# Ep 38: Multiplication Facts: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Pt 5

March 09, 2021 Pam Harris Episode 38
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Ep 38: Multiplication Facts: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Pt 5

We made it to our final episode in our multiplication facts series! In this episode Pam and Kim share their secret to helping kids narrow in on facts they struggle with. This final episode exemplifies why we believe that through mathematizing students will naturally develop fact fluency.
Talking Points

• What it means to take the long view in multiplication facts
• The importance of really knowing your students
• Clue cards
• Final thoughts on fact fluency

Pam Harris:

Hey fellow mathematicians! Welcome to the podcast where Math is Figure-Out-Able. I'm Pam Harris.

Kim Montague:

And I'm Kim Montague.

Pam Harris:

Kim Montague:

Yeah, we had so many great ideas we decided to keep going this episode. We wanted to share some more ideas about what we really recommend, as you're working with students and their multiplication facts.

Pam Harris:

Yeah. So in the last episode, we talked about taking the long view that it's not this short, it's not one time, it's not just like, do this one thing. But it's like, let's work on these for a long time. Let's keep talking about it. In fact, Kim, you have a seventh grader?

Kim Montague:

Yep.

Pam Harris:

And you still mess around with facts with him, right?

Kim Montague:

Sure

Pam Harris:

Like it's a constant conversation. Now when I say that somebody might be like, "Oh, because he doesn't know them yet?" No, no, I mean, the kid is a brilliant mathematician. You guys should see the way this kid mathematizes. But it's still like a thing. It's a thing to continue to play with. Like we just keep with it. We take the long view.

Kim Montague:

Yeah, to see how many different relationships kids can use, right?

Pam Harris:

Absolutely.

Kim Montague:

So at some point, though, we need to dial in a little bit. So we play games and do activities to work on exposing kids to facts.

Pam Harris:

Sometime during the year, we need to dial in.

Kim Montague:

Right, right. So at some point, right, when we reach the part of the year where we feel like we're given facts their due, I would have kids think about sorting out ones they knew at their core, and ones that they didn't own yet. So we've done a lot of work, we've done a lot of activities. And then when we reach that part of the year, we make individual sets of clue cards based on the relationships that they have made use of. And those clue cards become their own personal flashcards to work with, and are based on what each student chooses.

Pam Harris:

So Kim, I think I've heard you say that you actually interviewed each kid, and you would sit down with them and you sort of use like a typical flashcard deck and just say, "Hey, let's just check these out." Now remember, everybody, remember listeners, she's doing this later in the year after they've done lots of work already building the facts. And then she's like, "Hey, which of these do you just know? Do you own? You've got down deep? And which ones do you not know, yet?". Growth mindset language in there. We don't know - 'yet'. But we're gonna, and you would just sort of like show them the card and you make a pile of facts. If Kim's a student, then we have facts Kim knows, and facts Kim doesn't know - yet. And then take those facts that the student doesn't know yet and make that personalized set of what you call clue cards.

Kim Montague:

Right.

Pam Harris:

So what does that look like? Well, let's take like So that it is just enough to ping the kid to be

Kim Montague:

Mhmm a most missed fact. So say the particular kid that we're able to think about, "Oh I can double four sevens to get eight working with, doesn't know 8 x 7, or 7 x8. So you would make a personal card for that student just on an index card or sevens." Or for 8 x 7, 7 x 8, a kid might say, "Well, I know my whatever kind of card you have handy. On that index card, you And they've been thinking about these would write '7 x 8', '8 x 7', and then a clue to help that student figure that fact. A relationship that would help fives, like 5 x 8, I can do that." So to find seven eighths, that student figure that fact. So if it is 8 x7, that clue might be something like, if I'm trying to get eight sevens, then I've got to find five eights, and then add two eights. So we maybe I would write a clue of '7 x 7'. Because if I have seven sevens, I can use that to help me find eight sevens. I just might just write down like '5 x 8', or we might write '(5 x 8) + need one more seven. And so on that card, where I've got 8 x 7, 7 x 8. Then underneath that, I might write '7 x 7'. I might (2 x 8)'. Or we might just write '40'. And then say like, write '7 x 7 = 49'. I might write '49'. Like whatever it is that kind of pings for that kid to go, "Oh, yeah, that's right. whatever it is, again, that would sort of cue that kid. I could use that to help me think about the fact I'm trying Maybe to find eight sevens, we might write down '10 x 7'. to find" or maybe another clue might be to get eight sevens. I might write '4 x 7' or just 'four sevens', or '4 x 7 = 28', Because to find eight sevens, maybe if I know 10, sevens, I try to write as little as possible. that's easy, right? That's 70, then can I get rid of two extra sevens? Let's just get rid of 14, oh yeah, that's 56. I might use the clue of seven sevens to find eight sevens or eight eights, to find seven eights. Because kids know those square numbers. A lot of kids know 7 x 7 and 8 x 8. And they don't know the one in between, so funny. So whatever it is that works well, for that particular student, I'm going to write on the bottom of that card. relationships already, right? It's not like, "Oh, let me just come up with something random." They've been working with these relationships in all the games and activities that we've been playing.

