My daughter recently complete first grade, a proud moment no doubt.  Towards the end of the school year, she brought home her list of spelling words for the week, one of which was "multiply."  To properly learn to spell the word, she asks what it means and tries to use the word in a sentence throughout the week.

Handing the list of new spelling words over to her mother, she quickly asked "Mom, what does 'multiply' mean?" After the echoes of her mother's groans subsided, she managed to say "Oh, go ask your father."

I'm not saying this was my culminating moment as a father, but knew the pressure was on nonetheless.  I opted for the quick, easy response (I was happy she was doing her addition and subtraction facts better than some of my high school students, so thought multiplication facts could wait for a while longer), summarized in the dialog below:
Daughter: "Dad, what does 'multiply' mean? It's one of my spelling words this week."
Me: "It's the 'x' button on your calculator." [Author's note: Yes, she does have her own calculator as a 1st grader. She calls it a 'clack-a-mo-later.']
D: [runs to her room, grabs calculator, enters 2 x 2 and sees the result 4] "So, 2 multiply 2 makes 4. So 'multiply' is just a fancy word for 'add' then?"
Me: "Not quite. Let's try another one, like 3 x 3. What's your clack-a-mo-later say now?"
D: "9. So did it just do the 6 upside down for adding this time?"  [Good observation, and on the right track, but no dice yet.]
Me: "Well, hold up three fingers on each of your hands. How many times do you see three?"
D: "I see it two times. So is that 3 TIMES 2?"
Me: "Yeah! So what needs to happen for 3 times 3?"
D: "You need to hold up three fingers on one of your hands, right?"
Me: "Okay, but see if it agrees with the 9 your clack-a-mo-later said."
D: [mouthing '3 plus 3 plus 3...equals 9'] "Its NINE, Dad!"

With as much enthusiasm as she's followed up this discovery with, I'm waiting for some of my students to take her along with them so they can ask multiplication facts when the need arises.  Either that, or they'll keep her handy with her trusty clack-o-mo-later.

Actually, here's a few photos of her "Multiply Book" she assembled the days following this newfound fascination with numbers:
Essentially a stack of Post-It Notes, she crafted her own set of multiplication flash cards.

At least she's accurate.


As a math teacher, I am compelled to emphasize the importance of the coordinate plane on a regular basis.  I have introduced the concept, terminology, and applications regularly but just in the past few years emphasized the historical context that brought about recognition of the Cartesian plane.  

Of course, I'm referring to Rene Descartes and the "fly on the wall" story by which he developed the ideas behind the coordinate plane we use today.  While the true history of this topic is not the most enthralling, with a little bit of indulgence on the part of the storyteller (me), it comes to life and is relevant to my students.

Examples of how I've indulged this story:
  • "If you think math is boring now, how boring was it for some guy named Rene to have to come up with a way to describe a fly on a ceiling tile?"
  • "So he laid in bed until around the crack of noon before taking to his studies, much like many college students do nowadays.  I doubt they do so in recognition of Descartes' honor though."
  • and my personal favorite "Who wouldn't wake up whenever a Swedish princess asked and teach her how to do math? Do you know how long I've been waiting for a phone call like that?"

So, with that, I introduce to you my "Good For Nothing" website.  Thanks for your support.