steps and the decisions that you’re making in the driving process so she knows what’s going on and what to expect in her own driving experience?” And I was like, “Oh, well, not at all. I very rarely externally dialog, especially in the car.” That’s typically when I’ve got the music on and everyone’s strapped in car seats. Yay. And I can maybe run through my to to-do list or whatever is going on in my mind. And so I was so impressed by her insight and her encouragement to like, wait a minute. Let’s actually consciously think about what I’m doing, the steps, and then make sure that I’m actually verbalizing that to my kids so that they’re aware of what the thought processes are behind the actions that I’m taking and why I’m doing them so that they become comfortable and familiar and understand what is happening in real time. It’s incredible.
Gretchen Roe: 00:24:37.759
And the reason there’s value in understanding Amanda’s example here is Build, Wtite, Say allows you to do that. And very often we have parents who will build and write but are reluctant to use the say part of the conversation. I just helped a parent on Facebook this morning who had a daughter who’s getting lost in the steps of multiple digit multiplication. But if she can verbalize those steps, she’s much more likely to stay engaged and here’s the value there is, you catch yourself when you say something and you go, “Oh, I forgot to bring this number down before I begin the next step.” And we had a parent a couple of weeks ago who equated this with brain food. Being able to feed your brain the right information so that your brain can acknowledge what you are doing. I saw this last year with my son Owen. He was taking precalc and he came into the office. Now I need to make you all understand thoroughly. I could no more help him with a precalculus problem than I could fly. But he came rushing in here, plopped his book down in front of me and said, “Mom, I need you to help me with this precalculus problem.” And he started verbalizing the steps of what he was doing. And he said, “Oh, I see.” And off he went, “Thanks for your help, mom.” I had done absolutely nothing, except I’d set him up for success because he’d learned from his very first math interactions with Math-U-See that he needed to verbalize what he was doing. And that makes all the difference in the world. And sometimes that’s what we need to do as parents is allow that verbalization to take place.
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:30.295
Here’s one of the things that many of you fail to take into account. And that is the need for rehearsal outside of practice. So Michael, can you talk about how sometimes we have parents who say, but he had all the facts memorized and now he doesn’t have them memorized and what happens when that happens?
Michael Sas: 00:26:53.554
Sure. A lot of the times too, we grow up with flashcards, we grow up with drills. And that’s how I grew up with them anyway. I know a lot of us, that’s how we were taught. I also think we were given a lot less to have to worry about as far as learning in math and what our kids do today as well. But what we’re learning based upon students now is that when you do flashcards or any new drills, we typically put them into a short term memory. The other thing that happens with drills is I have asked usually to go at a specific speed a certain amount done in a certain amount of time. And if you’re ever not great at something, someone tells you to go faster at it, it doesn’t end up going well, so. And there’s never going to be a time for your student where they’re going to have to be able to answer 10 facts in 30 seconds. It’s always going to be we just want them to know 9 times 3 is 27, 10 minus 3 is 7. We want them to know those at the top of their head. And so a lot of times, even with flashcards, we show a flashcard across the table. What happens is the student reads our emotions. And so if we’re excited how well they’re doing, they’re excited But in most occasions, when we do flashcards, they start to struggle a little bit. Something happens where they had some right yesterday that they didn’t have right today. And I’ll say, “Buddy, what’s going on, you had this yesterday?” And he goes– he started getting a little panicky. And I say, “Come on, you can do this. Focus. Here’s the next one.” He starts hearing me and he wants to please me and pretty soon I get tears. He runs to mom and we have a big thing, right? And so flashcards typically will create anxiety and kids when we get anxiety, we shut down. And so sometimes if we take a long break away from flashcards, away from drills, we lose it because we’re not using it. And so the best way is what Amanda was talking about is being able to use a lot of different senses and help to understand the concept. So we know how to apply it. And then making it a routine to– I encourage parents every week to spend 10 to 15 minutes going over facts. And just making sure they stay strong, or get stronger. And that can be not during your school day, but maybe as you’re going for a walk. Maybe as you’re going– doing a puzzle together. Maybe as you’re doing a chore. Maybe as you’re just doing any task together. It just helpful to do that. I know Gretchen does a lot in the cars when they have a red light, they do Fox until it turns green. And so there’s times when you can find to get those facts out in front of your kids and help strengthen them. Because like I said, once you stop using them, you lose them.
