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The record (3) Fri, Feb 24, 2006
When I was a 3rd-grade student at McKeown Elementary School, they used to teach us multiplication and division the right way:  Memorization of tables.  I don't remember exactly how they taught it (like was it the same thing every day or did we count M&Ms some days?), but I remember learning a certain number at a time.  For example, we'd focus on the number 7 by listing the product of 7 and every number up to 10.  7x1=7, 7x2=14, 7x3=21 ... 7x10=70.  Then we'd go to the next number and do the same thing.  I think we did every number from 1 to 10; 11 and up get complicated. 

The part that I disagreed with was the testing method.  They used this thing called "the record", which was literally a vinyl record with a person saying, "5 times 6 ...  3 times 8 ...  7 times 2 ..." while the students feverishly filled in the answers on their sheet.  There were several variations of the record:  One variation focused on certain numbers, depending on how many multiplication tables you had learned.  The other variation was in the speed at which the person spoke.  Some records used a 5 second pause.  Others used a 3 second pause.  Still others used an even shorter pause.  Obviously, the shorter the pause, the harder the test. 

The reason I disagree with the record as a testing method is because of the trauma is caused in the lives of the students.  The record was continuous:  Once it started, it didn't stop until the end.  If you missed one, you had to forget about it and move on.  Sure that sounds easy for a "grown-up" like me, but it's not the same with 8-year-olds.  There's this weird thing that happens when people feel overwhelmed.  It's called a "meltdown".  There was a meltdown during every one of these tests.  Halfway through the test, a kid would burst into tears because they lost their place or couldn't keep up.  But the teacher never stopped the record.  Like I said, once it started, it didn't stop until the end.  So some poor kid would sit there sobbing because there was no way to figure out what number the record was on.  It didn't say, "Number 3:  5 times 6 ... Number 4:  3 times 8 ..."  And since it was just multiplication or division, there was no partial credit.  There was no "almost" or "close".  It was right or wrong.  There's nothing like telling a kid they failed because they're too slow at multiplication.  Ah, the joy of being a teacher. 

The record needs to be experienced to be fully understood.  My explanation of it can't possibly do it justice.  Talk to any McKeown School student from the 80s-90s, and they'll know what I'm talking about.  With utter fear in their voice, they'll say, "Oh yes ... I remember the record ..." #math

Mike Fri, Feb 24, 2006
"Oh yes ... I remember the record ..."

Pure hell.

I was definetely a "Meltdown" kid too.  That's where I developed the "I hate math" mentality. Totally ruined any chance that I would ever become a Math guy.

Rich Fri, Feb 24, 2006
I kinda liked how we did it at Sandyston.  We had a weekly quiz that I think was 1 minute long, and had all the possible combinations of 1-10 randomized, and you had to write the answer.  If you didn't know one fast, you didn't do it (or you just didn't get to the end).  There was no losing your place, since the problem was right there in front of you.  We did that every week for like a couple months I think.  Another time, we made a game out of it, almost like a spelling bee, where you would start with two students, and the teacher would call out a problem, and the first kid to answer would move on to another student, and so on around the room.  I think there were prizes.  I miss math that I could do in under a second... I had almost fogotten it existed.

Dave Fri, Feb 24, 2006
I probably melted down a few times.  But I found a way around the system:  Cheating.  We would correct the tests right after we took them by passing them to the person next to us.  I was always sitting by Colin Bradley (I think) and we had an agreement where he would fill in my blank answers and I would fill in his.  This was a brilliant system, but I can't imagine the teacher didn't notice.  Kids tend to think they get away with things, but adults are usually pretty perceptive.  I'm sure our handwriting was at least a little different.

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