As a 6th grade math teacher in a private school, I often discovered that my classes were a general blend of different public and private schools that either taught traditional Math or adopted newer and alternative forms of math instruction. I found that the students with the alternative instruction came to 6th grade with a **weak set of multiplication and division skills using big numbers and decimals**. I often watched the pain and anguish develop in the faces of these generally good math students because they were behind the rest of the class. So, what can a parent or teacher do in this case? *Start reviewing early and often!*

**The first thing to test is your child’s ability to do standard multiplication and not the ladder method.** This is fine with small numbers, but once they get to 3 digits and decimals, it becomes nothing but a pain and often a source of errors. I usually had 2-3 students in each class using the ladder method. I worked with them during extra help or before school, retraining their multiplication and wouldn’t you believe … *they found it much easier to do the traditional vertical multiplication method*! What you can do at home is each night give your child a few problems to do using traditional method. They will be confused at first and might forget, but after a few days they should catch on. Don’t overwhelm them with a ton of problems; 2-3 each night is fine.

**The next thing I suggest is to review their long division skills.** Some students came to 6th grade only knowing how to do “partial sums” which again is fine with small whole numbers, but once you get into decimal division, *it doesn’t work as well and creates confusion*. So first, review **long division** (or teach it depending on the case) and then review **decimal division**. Most 5th grade math curriculum covers both long and decimal division so it should not be a foreign concept to a 6th grader. Each night, give your child 2-3 decimal or long division problems. Don’t overwhelm or overload.

Parents, if you don’t feel confident about making up your own problems, **contact the teacher** and ask if he or she can send your child home with a worksheet or if they can recommend a website with problems and examples. Two very good websites with worksheets are edHelper.com (which is a paid subscription) and Math.com which is free. And teachers, *send your students home with worksheets* to do at their own pace. It may seem like a lot at the beginning of the year, but retraining math skills only makes learning new ones easier.

**About our Guest Blogger and Author:**

Mrs. Hilary M. is a Math Tutor and Teacher from Princeton, NJ who offers her professional math tutoring services on TutorMatch.com. She also blogs at Mrs. Mo’s New Jersey, Baby! and HCM Tutoring.