Elementary Math Help

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  • Michelle Brumgard

    Hello friends, I am in need of encouragement and counsel. Math comes easy to me. Numbers bring me joy. Not so much for my daughter, who is 9. She started in a charter school for kindergarten and first grade. She did okay in Math there, but I must admit I didn’t play close attention at the time. They used the new Math and all I knew is that I hated it. Last year when we began homeschooling (2nd grade), I started her with MUS Alpha. She had already learned addition but I just wanted to review it and feel that she knew it. We quickly moved onto Beta; completing it by year end. This year we began Gamma but quit at the New Year. I realized I breezed too quickly through Alpha and Beta. She hadn’t truly mastered her facts. My daughter knows the answers, just not as quick as I do. Not fair – she gets the right answer. The biggest issue we find is her giving her full attention in reviewing Addition and Subtraction facts via flashcards. She openly admits that when she pays attention and stays focused, it goes well and quickly. Unfortunately, it is less days than not. We have just been rotating flashcards each day. I invested in the Elementary LOF and we completed Apples and began Butterflies. She enjoys the story, but honestly, I just don’t get how she is learning anything from it. As we come to the end of her 3rd grade year and she barely knows her multiplication facts and openly states hating Math, I need help.

    She says she likes MUS and enjoys the DVD lessons. She enjoys LOF but doesn’t seem to be learning anything new. Flashcards are boring but if she is attentive and focused, she can do them. More than anything, I really want her to see the practical importance of Math. If she is learning from MUS, but I realized I didn’t truly allow her to MASTER a skill before moving on…do I just backtrack and review. Start over? I can’t afford to keep trying new curriculums. It seems to be more in her attitude and besides praying with her, I just don’t know what else to do. So often, she quits before trying.

    How do I know when to move on? Concepts I thought she knew, she obviously doesn’t seem to know now. 🙁

    With a 5 year old son now, I’m debating on the SCM Math DVD…would it be more practical for my daughter?


    If she understands the strategies for addition and subtraction but just needs quicker recall of the facts, I suggest trying free online xtramath.org  It tracks their progress and which facts they need the most work on.  It takes 5 – 10 minutes each day.  Math card games can help too.

    My kids are going all through the Life of Fred elementary series.  My oldest is just finishing up Jelly Beans.  They do like them, but I do find myself wondering if they were worth the time and money we put into them.  They used them as a fun supplement once a week and on summer break.  They are not necessary though.



    I have five children at varying levels in MUS right now (we’ve used it for years now, oldest is nearing the end of Algebra 1). I would say its okay to have a child whose language is not math and so they don’t get it quickly.  I would do similar to what was suggested – go ahead and move into multiplication and continue regular fact review.  Xtramath.org is good.  Multiplication.com is too and they have addition and subtraction games, not just multiplication and division.  So have 5 minutes a day where she works with math facts.  Flashcards are ok too, but like anything, get repetitive and boring without variation.  Have her roll dice and add them or subtract them.  Pull out dominoes and add or subtract the dots on either end of a single domino.  Or just go with a repetitive single method – it won’t be the end of the world!  xtramath is pretty repetitive but it does work well.

    And as you go through multiplication be sure to take regular time to practice and learn and review the facts.  By the end of the book it is really important to be doing the facts relatively easily because they do multiple digit multiplication problems that can take forever if they have to stop and figure out every single mini multiplication fact in the whole problem.


    I had a nice long reply written out, and then my phone battery died. So this may be a bit more to the point – please don’t take it as curt, more just “I’ve already typed this all out once and now I don’t have enough time!” lol.

    1. She is too young to be expected to know all her multiplication tables. She’s just finishing grade 3, which is typically just an introduction year. At the most, she might know 1, 2, 10, maybe 5. And it’s okay if she doesn’t. Typically you wouldn’t expect memorization of multiplication tables until the end of grade 4.

    2. You said she knows her +/- facts, just not as quickly as you. I’m curious why you think she should know them as fast as you? She’s had 2, maybe 3 years of working with them. You’ve had probably 20 or 30+ years. All that matters is that she knows them. Speed will come with time.

