Math tips and tricks

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Dear Mrs. James,

Do you have any cool ways to practice multiplication facts?


Mindy Ely


Hi Mindy,

Try this: Play the card game War with regular playing cards that have had the face cards and Jokers removed. Instead of the person with the highest card winning the draw, it's the person who says the multiplication fact the fastest. So, if you have a three and your child has a two, whoever says "six" first wins the draw and collects the book. Whoever has the most books at the end wins. It takes away the drill factor and adds some fun to it. Don't let your kids win either! Victory will be so much sweeter to them when they beat you!

Keep up the good work!

Love, Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

My daughter is probably like an alien or something because she actually has liked math during all of her schooling. I know most kids hate it. However, she is in fourth grade now and I can see her starting to join the "I hate math" club. Well, I guess I can say she's considering joining it. Not quite there yet. I would like to think of things that I personally can do to save her from the "I hate math" club. I hope you answer my question.




Hi Marsha,

Great question! What a proactive approach toward your daughter's education! I love it. To prevent her from obtaining an I Hate Math Club membership, my suggestion is to help her maintain her enjoyment for math by making it enjoyable and applicable to her everyday life. Help her to see how she can use math outside of her classroom. Make it fun! In the fourth grade, you can do so many cool things by simply taking advantage of the things around you. Fourth graders should be learning about fractions, so when you are using a recipe, have her identify all of the fractions that are used ( cup, teaspoon, etc.). Ask her how much would be needed if the recipe were doubled. So, if you need 2 cups of flour for a cake, how much flour would you need for 2 cakes? 3 cakes? Fourth graders also learn how to make estimates. Take her with you when you go shopping. Discuss how you estimate while you shop with her. Use different strategies to estimate the total (or parts of the total) bill, and explain to her the process you go through in your head. Since I'm on a roll here, I'll throw you out one more! Have her conduct a survey on how many pets people in your family or neighborhood own. Then she can determine the median, mode, and range of the set of data. Try it. You'll see! Then you'll begin to come up with creative ways of your own to make math fun (and when you do, write in and tell me so that I can share it with others and pretend that I thought of them on my own). Just kidding! Keep math alive by keeping math fun! I'll be here cheering you on along the way! Until then

Keep up the good work!

Love, Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

My son Michael is getting Fs on his math tests. Maybe a D on a good week. My wife and I are really concerned. His teacher says that he understands the concepts but continues to make big mistakes when he's showing his work. I can't understand how he can understand the concept but still get Fs. That's like a double negative isn't it? What can we do? We're discouraged.


Dustin Zimmer


Aw, Dustin! Don't be discouraged. We can totally turn this situation around! Totally. Based on my experience, I would guess that Michael is having trouble with his basic multiplication facts. When a math student knows the concepts but continues to get the answers wrong, this is usually the case. My solution is to start practicing basic multiplication facts with Michael on a daily basis. Use flashcards, online websites, or see my advice to Mindy Ely above. Whether he's working on multiplying fractions, scientific notation, algebraic equations, or even simple story problems, it is absolutely imperative that he be able to recall his multiplication facts quickly and accurately. I am positive that if he can improve on his multiplication facts, his test scores will begin to more accurately reflect his true knowledge of the material. Don't give up!

Keep up the good work!

Love, Mrs. James

Awesomely fabulous websites from Mrs. James:

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Math Counts

A Plus Math

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