Pam Harris:

Absolutely. And so we're just looking for one that works particularly well for the student. so that when they are then practicing, because then you're going to have kids practice with these cards.

Kim Montague:

Yeah, absolutely.

Pam Harris:

Yeah. And let's talk about that for just a second. When you're having kids practice with those cards, I've heard you talk about circulating during that practice time. Can you say more about that?

Kim Montague:

Yeah, so I'm listening for kids who are not making use of the clues that they said are useful to them, right? When they make these cards, then they are choosing the clue, you just gave us a whole bunch of relationships that could be used, but they come up with one that's useful to them. And then when I hear them not make use of them, they get stuck on one for quite some time, then we re-evaluate the clue that they have on their card.

Pam Harris:

And you might choose a different clue. And you might scratch that one out and put a different thing on there that maybe they could use more easily. Y'all, if you don't learn anything else, teachers, notice how important it was for Kim to be involved. Like she's circulating, and she's listening in, it's not just like, "Okay, go off on your own. And I'm gonna grade papers over here." You're constantly interested in where students are on the Landscape of Learning, you're constantly interested in how you can help nudge them towards more specific, sophisticated thinking. And I love that, so I wanted to point that out. Okay, so I'm picturing this deck of cards I'm making for each individual kid. And so I've written '7 x 8, 8 x 7'. And when I say that, y'all, I mean both, so I write '7 x 8', and then underneath that, I write '8 x 7'. And then underneath that a little bit with some space in between, then we'll write the clue that the student is going to use. And then flip it over and put '56' on the back?

Kim Montague:

Oh, actually, no, no, no. So the clue goes on the front. But nowhere on the card does it have the answer.

Pam Harris:

What?

Kim Montague:

I know it's totally different than a regular flashcard. But here's the deal. We're encouraging kids to play with a partner, right? They're not playing alone. So I paired them up with kids that they could have a conversation with, right? And they're not able to treat it like a regular flashcard, they had to focus on the clue, right? So if they're playing alone, and they're just like, looking at the front, and they could flip it over and look at the back, then it feels a little bit like, "I'm just asking you to memorize," which is not the goal.

Pam Harris:

Because they could just literally go: seven times eight, flip it or whatever, 7 x 8 is 56 and kind of do a memory thing. Now I'm trying to rote memorize this. And that's not what you're trying to encourage.

Kim Montague:

Right. I'm trying to encourage thinking about a relationship that makes sense to them. And with more time seeing relationships, then it will become automatic.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, absolutely. Nice. So you don't actually put anything down? The answer doesn't show up there. So how do you make sure that you don't have kids that are practicing the wrong answer, you know, maybe they're talking about it, they both agree that 7 x 8 is 55 and they move on, like, how are you - ?

Kim Montague:

Well, I'm gonna visit with them, right? So at some point, I'm going to sit down with kids pretty often. I've mentioned before the two thirds/one third way that I split up my class, and in that 1/3 time, you know, we know our kids so well, right, we have conversations with -

Pam Harris:

Well, you do because you have conversations with them, and you're circulating and you're dropping in and you're pulling them like you just said so -

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, so keep listening, guys.

Kim Montague:

I'm going to meet with my students who I know are struggling with some facts. And I'm going to have a conversation with them. And I'm going to go through their clue cards with them. And I'm going to be listening for which ones of the clues are helpful and which ones they're coming up with an incorrect product.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, so you're involved.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

You're helping that by being involved. Cool. Very nice. Alright. So let's give the listener some practice at this. So Kim, I'm going to give you a most missed fact.

Kim Montague:

Okay.

Pam Harris:

And I'm going to ask you to give a few clues that might be good ones that a teacher might offer up to a student. So when a kid sits down, and they have this most missed fact and then he's like, "I don't know." She says, "I don't know what clue to use." You might say, "Well, do you know, blank? Or do you know -?" So teachers need to have these clues, these relationships at their fingertips. What were you going to say? Well, I was gonna say that - so you said offer up. And there are definitely times where I'm making a suggestion, but I don't think one of the things that we've mentioned is that a lot of these suggestions come from the students in the class. So if I know I'm working with a most missed fact, that's going to be on many kids' lists, then we're gonna make a poster together. And it might be, you know, 8 x 7, like you said, and I'm going to ask them, "What are some clues that could go on your card?" Let's brainstorm, whole class?

Kim Montague:

Yes. And so we're brainstorming the whole class, and we're coming up with a whole chart. And then when I'm sitting down with students, I might say, "Hey, was there one on that chart that feels right to you? Is there one that you want to gravitate towards?" And so I might guide a little bit, but a lot of the times it's coming from the students; the class as a whole.

Pam Harris:

But teachers - don't you feel like Kim, it would be important for teachers and parents to have a few relationships -

Kim Montague:

Oh for sure.

Pam Harris:

- in their heads so that they as students are talking about it, they can hang with it. They can draw them out when they're making that class poster. They might be like, "Well, did anybody think about, you know, a little over relationship?" Okay, so let's brainstorm what some of those relationships could be for a most missed fact, like, I'm going to give you nine times seven.