    3. Life of Fred is not meant to teach math facts, so if that is why you purchased it, you are not going to achieve what you hoped.

    4. Flashcards are boring. There’s no other way to put it. And many children have a hard time staying focused with them. I would look into other ways of working on math facts: speed drills – done both orally and on paper, online programs like Khan Academy or IXL, or even more “fun” ones like Math Seeds. Invest in some math games – Learning Resources or Scholastic both offer some great ones. But even a game like Monopoly requires addition and subtraction. Play “War!” with the flashcards. The key is to mix it up and keep it fun. Also, in her case, I wouldn’t drill facts every day, I’d say 2-3x a week tops. Memorization and efficacy (speed) will come over time as she uses the facts more – either through lessons, through drill or through games.

    As for the rest of it: if she says she likes Math U See, then definitely stick with it. Perhaps go back and restart Gamma. (I believe there are online placement tests you can take, do that first, and make sure that she’s actually ready for Gamma. If she’s not, repeat the last level, or part of it at least). But here’s the thing – follow HER lead. Math should NEVER be rushed through (as I’m suspecting you’ve now learned/realized). Don’t push, don’t rush, and don’t put pressure – or you’ll burn her out, as you can see has already happened.

    Now, this is meant with all due respect, no judging, this is just from a mom who’s been there, so can recognize where I’ve already been – I think any attitude problem you’re seeing in math, is not her fault, but yours. I see that her “attitude” is very likely a direct result of the pressure YOU have been putting on her (which likely stems from the pressure you’re putting on yourself). In all honesty, I don’t think it’s your daughter that needs to be prayed with but yourself. I think perhaps you should spend some time with God, and seek his help in changing YOUR attitude. Ask Him to help you let go: let go of the pressure you feel to have her “keep up”; let go of the worry of if she’s not memorizing those facts early enough or if she’s not fast enough; let go of the need to push faster than she’s ready for. Ask Him to help you follow her lead, and to help make your lesson time together more relaxing. Ask Him to help you TRUST Him. Remember, you are are not ultimately not responsible for her learning, you are merely a tool that God is using. Ultimately, He is in control, yes, even in your daughter’s education. Trust Him, trust yourself, trust the process. It will come. She will learn. And it will be on HER timeline, and that is okay.


    I never made my children memorize their subtraction or addition facts. :-O I don’t remember ever memorizing mine. I just began to memorize them naturally from doing them so much. Once my children had mastered the concepts of addition and subtraction and could do them well, we moved on.

    I did have my kids memorize their times tables because that is a very necessary skill. Having to work through the multiplication process each and every time for each and every number without having their times tables down would take forever. Multiplication is a different ball of wax. When they came to their times tables in Gamma, I had them do all the basic work sheets and then we took a break from Gamma and played Timezattack every day for 25 minutes for their regular math time. It took about a month for each of them to get their facts down and then we came back to Gamma and they flew through the rest of it.

    Flashcards are not happening at our house. We all really dislike them.

    I’m definitely not saying my way is the best way. I just thought I’d share what has worked for us.


    We have used Math wrap up keys as a better substitute for flashcards, too.  Variation will be better with games like Tristan described.  These can be so fun or competitive that they don’t know what they are really working on.


    That’s great she likes MUS; you said she hates math so it sounds like she mostly hates the flash cards, which my daughter does too.  She can’t get them right, no matter how many days/months we repeat them.  She can get the right answer with her fingers or blocks, or drawing a picture though, and that’s great.

    You also said she hadn’t truly mastered the facts, but then said she gets things right, so to me that’s mastering the facts, even if it takes a little while.

    My daughter is 9 and will be using MUS Gamma this year.  She has really struggled despite working hard with a great attitude.  I have accepted that she won’t move as fast as her siblings and it’s fine.    I also know that for her to learn best, we need things besides flashcards, they will not help her.

