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Homework with the granddaughter
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Last weekend I went to Macon to help my oldest granddaughter prepare for a midterm exam in English (I guess Language Arts). She is in 7th grade and having a midterm? She had to be able to identify all kinds of pronouns, some of which I had to look up. She also had to recognize compound, simple, complex and compound-complex sentences. She had to label the clauses in the sentence, identify them as to independent or dependent and then label the type of sentence.

This I could do. The easy way to do this is to eliminate all the prepositional phrases as they create clutter. Then the sentence, down to its bare bones, is easy to divide and conquer. But what I was most excited about is that she had to diagram a few sentences. Oh, yea, for her teacher.

I love diagramming, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can show you the structure of a sentence like diagramming. If you can diagram a sentence, you know what every word is doing and how all the words are related. If you can diagram a sentence and understand all parts of the sentence, you can punctuate that sentence flawlessly.

Here at home my youngest granddaughter and I have been tackling the multiplication tables. She has to multiply everything through 12. (as in 1 times 0 through 1 times 12, meaning each table has 13 problems.) She has to be able to solve all 13 problems in one minute before she is able to go on to the next higher number.

It took her absolutely forever to complete her two's in the required amount of time. Then we started the three's.
It was obvious what her problem was. She kept counting for the answers using her fingers. If you do that for every problem, you will never get 13 answers in one minute. I kept telling her that the answers had to jump out of her head like Athena from the head of Zeus. (This was a digression that took some explaining. I’m still not sure she got that analogy.)

But somewhere in the middle of studying for the threes, she had that epiphany. She had to memorize the answers. She passed the three's, and we studied the fours. She passed the fours and fives in one day and we celebrated with an ice cream sundae.

The sixes took her a while. She would know the answers to the big numbers like 6 times 12 but would get 3 times 6 and 4 times 6 mixed up. She passed the sixes and we went on to study the sevens and eights. She passed the sevens and eights in one day. Another celebration and some candy.

I told her that if she got through the elevens before winter break, we would get a special present. The tens are easy. Just add a zero to each number. The elevens are easy, just change 7 to 77 or 4 to 44. All you have to learn is 11 times 11 and 11 times 12.

That just leaves the nines. I taught her how to figure out the nines on her fingers. My daddy taught me how to do it over 60 years ago so the trick must have been around for a long time. I showed it to a man in Mayfield Hardware who was having trouble doing 9 times 7. I enchanted the cashiers who both caught on immediately.

Put both hands in front of you palms down and with your fingers splayed out. Pick a number, any number. Say 4. Counting from the left, turn your fourth finger down. To the left of that finger are 3 fingers still raised. To the right of that finger are 6 fingers raised (count the thumbs). The answer to 4 times 9 is 36. Turn the 6th finger down. You will have 5 fingers in front of the turned down finger and 4 after it. Nine times 6 is 54.

Nine times 10 is 90 and 9 times 11 99. These are no brainers. And she knows 9 times 12 is 108.

We might make our goal. At this rate I might be poor. Also, my oldest child recieved a good grade on her English midterm.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be contacted at