And she said “OK.”
So she systematically learned her times tables in 4 weeks and yes, even multiplication has language embedded in it. You’d be surprised how many kids don’t realize 7 times 3 can be spelled out as “seven times” 3, which just means 3 seven times, just like this. So when kids see it this way, they quickly realize that repeated addition is slow and inconvenient, so they gladly memorize that 3 seven times always gives you 21. So for this teenager who was at risk of dropping out, becoming fluent and confident in multiplication was a game changer. Because for the first time she could focus on problem solving instead of counting on her fingers.
I knew she had turned the corner when she figured out that a 2-year car lease at $445 a month would cost you $10,680 and she looked at me disapprovingly and said: “Mr. Palisoc, that’s expensive!” At that moment, math was no longer causing problems for her, but she was using math to solve problems as a responsible adult would.
As an educator, it’s my duty to challenge kids to reach higher, so I leave you with this challenge. Our country is stuck at 26% proficiency, and I challenge you to push that number higher. This is important because mathematical thinking not only builds young minds, but our kids need it to imagine and build a future that doesn’t yet exist. Meeting this challenge can be as simple as apples + apples. Insist that we teach Math as a human language and we will get there sooner, rather than later.