It isn't a math problem

She'd established that she just didn't get math. Especially multiplication. She didn't get multiplication.

Do you mean you don't get what going on, or you can't remember what times what makes what?

I don't get any of it.

Has anyone ever... Do you know that it's really just adding the same number over and over?

No. What do you mean?

Do you want to learn to multiply today?


So I showed her that 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 20. Then I wrote out, "Four added to itself five times makes twenty." She seemed to think that was reasonable, so I pointed out the word "times" and said that was where we get the "times" in "four times five" or (writing all this out) "4 x 5."

She was silent for a minute, and I thought I'd lost her. But then she said, "If you added it up three times, that would be four times three."

Yep. Now, watch this: 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 20. If you add five to itself four times you get the same thing as you did when you added four to itself five times. It doesn't matter which goes first. You get 20 as an answer whether you go 4 x 5 or 5 x 4.


Do you want to try some of these?


So she did. Adding eight to itself six times, adding nine to itself three times, adding four to itself seven times.

After a while, I showed her some shortcuts, like how to group two's and five's so she could add tens. Eventually she got bored and asked, "Is there something harder I can do?" Yeah, of course. Long division - which we amused ourselves with until the end of the day.

Lots of things can go wrong between here and the GED. Lots of things are going to go wrong. But none of them will have much to do with math.

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