Amanda Capps: 00:29:30.018
As a visual learner myself, what was happening when my mom would drill me with flashcards, is I was literally remembering and seeing the flashcard in my head with the problem in a blank answer. So for a kiddo that you observe is a very visual learner or learning preference, if you will just pop that answer on the bottom of the card, which a lot of parents will sit there and go, “Wait a minute that’s cheating. We’re giving them the answer.” But if I could just stress to you how incredibly frustrating it is to constantly recall information with a blank answer versus being given all of the information that I need to be successful because visually that’s what’s happening in my brain. It literally made all of the difference in the world. Drilling with those cards with the answer for a week or two, suddenly, I wasn’t having fact deficits anymore. And I was remembering all of my facts just fine. So sometimes it’s just the method that we’re using. It’s not that the method itself is bad, but we may need to augment or add something to what we’re doing to make it more successful for that specific student.
Gretchen Roe: 00:30:47.645
Michael Sas: 00:30:49.340
One last thing, Gretchen, I apologize. Let me interrupt you. I play the piano for several years. And when I got to recitals, I played that piece so many times. I pictured the notes where they were on the page as I was going across. And I could see the page in front of me, even though I was doing it from memory because we played it so many times. And that’s really what we’re doing with math facts as well is if they don’t have the fact there, they’re getting a blank. And so ready, the whole fact sounds like Amanda said allows them to be able to visualize the whole fact and be able to come to know it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:31:21.873
Absolutely. And KB has made a good observation here is giving them the answer is another way to get them to take ownership of the process. And I think that does make a tremendous amount of difference. We’ve had several good observations in questions. And so here is [name] asked a question about using Math-U-See for tutoring students, and when you have a– she has a student that she’s referring to here who is apraxic, in other words does not have the verbal skills to be able to verbally articulate, and that’s where the value of the manipulatives comes in. One of the things that we fail to take into account is in that teach back process. Where we don’t have the language skills, the manipulatives help us step around that. So being able to say two plus four is the same value as six, and show that, is sometimes very helpful. And actually, Yell’s observation leads into another observation here, which is Christopher’s, and he says, “What is a good rule of thumb for knowing? And so how quick is knowing as opposed to thinking too long?” And that varies by the student.
Michael Sas: 00:32:37.498
Gretchen Roe: 00:32:37.725
But here’s the other thing that’s important is – and Steve Demmei makes this observation – if you have a child that you say, “Hey, what’s 6 plus 7?” And they’re looking for divine inspiration, that’s not a committed fact. If someone asks you your name, and you say, “Hey, what’s your name?” Amanda says, “My name is Amanda.” She doesn’t have to think about what her name is today. And that’s the kind of recall you’re looking for. Now, if you have a child who is like my dyslexic son who everything has to bounce in his head a couple of times before he’s going to reply, if I said to him, “What’s 6 plus 7?” He would go, “13.” But that’s still a memorized fact set. So it depends on what’s happening in the pause. And if you see their eyes moving and fingers rolling and things like that, then maybe that pause is too long. We want you to think about fact recall as reading without having to sound out the words. If we gave you a paragraph, and you had to sound out every word in that paragraph, how would your comprehension for what that paragraph’s meaning was be? And it wouldn’t be proficient or terrific. So that is why we say that if you have weak math fact recall, then there is benefit in taking a pause and making that a better answer. I have some more questions here, but Michael, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about why AIM for Addition and Subtraction and AIM for Multiplication have been game-changers for parents who have tried all sorts of things to get math facts committed to memory.
