I was talking with a good friend of mine, a senior mechanical engineer, about his son’s struggle with math. I mentioned that my friend is a senior mechanical engineer to point out that he is incredibly bright, well-respected and very good at math. Since he is so good at math, he couldn’t understand why his son was having such a hard time comprehending math lessons in school on a daily basis. My friend believed that he simply was able to grasp math more easily than his son and that his son just wasn’t naturally as good at math as he was. However, from working with and trying to teach math to his son, my friend came across the key to why his son was struggling so much. His son did not have his multiplication tables memorized. It was difficult for his son to comprehend lessons in class because he couldn’t multiply quickly enough to understand and follow what his teacher was doing. My friend got his son a tutor to help him memorize his multiplication tables, and now his son is doing much better. His son even likes math now.

My friend’s son is not one of my students, and my friend is not one of my customers, but I’m sharing this story because it is very insightful and probably applies to many parents and students. When math seems too difficult for a student to understand, it may simply be because the student didn’t take time to memorize the basics.