Check out our newest story and video on teaching third grade math. They begin a series, appearing this week, on what teaching, learning, and assessment look like at the International Community School under No Child Left Behind.
While reporting it, I spent time in the math class of veteran teacher Ann Griffith. One morning, before most of her English language learners headed off to the remedial math class Georgia requires them to take, Ann sat down with Sakinah McMahon, a Somali girl in a light blue headscarf. She carried with her a chart for each student, coloring in boxes for each multiplication fact they'd mastered, from 1 x 1 to 12 x 12. Many students were in the sevens and eights already. Sakinah was just beginning.
"What's five times one?" Ann tried. Sakinah looked lost. Her teacher switched gears.
"If you have five cookies on five plates," she asked, "how many plates of cookies do you have?"
Sakinah wasn't sure. To Sakinah's delight, Ann pulled out a dry-erase marker and started making dots on her desktop. They counted them out together: five.
"So what's five times one?" Ann asked.
"Five?" Sakinah said uncertainly.
"And what's 10 times 1?"
"Ten," with more confidence.
"And what's skiddly widdly times one?"
"Skiddly widdly," said Sakinah, giggling.
"Remember, if you multiply anything times one, that's what you've got," Ann said.
Then she quizzed Sakinah, rapid-fire, from 1 x 1 to 1 x 6, crayoning the squares in orange as they went. The girl got them all right.
"See, you know all these," Ann showed Sakinah. "That's pretty cool, huh?"