Michael Sas: 00:34:32.085
Yeah. Absolutely. I think a few things we are finding that is that when students pass first grade, when they learn their facts for the first time, or in third grade when they learn multiplication facts, they’re not memorized by the time they leave that grade level. They typically never become memorized unless we stop to work on them. What happens is we develop a habit. That habit can be counting on our fingers, tapping a pencil, tally marks, number lines. There’s a variety of them. And so that’s six with us because we have to keep moving on. Our brain isn’t saying, “Let’s stop and work on these.” So that’s why the AIM programs came into play is because we recognize you may have a fourth grader or seventh grader. They’re not first graders. We recognize that. They don’t need to get taught what addition and subtraction is. They don’t need to learn the signs of addition and subtraction. They know that already. They also know how to get to the answer very quickly, but they’re just counting. And so the AIM program is really designed to help get rid of the habit of counting more than teach them something new because putting them into a first- or third-grade curriculum isn’t helpful. In fact, it hurts their psyche, it hurts their self-esteem because they’re going to see other lessons about shapes and counting and things like that. And that’s going to make them feel– it’s going to be a rough time walking through those different lessons. And so what we did is we took out the facts, and we allowed them to work only on what they needed and at the academic level that they needed. And so these are– the AIM for Addition and Subtraction, it’s about four to five months. It takes about two to three months to memorize any given operation. It seems to be very standard. A lot of factors play into that. We look at how much can you do in a day. We recommend 15 minutes with at least two to three hours in between sessions. Once again, that plays a part into their ability to focus. And 15 minutes is about that time. So don’t try to keep going. I look at it as much like doing a puzzle. When you do a puzzle and you kind of hit a point where you can’t find those pieces, if you take a break and come back to it later, for whatever reason those pieces are just pop up and you can find them. So 15 minutes, twice a day, I look at twice a day once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There are things that it takes place a part in is how many they have memorized coming into it. And then thirdly, how quickly can they memorize? And what can you do to the gaps to help them with that? So for instance, my son has struggled with eight plus four. I kept that in front of him all day long. If you want to play outside, what’s eight plus four? You want to go get a snack, what’s eight plus four. I ask them throughout the day to really help them think about that between the lessons. The focus is very much similar idea to rolling a dice. When you roll a dice, and you get a 5, your brain doesn’t count the dots on the dice. It says, “I know that pattern.” And most of us can picture all 6 patterns on a dice right now. What we’re going to do is start with a large variety of senses, and we’re going to slowly take them away until they just have the fact-check out in front of them. And yes, we call these fact-check cards instead of flashcards because your students can be flipping them over and you’re going to be sitting next to them. You won’t be sitting across the table. So we want them to focus solely on the card and knowing the fact. It is now workbook based. Something I’ve found is worksheets can get in the way of memorizing because you can’t tell if they’re memorized or not because they’re just simply putting the answer down. And so we’re going to do what Amanda talked about, the build, right, say. We’re going to start with that.
