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Mastering the Basics

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My son is in third grade. He is having difficulty with his multiplication as well as spelling. He still uses his fingers to add and subtract and is trying to use that method for multiplication. He is developing an "I don't care attitude." We have read to him nightly since he was a baby, and he retains so much. He loves to learn about science and space. When tested, he does well with science and history. How can we help him catch up on the basics? I think he is a bright young boy, but he does not want to spend time mastering the basics.

A: Since summer is just around the corner, you have a great opportunity to help your son gain the basic skills that he is missing. Ask his teacher for a list of the specific skills that trouble him to use as a guidepost when you or a tutor help him over the vacation. Also, make arrangements to keep out your son's current math and spelling books to use in your tutoring efforts.

Most children who fall behind develop a poor attitude about what is going on academically in the classroom. You'll see a positive change in your son's attitude after he masters the basics and is better able to keep up with his classmates next year.

In math, start with the basic addition facts, then move to teaching subtraction, and finally, multiplication. To give your child confidence, you might start with facts that he knows well, such as 2+2, 2+4, etc. We have written two books published by GoodYear Books: Helping Your Child with Mathematics (addition and subtraction) and Helping Your Children with Mathematics (multiplication) that will show you how to teach your child basic math. These books will let you have fun with your son through hands-on activities appropriate for his age.

As for spelling, choose 20 words each week from the teacher's list. Quiz your son on the vocabulary, then concentrate on teaching him just those words he doesn't know. Be sure to review frequently the words he's learned.

For tutoring to be successful, schedule a definite time to work with your child each day, and keep your tutoring sessions short. Remember also to keep reading to your child every day, since he enjoys and is benefiting from it.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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