Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Trouble With Math

Hello future readers,

The title of this entry doesn't sound very happy, does it? Well, lemme clue you in...

Every Friday afternoon in school is Test Day. We get both our Spelling Test and our Math test every Friday. I'm super at Spelling, but I have a really hard time with Math. As a matter of fact, it's my worst subject in school. I was getting a little better toward the of the last school year, but I guess I've forgotten everything I learned over the summer, 'cos now I'm back to being rotten at Math again. *sigh* It just doesn't seem to stay in my brain! After I missed half of the questions on last week's Math test, Miss LaSalle sent a note home to my mother. She says I need a tutor. Can you believe that? If any of the kids find out I need a tutor, they'll be calling me Queen of the Dum-Dums! My mom says either I bring up my marks in Math or I have to quit the Baton Club! Oh man! So this past Wednesday, I was sitting at the kitchen table and I had just copied the problems from my Math book when the doorbell rang.

"Julie, there's someone here to see you", my mom called out.

It was Kerry. She's the one my mom got to be my tutor. She was carrying some flash cards.

She sat down and started quizzing me on multiplication.  And I kept blanking out.

"You know Julie", Kerry began. "It looks to me like no one has ever told you the secret."
"What secret?", I wanted to know.
"The secret of figuring multiplication tables. Did you know that multiplication is just like addition?"
"You're kidding."
"No really. I'll show you. Write down these facts..."
She gave me some addition problems to copy down. And right next to them some multiplication problems.

"But I know how to do my 2 times tables. It's the rest of it that's hard", I explained.
"Actually it's pretty easy. Take that first problem you copied down for homework, 8x7..."
"OK...what 2x8?"
"Yeah, now add 8 to that."
I counted on my fingers. "24?'
"Right. That's 8x3. Put a number 3 over 24 so you remember that's 8x3.  Now add 8 more."
More counting on the fingers. "32?"
"Right again. Put a 4 over the 32. What's 8 more?"
"40!" I put a 5 over the 40.  I did it 2 more times until we got to 56.

"Hey I did it! You mean that's all there is to it?"
"Yep, that's all."
"But Kerry", I began, "that's OK for homework. But what about when we take tests at school? I'm gonna look pretty silly counting on my fingers. We're supposed to memorize the number facts."
"Take it easy, Julie. That will come with time. And don't worry about how silly you're gonna look. You'll look a lot sillier being the only kid in your class flunking Math."
"I suppose you're right. Will you help me with the rest of these problems?"
We worked through the rest of my Math homework the same way. It felt groovy knowing that I wasn't gonna have a bunch of red marks on my paper when Miss LaSalle returned our homework. I thanked Kerry and she left to go home for dinner.
"See ya next week, Julie. Keep practicing your addition to do your times tables"
"Thanks Kerry. See ya next week."
 I took my books upstairs to my room and I saw something sitting on my bed.

Oh wow! It was a Multiplication Rock record album! The only time I ever got to hear any Schoolhouse Rock songs was on Saturday morning in between the cartoons! Now I could play them anytime I wanted and it would help my memorize my Math facts!

My mom stuck her head in the door. I looked over at her and smiled.
"Thanks Mom."
"I know how much you like Schoolhouse Rock. I hope you'll play it often. I want you to get better marks on those Math tests."
I hugged her. "Between you and Kerry, I can't miss!"
"That's my girl. Go ahead and play your record. Dinner will be ready in half an hour."
I put the record on my record player. It started on "Elementary My Dear" (the 2 times tables).

"Forty days and forty nights, didn't it rain children?
Not a speck of land in sight, didn't it, didn't it rain?"

By the time Mom called me for dinner, I finished side 1 of the record. I hope my mom knows what she's in for, 'cos I'm gonna play this record to death! I'm gonna bring up my Math grades if it kills me! I don't wanna have to give up Baton Club. I'm glad I have a mom that loves me enough to make me try, even when I don't want to. And I'm glad that my teacher and friends like Kerry care too. They want me to do my best. Just wait 'til I take this record to school! Won't Miss LaSalle and the kids be surprised!

Kids in the future probably don't even have these problems. You just push a few buttons on your computers and Bingo, Math problems solved.  But here in the 70s, I really gotta work on it.  But don't worry, I'll lick this Math stuff yet!

Until next time, future readers,
Your friend,
Julie Newman


  1. Hi Julie,
    Yes, kids in the future still have to learn their math facts but it has become very difficult for parents to help their kids because new methods are used to figure things out and these new methods don't make any sense to the older generation. I, too, am lousy at math so I always liked learning little tricks to help me figure things out. I am a grandmother and still struggle with my multiplication tables, especially the 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. I did learn a little trick for the 9s. You take the multiplier, and subtract 1. That is the first number of your answer. Then you subtract that number from 9 and it gives you the second number. For instance: 9x2= ? Subtract 1 from the multiplier: 2-1=1. Then subtract that number from 9: 9-1=8. Put those two numbers together and the answer is 18. Another example: 9x6=? 6-1=5, 9-5=4. The answer is 54. It helped me. Hope it helps you too. Good luck with your tutor.
    Your future friend,

    1. I think that's kinda the same thing my record says, but it sounds confusing to me. I think I'll just stick with Kerry addition trick until I get the hang of memorizing number facts. My mom says that people learn better with music, (the way I remember the words to all my favorite songs), so maybe the record and Kerry will help me get better marks on those darn Friday tests!

  2. Dear Julie,
    My mom says that when it comes to math, you've got to practice, practice, practice. I'm real good at 2x, 5x, 10x, but the rest are tricky. I have flash cards to help me memorize. Do you have flash cards?
    Your Pen Pal,

    1. Hey Viv!

      Yeah, Kerry gave me the flash cards she brought over. But I really don't like those much, because it kinda feels like a test. I think I'll be better at them once I remember more of the Math facts from the record.

  3. Good luck Julie! I know you will figure it all out, sometimes it's hard and needs some extra effort. Kerry is so nice to help you out and that record that your mom gave you is awesome!

    1. Thanks Flo!

      My mom always tells me anything worth doing is worth doing right, and I'm gonna keep trying. Isn't my new record groovy? I'm the only kid in my class who doesn't have to wait for Saturday morning to hear those Schoolhouse Rock songs! Outta site!

  4. Julie I struggled with math for so long! Just keep memorizing!! Learn one multiplication problem a day and before you know it you will have TONS memorized!

    1. Really? Sometimes it seems like the whole world is better at Math than me, but I'm gonna lick this, wait and see!