Michael Sas: 00:37:57.278
Once you teach them and they teach you back, how to do that, they’re going to go to word problems to make sure they know to apply it. Thirdly, we’re taking the blocks away. They’re going to use colored pencils in the addition and subtraction to draw. And they’re going to use a pencil in the multiplication to draw it. Then we’re going to write it and say it. And then finally, they’re using a fact-check card to see if it’s committed to memory. And if they can answer, our definition is answering in three seconds or less without counting. And if they get that, they can put a star on their fact-check card. And so their goal is to get three stars on three consecutive days to show it’s memorize. And if they can’t, it goes into another pile and they can choose. Do you want to build it or drop before trying again? One effective strategy I found with my kids, my 9-year-old just finished the program. And we spent 5 minutes or however long before the lesson, reviewing the facts already memorized. And what that did is it built its confidence up before we jumped into the lesson. And so we just spent 5 to 10 minutes walking through that. And then I gave him a 10-minute break to do whatever he wanted. Because I didn’t want to, once again, overwhelm the brain. I gave him a break. He came back and we did 15 minutes of where we left off. And then he was done. And so that review is that most important piece, I believe, because you want to make sure they get stronger. Because you may have some borderline facts where they’re going to get in three or four seconds. So let’s try to get that down to where it becomes second nature, or if I wake them up, they say 3 plus 7, they say 10. That becomes that instant for them. I will say, and you may be getting into this Gretchen, I don’t want to take too much time, but I do get a lot of parents who say my student can’t memorize or my student struggles with memory. And that is a fact. That is the case for a lot of students. My biggest question would always comes back to, do they have them down to the best of their ability? And that’s what we look at. If they’re not memorized, they haven’t gone to the best of their ability. And that’s the question only you can answer. I do know with my son who has, like I said, ADHD, and there’s a few other sensory issues as well. If I can help him 5 or 10%, that’s a huge win. And so if you know there is a way to help solidify those facts a little bit more than what they have them today, it’s worth doing. Because one of the first things you’re going to see with the name is not a, you can not quit this program until they’re 100% memorized. It’s a goal sheet that you and your student can work on together to decide what you want to achieve through the aim programs. It’s a great stepping stone into getting ready for those other levels because once you get those facts memorized, a lot of times gaps change and what you think they’re struggling with, they no longer struggle with. And we can be able to customize the curriculum from that point on and help them be able to get where they left off very quickly. That was a long answer for you, but there you go.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:53.059
No, that’s okay. I think one of the things that’s really important here is, and I’d like Amanda to speak to this because both Amanda and I have children who are diagnosed dyslexics. And there is a myth in the dyslexic community that dyslexics can’t memorize things. But I think wherever high interest and ability meet, kids can memorize. So Amanda, can you talk about how you’ve been able to move the ball with your dyslexics? And we might not be looking at a 100% memorized facts set. But even improving that fact set 10% or 15%, how does that affect them?
Amanda Capps: 00:41:36.643
Absolutely. And Michael kind of touched on this already, but– so the brain has two different compartments, and then there’s a pathway between them. We have our short-term memory, and we have our long-term memory. And there’s a pathway between them. And so what we know is that in the dyslexic brain, a lot of times that pathway is where the problem lies. We don’t necessarily– the brain doesn’t necessarily recognize what’s in short-term memory and recognize that it needs to be filed into long-term memory for recall. And so that’s really where the breakdown happens. It’s not that a student– I mean, because let’s be real. Anyone who has a dyslexic, they can quote songs, they can quote movies, they can remember things that– to us, it’s like, why do you remember that? Why was that the thing that came out of that situation or that experience? And yet, we can not grasp math facts. Come on. What is going on here? And that can be very frustrating for the student and it can be very frustrating for the parent because you feel like, wait a minute, we should be able to understand the difference between the importance of this information and we should be able to make the distinction and remember the important things. So I would absolutely 100% look at, okay, what is happening in working memory? Where we at. What level of working memory do we have? And then is there a program? Is there a remediation that addresses that specific thing? One of the things that we’ve used in our family is a product called brain HQ. It’s really geared for more middle school and high school students or even adults, but it basically sends you through a list of exercises and then any areas where it notices, hey, there’s a weakness or a deficit, it creates puzzles and things to exercise and to strengthen that part of the brain that may be lacking. And so it can be a really great thing to incorporate and then you might really see that that 25%, 40%, 50% fact deficit jumps a lot when we’ve worked on that underlying cognitive issue. So again, a real opportunity to be an observer a real opportunity to look for that. If they say I don’t remember, they probably legitimately don’t remember. And you can trust them. Kids do want to be successful. They do want to give a parent what they’re looking for in the academic arena. Nobody wants to be a failure. Nobody wants to not have the right answer. I mean, have you ever gone into anything in your life and been like, “Yeah, no, I’m going to botch that on purpose.” Nobody does that. It’s against the way that we’re wired. And so we need to be aware of that when we approach academics.
