Home School Lesson Plans Made Easy – The Secrets of Learning – Magic Numbers

by Lily White
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There is an amazing technique that changes the skills and attitudes of math students. It teaches students to understand math in a whole new way. For those students who count fingers to solve simple addition questions or students who count sets (8 + 8 + 8…) for simple multiplication questions, math becomes easy. In any given class there are one third of the students who struggle with math and another third who are completely lost. This technique, if done properly, lifts these students to a level of understanding that changes how they look at numbers.

The technique works with all students, save those with disabilities or behaviour problems so severe that the technique can’t be applied. It is geared for students in elementary ideally before they reach grade four since this is when they start learning the basic facts and early enough that they haven’t learned any bad habits that are difficult to undo. It does work with older students, but the closer they are to adulthood, the more difficult it is to have them apply the technique. It works with younger kids, even those as young as five or six years old. It is actually more beneficial to learn when they are younger as they grow up with the confidence and skills in math. It is also great for the self esteem when a six year old can recall the multiplication tables, something that usually isn’t mastered until grades five or six. Even then, only a third of the class will be able to do this.

Once they learn these skills, the rest of math becomes easy. The numbers are out of the way, so they don’t tumble around in the mind taking up valuable energy. They can focus on the concepts rather than counting fingers. They way they learn them also gives them a better understanding of the numbers as they apply to real life situations. It simply makes math fun.

So how does this technique work? It is actually very specific, precise images that you help students create in their minds. Think of an engine of a car. Even though a car is easy to drive, the engine is a complex design of parts that work together to create energy. The same is true of the images used to teach math which are called the Magic Numbers. They are specifically designed images that come from mnemonic research, key math patterns and mental connections that have been adapted from years of in class experience. Simply put, they are images that connect numbers to things children can relate to and remember.

Imagine a tricycle representing the number three. The shape of the handlebars looks like a number three (for visual learners). There are three wheels (for kinesthetic learners). It is also called a three wheeler (for auditory learners). The tricycle is easy to imagine and fun to use which makes it easy to connect with other numbers using images. The tricycle can then be a part of a mental image that is crystal clear and easy to remember.

Even though this technique works amazingly well, it is at times difficult to convince adults of its success. Adults, especially teachers, question and analyze new techniques and are often skeptical of the results. I have often asked parents to simply watch while I work one on one with the students having them hold their questions for at least thirty minutes. Once they see the results, they no longer need to know why it works.

Not everyone will have an opportunity to learn this technique, but it should inspire those searching to think outside the box. Although it is a technique that goes against traditional learning, it works. It was found out of necessity and developed through success. For parents who want to help their children who struggle in math or for those who want to ensure success for their children in math in the future, there is a way.



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