Frustration to Smiles

Over the last two days in Plastic City, I have had the opportunity to work
with a twelve year old girl named Lily.  She struggles with her self-image
due to academic discouragement.  When we started working together she needed
a lot of help with her multiplication tables, even at the most basic level.
However, she seemed to really demonstrate competency as she received
encouragement from several team members.  When she saw that we as a team
believed in her, you could see her effort increase.  She still became
frustrated when incorrectly answering, but she kept at it.
We started first with an understanding of what multiplication is-repeated
addition.  Most students have a pretty strong understanding of
multiplication with 1s and 2s.  I wanted Lily to see the pattern that
developed after multiplying both 1 and 2 by the numbers one through ten. We
noticed that each product in the 1s family went up by one and in the 2s
family the product went up by two.  We worked until she developed an
understanding of this pattern that continues with 3s, 4s, etc.  Now we began
this same process for number families through ten.  As a starting point she
has been using fingers for counting and rocks as a physical demonstration.
After going through each number family one through ten, I quizzed her on
individual facts pulled out of the families and began forcing her to now use
her understanding of multiplication.  When she began to see that she could
do this, I began to see more smiles than frustration.
On our second day I continued this process, but where I stopped on the first
day at multiplying with sevens, I now continued through ten. I was also able
to show her a few tricks to remember certain facts, like the finger trick
you can use for learning your nines.  She picked up on these pretty quickly
and although she is still inconsistent with her answers, she is making large
I noticed that she seems to struggle more where she feels like she is being
watched or is under pressure.  When she has time to work privately and at
her own pace she does much better.  As we were packing up after the second
day, I left her to do some work on her own and as I was walking out of the
community over a small wooden bridge, Lily came running across and asked me
to check her work for about fifteen math problems.  These were not
multiplication facts with smaller numbers, but involved numbers 5 through
10.  As I checked over her work, she had only missed one question and that
was a simple error.  I could see she was getting it, but more importantly
she could see she was getting it.and she smiled.
Written by Brad Clodfelter
Brad is a teacher by profession and works as a middle school teacher.  He is
just as good in the US classroom as he is in our Guyana Classroom!  He has
made a lasting impact with LIly and her maths and our boys and young men on
the soccer field.

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