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:39.434
Absolutely. I want to turn our attention because parents ask so many terrific questions. So I’m going to throw questions at the two of you. And I need you to think about your answers so that we can keep them brief and get through as many of these questions. As possible. Amanda, what is the program that you mentioned for working memory? Can you state that again? Donna would like to know.
Amanda Capps: 00:45:03.030
Absolutely. It’s put out by a company called Posit Science and it’s called BrainHQ as in headquarters.
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:12.728
Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I think one of the things that we have failed to take into account is often the things we have traditionally thought of as ways to memorize like Michael mentioned with flashcards are stress-inducing. And one of the purposes in the evolution of aim for addition and subtraction and aim for multiplication was to take the anxiety out of the equation and put the child in the driver’s seat, if you will. And if you read the materials and you understand how the materials are designed, you’re asking your student, how can you remember this better? What is going to work more effectively for you? And that makes these programs very powerful. Learning effective strategies for helping kids, particularly with ADHD, I think we’ve given you a lot of that, more is not a better experience. So actually working for a smaller increment of time would be a more effective use of your time than working for a longer period of time. Michael, I have a question here. It says, I have one of the AIM programs that my child is still engaged enough to learn. So what should I do? What’s the advice you offer to a parent who has an AIM program, but they haven’t begun it yet?
Michael Sas: 00:46:39.637
Sure. Before they began it or while they’re going through it?
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:43.507
I don’t believe they’ve begun. So she said my child is still engaged enough to learn them. So now what should I do? So what would be the first step that a parent would do?
Michael Sas: 00:46:52.690
Yeah, absolutely. When you get the materials, it’s going to look a lot different than our levels, our Math-U-See levels. And we did that on purpose. We want this to be fun. We want this not to feel like a first or third-grade curriculum, like I mentioned. Because a lot of times I’ve had it where sibling is doing the AIM program with younger sibling and the alpha program. And so it’s good that they have two different things they’re doing and not being at the same– they’re doing the same skill but working at two different levels. And I think that’s a very important piece. The first thing you’re going to want to do when you get the AIM program is at the top of the box, there will be a digital pack code for you. We want you to go to our store website, Store.DemmeLearning.com and you can redeem it. You basically put the digital pack into your cart and that code will zero it out. Make it appear free on the website. And so that’ll give you access to the digital pack. And when you go into the digital pack, that’s where all of your video lessons will be. One of the first lessons we want you to look at is actually our starter lessons. They’re called aim for success. And they’re going to walk you through how to administer each of the different sessions. I think it’s actually Gretchen. Are you doing it? You’re on the videos, right, for those? Yeah. So with Gretchen actually working with her son doing those different activities, walking through them. Then you have a resource guide. It’s not an instructor’s guide. It’s going to be a resource guide showing you how to walk through every different lesson. Parents get a little bit concerned about those first few lessons because there are a lot of facts we have to memorize because we’re not only doing two plus two, two plus three, two plus four, etc but we’re doing four plus two, three plus two, two plus two. And so you’re getting all of those. There’s about 15 facts, I think, in that first lesson. And then there’s going to be another number of them in the third and fourth lesson. When we get to lesson five, it goes up to about four facts we have to memorize. So some of those lessons will take a few weeks to get through. The first thing you’re going to do is you’re going to look at resource guide pages 14 and 15 and the addition, subtraction, and 12 and 13 in the multiplication. It gives you a nice outline of what to expect for each session. And so I always recommend putting a paper clip in there as you read the lesson. You can refer back to, okay, breaking it down, I have to do it as these steps. The nice thing is the students are going to know what to expect each day. You’re going to know what to expect each day as you walk through it because the stages stay the same. Lesson one, I always think is one of the most important. It’s going to be working with the blocks. The blocks are all different colors. They represent different numbers. And the first thing we want you to do is get familiar with them, play games, put up the block and say, okay, this is a nine-block, what color is it? Things like that, that they