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The Wonders of Flashcards

The exponential impact of mastering basic math facts is a product of consistency and diligence, and can best be summed up in this short story:

Once upon a time, in the Valley of Dosta, there lived a child who “hated” math, named Victor. Strangely, Victor was a pretty good student until around 5th grade, and then he started having some real struggles with math. What once made sense to him had become a jumbled mess of numbers and symbols in his head, no matter how hard he tried to study. Dad and Mom were moved with compassion for their child and called the Enay Tutors!

“Can you please help us with Victor?” they asked. “He’s struggling with math, and we can’t take it anymore; every math encounter is like climbing Everest! We’re actually pretty good at math ourselves, but this new stuff even looks weird to us!

“Yes, we can help!” said Tutor. “In fact, we’ve assessed your child to figure out where his biggest problem areas are, and we’ve discovered one issue at the root of it all: basic math facts! Victor doesn't know basic math facts, so solving a long computational problem is like climbing a mountain without boots or a map—painful and confusing! However, there’s good news,” continued Tutors. “The remedy may surprise you because it’s simple, but the results will be huge.”

“WHAT IS IT?” Dad and Mom prodded.

“Flashcards. Just flashcards, 20 minutes a day!”

Victor complained, “How could flashcards help me??? I’m an algebra student--I need to work on fractions and ratios and factoring and...flashcards are for babies!”

The parents were a little concerned too, thinking, “The solution couldn’t be this simple, but we’ll try it...”

So they all started on their flashcard journey!

One week went by, and Tutor asked, “Have you practiced your flashcards this week?”

“Not much,” Victor admitted. “I was so busy, and, well, honestly, I didn’t feel like it.”

Tutor patiently explained, “Just try it. 20 minutes a day. The practice will make your homework much easier to understand.”

Two weeks went by.

“I practiced flashcards this week, but is this really helping? I’m learning ratios in school, so shouldn’t I spend more time at home on that?” Victor anxiously reasoned.

Tutor excitedly shared, “Did you know that ratios and multiplication are closely related? The stronger you get in your basic multiplication and division facts, the better you’ll understand ratios! Plus, haven’t you noticed how much easier our tutoring sessions have been, Victor? You’ve aced all the work with fractions I’ve been giving you!

“Hmm, I guess I didn’t that’s because of flashcards, eh?” Victor pondered.

Three weeks went by, and Victor's parents we getting excited.

“Wow, even though Victor still complains about practicing with flashcards, he’s really starting to master math facts! He’s even told us that while his algebra classmates are still doing math on their fingers, he’s immediately seeing patterns with long division, factoring, fractions--it’s great!,” the parents reported with great surprise. “Everest is feeling a lot more like a foothill now!”

Tutor was ecstatic. “Great! Keep it up, and you will see a huge improvement. The same mountain is ahead of him, but now he has the right tools to climb with!

Over the next few weeks, the family started to see serious progress. Victor’s attitude about flashcards took a positive turn, and so did his math grades. His math homework took far less time, while his confidence soared. His parents even heard him talking about how much he enjoyed math, and about his dream of being an engineer one day-- all thanks to the diligent use of flashcards!

Ok, this story is a little silly, but DEFINITELY one we’ve seen play out many times in our tutoring program! Flashcards are one of the most effective tools to help students get back on track with math. Math is a language, and with less and less emphasis on memorizing math facts in school, math becomes a foreign language to them. Imagine trying to read a chapter book written in a language in which you only know a few words or letters—almost impossible and very frustrating! That’s how a student feels when they don’t know their math facts, but mastery helps a student become fluent in the language of math, and enables them to understand the relationships between numbers so that they can reason their way through to a solution. Math becomes an exciting adventure rather than an impossible mission.

Although this particular story is about physical flash cards (we're into low-tech around here for some things), there are plenty of great websites and apps that make it really easy to not only master the basics, but also keep track of progress as you go! Need some ideas for some tools that work best for your child? Give us a call or send us an email! Can't wait to hear from you!

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