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What to do when you just can't seem to help any more? (kids and homework)

My 2nd grader is really struggling with her math facts. It's not that she doesn't understand math. In fact she is pretty good with math in general.

The problem she is having is the school expects her to be able to rattle off the answer to basic math facts in 3 seconds. Not a big deal. In fact, I agree that it's a good skill to have. But she just can't memorize them. Her homework says to study them 2 times a week for 10 minutes each day. She studies every day for a good 20 minutes and still can't remember them a few hours later.
Her first quiz she got 12 out of 24 right (most were real easy like 1+1 and 1+3). The 2nd one she got 5/24. :(
We've tried every method we can think of to help her memorize and even contacted her teacher because it is causing her stress. She now cries if I even mention math. Not sure what else to do except give her hugs and hope she finally gets it. She can't pass 2nd grade otherwise.


Asked by justanotherjen at 12:10 PM on Oct. 11, 2010 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 26 (28,174 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (14)
  • Maybe try working on only a small set at a time and tell her not to worry about the grades just yet. Try approaching it in different ways until you find one that clicks. Some kids will learn best with flashcards, some will learn best by hearing and saying the facts over and over again, and some need to see and write them. Also have her practice doing them in timed test format like she will have to do at school. I can't think of the websites, but there are websites with math games that might be a fun way for her to practice.

    Answer by TweenAndTwinMom at 12:19 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Wow, that's terrible. Our school doesn't do that! Have you thought of Huntington Learning Center? I know they are quite expensive, but they really work on basic skills.

    Answer by mompam at 12:17 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • some kids just don't get it until later. Honestly, that's the truth.
    Sometimes, if it is set to music it can help. Several education supply stores sell math fact CD's. I have used one called Multiplication Rap for some of my students. Sometimes playing games with them works as well. is a good website that can help with these skills. It can also help you track progress too.

    Answer by layh41407 at 12:32 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • I wouldn't worry too much about her getting a bad grade in math in second grade. That is really not going to have such a big impact on her future education. I would be more concerned about having her come to hate math at such an early age than getting a bad grade in second grade. I would be less concerned with immediate results and grades than with long term learning. Let her practice with online math games, let her skip a day of math practice if she has approached it with a good attitude for the rest of the week. The only way to memorize is practice, but make that practice fun for her and do not stress if it takes her a long time and a lot of different methods to get it because her own anxiety over it will keep her from being able to retrieve the math facts she's been able to retain.



    Answer by riotgrrl at 12:35 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Our school also puts a lot of emphasis on memorization of arithmetic because it is harder for kids to learn some of the bigger concepts as they get further in to math if they get hung up on the arithmetic. However, arithmetic is not everyone's strong point. I got A's in college calculus and very math intensive science classes like chemistry and physics. But I am pretty useless at math in general without a calculator because the actual arithmetic is not my strong point.

    Answer by riotgrrl at 12:35 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Practice, practice, practice ... in fun ways, with money and board games and jump rope. And in serious ways, with worksheets and stickers and workbooks. It's pretty important to have a basic understanding and use of math in the early grades, or she'll struggle later.
    I saw a wonderful example of casual practice in the grocery store yesterday. The mom said "we have one (of whatever they were talking about), how many more do we need to make 10". The daughter said "5+5+10". The mom said "You're right, it does!" Stopped. Gave her daughter 10 pennies. Told her "give me one. now I have one. how many more do you have to give me for me to have 10?" The little girl counted the pennies, and said "all 9" The mom said "that's right - so we have one - how many more do we need to make 10?" The little girl answered "we need 9 more" and happily skipped off to get them!

    Answer by aliceinalgonac at 1:12 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • That's what we've been doing...trying different techniques. And the teacher already breaks them down. Each week adds 8 or so new facts to memorize and they are in a pattern (like last week all the problems equaled 12 or 13). She made her own flashcards and we mad cards with just numbers on them for her to make math sentences. She's wrote them out on her chalk board. I've let her work on a math website, etc.
    The problem isn't the math. She gets the math and can add just fine but she's still using her fingers and they HAVE to be able to just recall the answers. Her problem is in the memorization. She just can't memorize the answers. Her teacher said she would send home some activities to help her out. I'm not sure how she accounts for the grades on these quizzes. I'm not worried about them, just that she learn all these by the end of the year but I'd hate for her to get a bad overall grade because she can't memorize

    Comment by justanotherjen (original poster) at 12:28 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • I'll see what the teacher comes up with. But the music thing sounds interesting. She LOVES music, always has. So that might actually click with her.

    The way she does spelling is really interesting. They get 5 words a week and there are about 40 different activities they can pick from to learn the spelling. They focus on different senses. She likes to do the one where she looks the words up in the dictionary. One is to draw pictures for each word and last week she did the one where she could put each word in a different font. One is to make up a game that uses each word. There are also options to write stories with the words, write them a pan of rice (or some other food forum), jump rope to them, etc. It's really neat and she said she has similar activities for math so maybe one of them will help. My dd has gotten really frustrated. I know she can do it but the pressure is killing her motivation.

    Comment by justanotherjen (original poster) at 12:37 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Well, it sounds like you're doing all the right things. Maybe just try sticking with one set until she does get it even if it's not the set they are working on that week. As long as she eventually gets them all she should be fine. Memorizing is a completely different skill, and she may just need a little more time to perfect it. I was like that when I was her age, and those timed tests always stressed me out (I did eventually get it and even chose a number oriented career). Deffinitely stay in touch with her teacher too. GL!

    Answer by TweenAndTwinMom at 12:39 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Music sounds like a great idea! I've also seen kids using the jump rope method with math facts.

    Answer by TweenAndTwinMom at 12:44 PM on Oct. 11, 2010