Porter,  School Today: Eraserboard Jungle

The Wrong Approach

Last week the boys got their report cards. Drew’s was fine in all respects, but his teacher had written, “Needs to work on talking in class” at the bottom of the form.

Bill and I could relate to that. Neither of us was keen on shouting out in class. Drew is by far the quietest of our boys, and it makes sense that he’s not raising his hand even if he knows the answer.

We had a chat with him and reminded him that he studies hard and does well in school.

“Don’t be afraid to raise your hand in class,” I told him. “It’s important to participate.”

“It’s no big deal if you get it wrong,” Bill added. “The important thing is that you try.”

Drew was looking at us as if we each had six eyes and horns sprouting from our heads.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asked.

I showed him the part of his report card that had us concerned.

“I think my teacher means that I talk with my friends in class too much,” he said, as his face reddened. “We’ve been working on our comic book when we finish our math early and she said we’re disturbing other students even though we were trying to whisper.”


So then Bill and I gave him an equally heartfelt talk about being quiet in class when it is not appropriate to talk. At that point all three of us were thinking, “Whatever.”

Meanwhile, Porter loves reading but could not care less about his multiplication facts, especially since he believes a calculator will always be available to him. We’ve preached to him that educated people must know their multiplication facts through the twelves, as that’s what’s required of him in third grade, although I personally have done well in life knowing the facts only through the tens.

He’s been doing extra practice on his math facts each night, and his teacher was kind enough to provide sheets of problems for him to work on.  The other night he got all of them correct except for 9×3 and 3×9, which he had pegged as 28.

Bill had him count out three sets of nine, and Porter counted up to 27, but he wasn’t happy about it.

“This is so frustrating,” he said.  “My head tells me that 9×3 is 27, but my teacher tells me that it’s 28.”  He flopped onto our bed dramatically.

“Who am I to believe?  Who?” he asked, waving his legs in the air and staring at the ceiling.  “It’s not fair that I have to choose between my head and my teacher.”

Despite our assurances that his teacher would agree that 9×3 is 27, Porter maintained the opposite, and requested that we email his teacher and set her straight.



One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Letter From Lisbon




  • Waidmann


    Just tell him that any multiplication fact (is that what they’re calling the math tables these days?) with a “9” in it must add up to “9”. That always helped me remember “27”, although my bugaboo was always confusing 9X6 and 8X7. 54 and 56 were just too similar, I guess.



  • Catherine

    I didn’t know that 9 multiplied always equaled 9! What I was going to add, although now it seems not as cool, is that if you hold out all ten fingers, fold down the third from the left you are left with 2, bent digit, 7 … 27. So now he has two ways to check his 9 multiples.

    I think knowing multiples through the 12s is helpful when determining square inches of something. Which for some reason that I cannot recall, I was doing recently.

  • Jesse

    Don’t be too quick to dismiss what he says about his teacher, though. My brother had a third grade teacher that SWORE that Washington D.C. was in Washington State, even when my brother got up to show her on the map. It took my mother and father talking to her to help her see her mistake.

    Of course, if it IS just him, give him plenty of opportunities to practice it – like any time you buy multiples of something in the grocery store, have him do the multiplying for you, etc.

  • Barbara Ling (aka Owlbert)

    Just wait until the teacher informs him that 3 divided by 0 is 0. I remember my kids’ 3rd grade teacher telling my child this fantasy of sheer idjutness; when asked, I was told that the concept of ‘undefined’ was too complicated to get into “just then.”

    Sigh. Makes me glad such sites like Edhelper.com are available for parents who like their kids staying ahead.



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  • PhxButterfly

    I think I would address the issue as to why Porter’s teacher would tell him 9 X 3 is 28 ??? I’ve heard of new math, but, something is rotten in Denmark, imho!

  • Rebecca

    First of all, the talks with Drew you mentioned? Hysterical.

    Second of all, an easy way to remember the nines table is that up to 5 and then back down to 10, they reverse themselves.

    9*1= 09
    9*2= 18
    9*3= 27
    9*4= 36
    9*5= 45
    Now the answers are inverted…
    9*6= 54
    9*7= 63
    9*8= 72
    9*9= 81
    9*10= 90

    Hopefully that helps. It helped me when I learned them!

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