This week, Natalie Platon discusses the challenge of teaching multiplication to a group of students at the Skid Row Learning Center.
Ever since first becoming a tutor at the Skid Row Learning Center in April 2014, I have worked with a wide range of students in terms of academic ability, grade level, social and emotional development, and more. However, out of all the moments I have shared with my students thus far, one of my most challenging moments occurred last summer when I was teaching my students multiplication.
I had been working with the same group of 3rd to 5th grade students all summer and had been testing them daily on their multiplication facts since I worked with them Monday to Friday. To prepare students, I would have them complete a multiplication worksheet before administering a multiplication facts test. The majority of my students were doing well and consistently passing their tests, but I had one student who kept repeatedly failing her 4’s multiplication test. Initially, I designed the worksheet so that students would have to answer the multiplication fact (ex: 4 x 2 = 8), then write it as a repeated addition fact (ex: 4 + 4 = 8), and finally draw a picture of this multiplication fact. However, despite completing this worksheet two days in a row, she still failed the test twice.
I noticed that she was becoming increasingly frustrated whenever she had to take the test, which required students to answer all 12 multiplication facts within two minutes. I encouraged her to be positive and do her best, but she couldn’t help but notice how her peers were passing while she was being left behind. She started shutting down whenever she had to do a multiplication activity. After she failed the test the second time, I realized I had to intervene because the worksheet strategy I was using for everyone else was simply not working for her.
I designed another worksheet that required her to memorize the multiples of the multiplication fact (ex: 4, 8, 12, 16, etc.). This time, however, the worksheet challenged her to answer the questions out of order. Thanks to the new strategy, she was able to visualize the multiplication facts in a different way and recall her facts more effectively. On her fourth try, she successfully passed her 4’s multiplication test. She started becoming excited to learn her multiplication facts, and she eventually caught up with her classmates.
With my role as a tutor, I became aware of the importance of teaching my students in different ways for them to truly understand what they’re learning. Sometimes this means having to do extra work to design new activities or lessons, but it’s definitely worth it when I see my students’ positive reactions after they finally understand a difficult concept.
About the Tutor: Natalie Platon possesses seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and is currently finishing her multiple subjects teaching program with CSU Los Angeles. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools.
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