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.