can be able to help learn the colors and the numbers. My son has a nickname for every one of the blocks and you’re going to see Steve Dummy does this a lot too. One of the ones that’s most dear to our hearts is the B brown block. It looks like a Hershey’s bar chocolate. Our office is near Hershey, Pennsylvania so it kind of has that nickname for it. If we have three plus four, my son has the three pink block which is our three pink little pigs. We combine those with the four yellow pineapple block to equal the seven white vanilla ice cream block. This is a way for them to be able to identify them in their head, to be able to picture them in their head, and come to know them. And so take the time with that. Getting to know those blocks, it may take three or four days and that’s okay and just have fun with it. One of the things I do with my son is– as important as math facts are to knowing, I think it’s one of the most boring things to do but one of the most necessary. And so we try to make it fun throughout. We had math fact parties. And so one of the things we did is we got our popsicle sticks and we talked about rewards and things that they can earn. And we put a reward on them. And we all agreed on those. And we put them into a cup. And they can take out a popsicle stick when they achieve what we want them to. And so then they get their reward right away. And when they had all memorized, we had a pool party together. We went swimming and had a whole bunch of other friends down and celebrated and so it was a lot of fun. And so we just tried to make it fun.
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:08.695
I think one of the things that’s really important to recognize is you can put in all this work but if you don’t continue to rehearse the facts outside of that work, your kids aren’t going to retain them. This is mental muscle memory and they have to keep flexing those muscles in order to retain that. The benefit is that you will find is it will come back to bless you when the math becomes more complex and they can remain engaged. Amanda, can you answer why just asking Siri or Alexa or using a calculator is not going to be enough?
Amanda Capps: 00:51:45.905
I think there’s a lot of people who feel like the technology is advancing to the point where we’ve got all of these advantages and so we don’t really have to hold it in our head anymore. And yet that’s not accurate at all. I still make my kids memorize phone numbers and zip codes and you need to know your address, you need to know these things and you’re not always going to have access to technology. They’re never going to allow you to use it on a test. They’re not going to allow you to necessarily use things like that in certain environments. And so we really need to know our stuff and know our material regardless of what– I mean, do they have value? Can you use them in certain circumstances? Absolutely. I allow my kids to use a calculator when they check their work. I’m not really sure how moms homeschooled prior to Google. I know my mom did and she laughingly the other day told me, “Yeah, no, we had to go get a book, called an encyclopedia off the shelf. And I had to look up whatever your question was and circle back around to you.” And so I mean, there are definite benefits to the technology and to being able to have that instant answer or instant feedback. But we also need to teach kids– kids aren’t learning how to look things up in dictionaries anymore. They don’t know how to find something in a library that’s been cataloged and has a specific spot and a place. I mean, these are skills that we are losing and they really are still really relevant and really important today.
Gretchen Roe: 00:53:19.712
And I think one of the things that is important for us to recognize is if you have a child who has college aspirations, even if your child is given accommodations for a learning challenge on those standardized tests– and let me say as an aside, having two kids with dyslexia and one of them was able to achieve accommodations and the other was not, those accommodations are not enough to allow your student to use a calculator all the way through the test for computational math. It won’t happen. It just isn’t going to happen. So you’ll either need to find another path forward to college or you’ll need to equip them to be able to do that successfully. And I have an analogy that was given to me by a colleague last week. She said, “When I get in the car and I go to make a left turn, I don’t have to think about which way do I move the turn signal? I just do it.” And that’s what we’re looking for as far as fact recall is concerned. You just do it. Does that mean you do it 100% of the time? No, probably not because that is just the way we all are wired. I have one of my daughters who to this day will say 8 and 8 fell in the floor, pick them up at 64. Because somehow that stuck with her at that point in time. But the truth of the matter is, the more proficiency we can give our kids with facts, the less they have to struggle to be able to recall. We are coming to the bottom of the hour here. So I want Michael and Amanda to be able to give us their closing insights as far as their observations today. And Michael, we’ll start with you this time.