Kim Montague:

Okay, 9 x 7. So a really common clue that I would have seen for 9 x 7 is something really close to 10 x 7, a lot of kids just know 10 x 7, because they have seven 10s. And so I would have seen a couple of different variations. So the clue might have just said '10 x 7'. Or it could have said, if they need a little more nudge '(10 x 7) - (1 x 7)'. A lot of kids are really comfortable with fives. So for 9 x 7, it might have said '(5 x 7) + (4 x 7)', or maybe just '5 x 7', that might have been enough. You mentioned earlier that a lot of kids love the fact that they know squares. And so you might have seen 7 x 7, or (7 x 7) + (2 x 7), could have been (9 x 9) - (2 x 9) -

Pam Harris:

Cool.

Kim Montague:

- to get to seven nines. There's a whole bunch of them, right?

Pam Harris:

Would you ever think about 3 x 7 and triple it? Ah-huh. Or is that - I mean that's a great one, except I'm wondering if -

Kim Montague:

Tripling 27 is kinda a funky -

Pam Harris:

Ah, but it'd be 21 right? Three times seven is 21. And then triple is 21.

Kim Montague:

Oh yeah, in my head it was 3 x 9. So yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pam Harris:

So interesting, if you don't know 9 x 7, I'm not sure 3 x 7 is 21, tripling that? I don't know if a kid would have access to that, but it's fun to play with. And if a kid says no, that would not help me, well, then don't put that on their clue card. Right?

Kim Montague:

And you know what, I want to mention that one time we were in a workshop, and we were talking about clue cards, and it's so interesting to me, because we made one clue poster together. And then I asked participants to make at their tables to make a poster of suggested clues. And then we walked around the room and I asked the participants to put a little asterisk or a star next to the clue that they would choose for that one.

Pam Harris:

Let me be clear, each group had a different most missed fact. Is that right?

Kim Montague:

Correct. So we hung the posters on the wall, and one poster might have said six times eight, and one might have said nine times six. And so we had all these posters. And then we literally took a marker and everyone walked around the room. And I just said, "Hey, choose the clue that you would put if you were making a clue card for that fact." And there was overwhelmingly on every poster, almost every clue was chosen.

Pam Harris:

Oh, interesting.

Kim Montague:

Yeah. You would think one clue was picked more than others.

Pam Harris:

Was more popular.

Kim Montague:

Absolutely not true.

Pam Harris:

Huh? That's really cool. Nice. Okay, so you ask me one. Give me a most missed fact.

Kim Montague:

Okay, you take 8 times six,

Pam Harris:

Okay, 8 x 6. So I might think that kids might use the double, double, double that we talked about a couple episodes ago, where they might find 2 x 6 to get 4 x 6 to get 8 x 6. Or they might just know 4 x 6. And that's delightful because 24 then is so easy to double to get 8 x 6. They also might use squares like you mentioned earlier, so like 6 x 6, and then they have to add two more sixes. I don't know that they use 8 x 8 and get rid of - that they have eight eights, but they only need six eights, they would get rid of two eights. But we could see if they want to do that. And then again, they might use their fives. Fives are nice. They might think about five eights to get six eights. Yeah. Cool. So Kim, one of the things that teachers

Kim Montague:

Yeah. also ask us when we talk about clue cards is - we just got this the other day. What if - you know, we don't want shame, right? We've talked about how shame is not a thing that we desire, it doesn't motivate kids well. Teachers have asked, so what if kids have these huge card decks? Like, we're just really worried that some kids will have these gigantic decks, some kids have these really tiny decks. Like, how do we keep the shame out of that? Yeah, we do get this question a lot, right? And so one of the things that I'm maybe not as clear about is that this idea of making clue cards comes really late, right? And so there may be kids who -

Pam Harris:

Late in the year.

Kim Montague:

Late in the year, maybe like, you know, second semester, after we've played a lot of games and done a lot. And so there may be kids that have none or just a few, right? Or there might be some kids that have a handful. But I never, you know, for all those years never had kids who had 25 cards, or 40 cards. And so it wasn't really ever a thing, where there was this whole unbalanced situation. I also loved sending those sets of cards home. So that was a kind of thing to let parents know, these are the facts that your kids could use some more work on. And once we set up the routine at school, then that was a great way for parents to get involved or for kids to work with a sibling. I know that's not always the case for you know, for some kids. And then I knew those families well, and I would play with the kids.

Pam Harris:

Nice, nice. So kids have been tinkering all through semester, tinkering and tinkering. And so by the time you got to making decks of cards, I heard you actually say that you never had kids that have more than 10. Like you know, 10 was sort of the max that a kid might have. And if you think about it, you guys, once you have like, two to 10 cards, you kind of can't tell the difference. I mean, the stacks are pretty much you know, there's so few. And there really aren't that many more to work on, because they've already been tinkering all year long, very cool.

Kim Montague:

And I would suggest that maybe if you've got kids, who've got 30 or 40 cards out of the whole, you know, set, then it might be that there's some things that can be done prior to doing clue cards. Maybe there's some more routines or activities that you could do to give them more facility with those facts.

Pam Harris: