Christmas day is for eating and opening presents and remembering the nativity and giving hugs and doing times tables, right? Well, that's what I did on Christmas day. I won't bore you with the details of the eating and present-opening. Instead I will bore you with the details of doing times tables.
My niece Bethany is seven and when she re-starts the school year in a week or so, her class will begin learning the multiplication tables. She already knows the 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s, but I thought it would be fun to learn the 11s and the 9s. So we practiced the 11s . . . 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 (see the pattern?), 99, 110. She caught on that the trick was to just say the number twice and she loved the feeling of knowing a secret. So I taught her the secret I learned about the 9s, the one that my best friend in 3rd grade taught me where you use your hands to solve the problem. She liked this one as well. So here we were, timesing and laughing and sharing math secrets. A grand ol' time for all.
Bethany's mom reminds her about learning the times tables next month and she groans and sticks out her tongue.
"No, no," I say. "You should embrace the times tables because"
She interrupts me with, "What does embrace mean?" Her father answers that it means to hug.
"Yeah, to hug. And in this metaphorical sense, it means to accept and enjoy the times tables. Don't pooh-pooh them because"
"What does pooh-pooh mean? To poop?"
"Uh, no. It means . . . don't talk bad about multiplication tables or tell yourself that you don't like them. Because, trust me, you will be using times tables the rest of your life."
I spend a couple more minutes trying to show her the usefulness of the times tables and then it's time for her to get her coat on and head home.
"So, Bethany, what are you going to do about times tables?"
She answers back perfectly: "I'm going to hug them and not poop on them." Of course.