Michael Sas: 00:55:23.296
Yeah. First of all, I want to thank everybody for attending. It was a blast to be here for an hour with you all. I will say I think when it comes to the AIM Program. it’s just observations that I’ve had. One of the things that I try to do with families is help them get their students caught back up to where they left off. And to do that as inexpensively and as quickly as we can. I will say one of the toughest things as a parent– and I can say this as myself, but also as what I’ve seen working with a lot of parents is that we have anxiety of our own about how our kids are doing. And when we put them back into the first level to work on facts, there’s a lot of anxiety of what do we have to do to get them caught up and how long will it take? And so recognizing how we’re feeling plays a part in how we do with this program. Because some parents will push through that very quickly and their students will still not have factory call when they’re done because they’re worried about the next step more than the stuff they’re on. And so it’s important that we do this well. And if it takes longer than the four to five months, which I threw out there as an average, that’s okay. Every student memorizes at different speeds. And some may get done quicker, some may take a little bit longer. But if we don’t have these facts memorized and we go to the next thing, we didn’t really accomplish what we set out to do. And so I always say do the best you can each day. And we’ll get them to where they need to be at the time that they’re ready to take those steps. But if you do everything well each day, everything will work out. I believe that. And so I think that’s the biggest caution I have for parents who are looking to jump into getting started with something like this is it’s an investment, but for time, and the more you can put into it, the better kids are going to be as they progress through math. So.
Gretchen Roe: 00:57:14.386
Amanda Capps: 00:57:16.488
I would say one of the things that we didn’t really I mean, inadvertently, we’ve hit on it, but we haven’t just come out and said it is with facts, consistency is everything. If you expect to only work on facts or math, or any other subject, here and there, two or three times a week, you’re probably not going to get the results that you’re looking for. So having realistic expectations, I feel consistency over quantity is always going to be your best friend. If you can be really diligent about even if it’s 5, 10, 15 minutes max that you’re spending, but if you’re doing that consistently on an everyday basis, especially if you have a kiddo that really does have working memory issues or really does have retention issues. The other thing that you can look at, and this is something that has been very successful for my family and our experiences, we school year round. I take smaller, more frequent breaks throughout the school year when I want to take a break versus a big chunk of time in the summer where I know that if we stop and we get out of the groove, for me, one, getting back into it is going to be a challenge. And two, we’re going to lose too much over that period of time. And so what we have found is just being a large family and our dynamic, if we just keep the steam kind of steadily going and just take a little break here and there when we just really need it, that has been way more successful for our homeschooling journey and our retention of material and staying consistent than anything.
Gretchen Roe: 00:59:06.102
Absolutely. I think as parents, sometimes we read the highlight reels of the other families in our homeschool groups and we look over and we’d say, “Oh, they’re so successful and look at all the things they’re doing.” And the only person to whom you have to be accountable is your child. So we would encourage you to be the biggest student of your own children because that can make the most amount of difference. I want to thank you all for joining us today, for trusting us with your time. We’re looking forward to being able to host you for future events. And if anything that we have said today, please let us know how we can help you. Folks like Amanda and Michael are available on the phone every day. You can pick up the phone. You can call. You can join us on live chat. There are a variety of ways that we’re here to be able to help you be successful. So please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us. We want to join you in the journey and watch you have success. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or go on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it.
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Students who are not proficient at their recall of math facts struggle as mathematics becomes more complex—usually beginning with multi-digit multiplication or division. Exploring the reasons for poor math fact recall and ways to improve that recall will help your student be more mathematically successful.
For further enrichment and understanding:
Your Child’s Math Experience is Not Your Math Experience
Math and the Summer Brain
Do I Have to Teach Math the Way Math-U-See Teaches It?
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