My granddaughter failed math in sixth grade and got a failing grade the first semester this year in seventh grade. She hasn't mastered multiplication, and her addition and subtraction skills are poor. She has just been passed along. The school did not have summer school, and the teacher is a poor communicator.

I'm trying to work on helping her learn the basic facts. What else can I do? -- Want to Help


The best thing that you can do right now is to see that the child gets the help that she so obviously needs. The individual responsible for this child, whether it is you or a parent, must immediately contact the school to see that help in math begins at once. It would be a good idea to meet immediately with this teacher. Find out why an intervention or testing for a learning disability has not been done.

If you do not receive a helpful response from the teacher, contact a counselor or the principal. This child's skills sound so weak that an individual tutor may be needed. Nothing but serious problems in math are going to occur in the future without considerable help. How will this child ever be able to handle math in high school to fulfill graduation requirements?

You can supply some help to this child. To work on addition and subtraction, use manipulatives -- counters, coins, etc.-- so she can actually see problems. If she is strong enough to work on multiplication, try this technique: For a problem like 3 x 4, have her draw three parallel vertical lines and cross them with four parallel horizontal lines and then count the intersections (12) to get the answer. You will also find it helpful to search on our website for math under the elementary level, as you will find a variety of suggestions about ways to teach basic math facts.