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Time Tests, First-Grade Cliques

December 14, 2015
By Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts - Dear Teacher , OVParent

Question: My second-grader gets all tense and often louses up on timed tests in math. Is this type of test really the best way for him to learn basic facts? - All Timed Out

Answer: Timed math tests may not be the best way for students to learn basic math facts, but they sure are a popular way in most schools. The worst thing about timed tests is that they cause stress in both high- and low-achieving students - leading, in some cases, to a permanent aversion to mathematics. And during timed tests, students may become so stressed that their working memory becomes blocked, and it becomes harder for them to recall previously learned facts.

The new Common Core Standards in math de-emphasize the rote memorization of math facts. The way math facts should be learned is through using them in different situations and developing number sense. For example, ask your child to show you a number from 6 through 10 using her fingers. For the number 6, the child might display three fingers on each hand, or two fingers on one hand and four on the other. The child could then describe what she did by writing 3+3 = 6 or 2+4 = 6. Through meaningful activities, she will begin to commit the math facts to her memory as well as gain an understanding of numbers and math.

Of course, it is practical to hold basic math facts in one's memory. Once children have gained number sense, they can also remember facts.

Question: I know this seems a bit far-fetched, but there is a clique in my child's first grade class. Four or five of the 11 girls in the class are led by one girl. Some days my daughter is accepted, others not. This makes her very unhappy, as she doesn't understand why this happens. Plus, she wants to be part of the group all the time as she thinks that these girls are the cool kids.

I have spoken with the teacher, who says cliques are normal, and she is fine with this situation. She obviously does not realize how hurtful this is to my daughter and others in the classroom. - Unhappy Child

Answer: It would certainly be helpful if this teacher were more concerned with the feelings of the children in this classroom. She could do so much to improve the situation and disrupt the cliques. Unfortunately, cliques that used to appear in middle school and high school are now appearing as early as kindergarten.

You may not be successful in changing the situation at your child's school. You can bring it to the attention of the principal. This will be most effective if you ask other concerned parents in the class to accompany you. This is also an issue that can be addressed by the parent/teacher organization.

You can help your child find a comfortable social niche in and outside the classroom in these ways:

- Have play dates in your home with both clique and non-clique classmates.

- Have your child participate in activities outside of the school so she can find new friends with common interests.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, c/o OV Parent Magazine, 1 N. Illinois St. No. 2004, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or log on to, or email



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