Being a "specialist"
A child is asked to be the "class specialist" for one math fact for that day. Any time anyone needs help with that fact -- or any time anyone (including the teacher) asks for that fact -- that child is the expert-of-the-day in charge.
At the beginning of math class or, even better, at the beginning of the day, assign one math fact to each of a handful of kids (not the whole class and not more than one fact per child). These few kids are that day's “experts,” each “specializing” on just one fact. So, for example, one child might be in charge of 7 × 8 = 56.
A good way to make the assignments is to ask a child to name one fact that the child often has trouble with and then assign just that fact to that child. Periodically during the day, ask about the facts, varying how you ask.
- Sometimes, "who's in charge of 56 today?" or "who's in charge of 7 × 8" or even, "who are our experts today?" followed by "and what are you in charge of?"
- Feel free to revisit previous days’ facts in a kind of backwards way, like “who was in charge of 49 yesterday?” and then, to that child, “what was the fact that gave us 49?” (7 × 7).
Purpose: At the rate of one fact a day, the task of memorizing multiplication facts is much less daunting than “learn all your facts,” and it proceeds to mastery very rapidly. The child who is in charge feels "in charge," which helps, but many other children pick up that one fact at a time, too.
Asking a child which fact he or she is in charge of -- that is, not asking “what is 7 × 8?” but literally “what fact are you today’s expert on?”) puts the child in charge of remembering the whole package, and not just the “answer part.” Sometimes they get 56 and have to remember 7 × 8; sometimes they get 7 × 8 and have to remember 56; and sometimes they get nothing at all, and need to remember what they're responsible for.
And it's not just the expert who learns one fact. Most of the time, most children in the class will learn all three or four of the day's experts' facts, and will associate those facts with the experts, too!
Fact of the day exercises help children master doubles, multiplication by 5, and squares (multiplication of numbers times themselves, like 7 × 7). Principles (and the intersections imagery) help children with multiplication by 1 and 0 (anything taken zero times is, well, not there, so 0; anything taken exactly one time is whatever it is). The multiplication pattern exercise helps them memorize still more facts, like 6 × 8 and 7 × 9. "Being a specialist" makes quick work of the very few facts that remain.