* My dear Isaac

Dear Isaac is my nephew with an unidentified auditory processing disorder and dyscalculia, all mixed with a heavy dose of emotional distress.  He’s a bright, creative youngster with strengths in science and art.  But as a third grader, he still can’t add or subtract single digit numbers without his fingers.  If we hadn’t used Alan Walker’s multiplication methodology, Isaac wouldn’t have learned any multiplication facts.  After his initial refusal to engage with the Walker approach to memorization, Isaac cut his losses and became proud of his new knowledge.

After my initial assessment, I estimated that it would take six months to correct fundamental math reasoning errors.  That was an accurate estimate.  Isaac has made solid progress in solving problems.  You would be so proud if you could see him working on multiple-step word problems!

Sadly, dear Isaac is now burned to a crisp at school and when it’s time for homework.  He doesn’t act out at school but his teacher reports that he is frequently inattentive and withdrawn.  The school year has been too long and taxing.  Isaac feels stupid, is depressed, and his teacher flat out refuses to lessen the homework load.  Oh dear!

A predictable conundrum for him (and me!) is dealing with his errors.  He has made too many and now wants to be error-free for life.  If only!  He is reluctant to accept alternative methods of calculation when he feels especially low.  We had a difficult session this past week when he refused to write multiple digit addition problems vertically instead of horizontally.

After staring at his horizontally-written problem, Isaac screamed, “I can’t do this!   I thought you were going to help!”

“Write it vertically, Isaac.”

“I’m going to do it MY way!”  

“Go ahead.”  [I walk across the room because I know he’s going to implode if I stay close.  Or I might just bite my hand off.]

Repeat above scenario 3 times.

Finally, amidst tears and growls, Isaac rewrites the problem vertically and gets so much praise from me that we are back on track.  I remain at his side as his sense of humor returns and he completes all the dreaded homework in record time.

Here’s the adorable Isaac, taking aim at homework with a tripod?

Isaac 3



* Confident! Update using Alan Walker’s multiplication.com

Confident!  “I learn this way!”  Those words describe Khalil’s current math trajectory thanks to the multiplication.com approach.  For those of you who’ve just joined this conversation, Khalil is a fourth grader who struggles in school, currently with math.  Math disabilities run through his family (I’ve taught three of his siblings), so it’s no surprise that this area has been a challenge.  No surprise, also, that it took a couple of years for his school performance to indicate that he was totally lost.  He managed to learn some procedures and used the visual cues on K, 1, and 2 worksheets to grope his way through.  He was never proficient, but early reading and writing struggles were the areas that caused him to act out.  He and I worked heavily on those weaknesses since reading trumps math.  His teachers and I collaborated on strategies to reduce his anxiety about writing and his behavior improved.

Worth buying this book!

Worth buying this book!

By third grade, Khalil had stopped darting under tables when it was time to write, but his math weaknesses had become acute.  Multiplication and division were layered over a foundation of sand.  Khalil had never memorized any addition and math facts and until recently, didn’t even understand basic operations.  In the midst of his math crisis, I decided that learning multiplication and division facts would be more useful than retracing our steps for basic operations in addition and subtraction.  Why?  Because Khalil was the only kid in his class who hadn’t memorized any facts- not even the ones and zeroes- and he knew it.   And his behavior problems skyrocketed as a consequence.  Hence, Alan Walker’s unique approach to learning multiplication.

Guess what?  In spite of our erratic scheduling, Khalil has almost memorized ALL his multiplication facts using the language-based approach of multiplication.com.  He is accurate and fast.  But his success in doing that has rippled outward in some unexpected and fantastic ways:

  1. Khalil has developed confidence. Amazing!  His anxiety has lessened as he memorized facts previously out of reach.
  2. His confidence led him to return to a strategy we had attempted years ago for adding and subtracting using visual cues.  Now he can add and subtract “naked” numbers (more on that later).
  3. His confidence made it possible for us to return to the basic operations and relearn change, part-part-whole, and comparison problems using addition and subtraction.  He can now create his own single step word problems for both operations!
  4. His confidence has made it possible for us to explore multiplicative processes (which includes division), both for equal group and comparison.  He never knew there was a relationship between multiplication and division!

Is the struggle over?  No.  He has no idea what fractions and decimals are all about.  Or perimeter and area.  Or two-step problems.  He has some horrible family issues.  But he also has a wonderful classroom teacher and a supportive extended family.  And thanks to the clever strategies of multiplication.com, Khalil has confidence!