    I have found any math curriculum will need a little help drilling or practicing the facts sometimes.  Most of mine use MUS and we always took a little extra time off to learn the multiplication facts and then kept going.

    xtramath and multiplication.com are great websites already mentioned, if she likes to play games I highly recommend Muggins Math games.  Each board has a game on the front and a different on on the back.  They are played with dice and marbles, all my kids have really enjoyed them, and there are so many variations you can use them for basic counting up to division as well.

    I also really like Times Tales, they are flashcard/stories for 6-9 multiplication facts.  They have helped two of my children master those facts more quickly.

    I don’t think speed is an issue either right now; the right answer is, or understanding the process.  I had teachers in high school that would mark my correct math problems wrong, even when showing my work, because it wasn’t the way the book taught, or the teacher’s way of doing it.   I think very differently and slowly when it comes to math but I end up with the right answer most of the time:)

    I do NOT like Life of Fred books, they make my head spin and I just find them annoying.  I have tried them with my son and daughter, who have very different personalities, and they both did not like them either.

    Sounds like if you relax a little and maybe back off the flashcards, and add some more creative ways of review she won’t mind math so much.  Best wishes for your year


    I’ve found Life of Fred to be a complete waste of money. I have seen people claim it is a stand-alone curriculum. Two-five pages of story with maybe three sentences related to math, with 4 review questions, only half of which are math-related, can’t possibly be a full curriculum.


    Just another plug for xtramath.org.  It has worked beautifully for all four of my kids.  They love “graduating” and getting the certificates – it is fantastic that it is personalized in tracking progress for each child and focusing the work so that the child works the most on the facts they have the greatest trouble with.  I really marvel at well my children know their facts and we have done nothing more than xtramath.org.  I should say, however, we didn’t stop once they’d “graduated” from one level or set of facts.  We just changed the settings to challenge them further i.e. change from the normal setting (3 seconds) to advanced setting (1.5 seconds).  Even now, my older boys having locked in their math facts years ago, I will still once in awhile set up a new account for one of them and have them run through the program.  Happy to say they usually pass in a single day (i.e. one session) or two!  And they are quite proud of themselves to get the certificate again (so quickly!)

    Hope that helps.


    Right start math card games are a nice way to practice math facts.

    Michelle Brumgard

    Thank you for all the wonderful replies and suggestions! This is exactly why I love coming to this community for support. My daughter complained about math prior to any flashcards, but I honestly, after reflection, believes it has more to do with the reinforcement of others reminding her of the weakness. She is much better at math then she gives herself credit, which is where I think I get frustrated. I definitely do need prayer. We have been using XtraMath since last summer, when someone suggested it on a thread on here. Love it! We will give multiplication.com a try for an added supplement and some of the game suggestions. Thank you!!


    Praying for you and your son Mrs. Brumgard!

    I feel the same way about Life of Fred for the record. We bought it to try as a supplement but it was too much for a supplement and not enough for a curriculum so I sold it.

    Richele Baburina

    Hello MrsBrumgard,

    Numbers are a joy to you so why settle for less for your child?  Charlotte Mason refers to beauty, truth, and joy; the lifting of a child’s heart; and delight in discovery -all in relationship to the living teaching of math.  I believe you are here because a Charlotte Mason education resonates with you.  The dvd takes you through her methods based on her philosophy so why not go to the source?

    You will go at your child’s pace and she will understand the “why” behind what she is doing.  Interesting questions will promote attention.  What child wouldn’t be more enthusiastic about being asked, “How old will you be when your cousin Aimee is seven” rather than merely seeing on a card or screen  7+5=12?  Facts will be learned, yes, but not before the accompanying idea is grasped.

    Your daughter may not be as gifted at math as you or you may find her just as much or even more so.  Be assured though, employing Charlotte’s methods each step of the way the ground will be secure beneath her feet and I dare say that will do much to alleviate frustration.

    I’ve answered a few posts regarding the learning of math facts.  If you click on my name you should find just what Charlotte said about it and I’m happy to answer any other questions you may have regarding the dvd.




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