The Study Workout

Posted: October 14, 2013 by writingsprint in Slice of Life
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jerry walked into the dining room. Seven-year-old Fran was sitting near the aisle that led to the kitchen, across from ten-year-old Katie. Katie was buzzing along, like she always was. Fran had his head resting on his hand. He was doodling pictures in the beat-up plastic tablecloth that covered the dining room when they didn’t have company.

Jerry put his hand on the back of Fran’s chair. “Hey, bud,” he said casually. Fran looked up. So did Katie. “It looks like you’re having trouble with multiplication. Let’s go study in the kitchen.” Fran’s mouth hung open. He looked like he was about to get punished. “Come on.”

“All right.” Fran took his books and went in.

Katie wondered what was up. “How about you? Do you need help with anything?” Jerry asked.

“Can we go over science later?”

Jerry had been hoping to watch football then. Oh well. “Sure.”

Marie smiled and went back to studying.

Jerry got glasses of water for both of them. Fran took a sip. “I can get it. I just can’t remember all of them. Especially the higher-number ones, like seven and eight.”

“Those ones are tough. Seven’s weird. I had the hardest time remembering eight times eight when I was your age.”

Fran tried remembering. “72?”

Jerry almost told him. “Try again,” he said.

He squinted hard. “I can’t get it.”

“Try again.”

“I don’t know it.”

“Break it down. Remember how we shovel snow? In chunks. We break it down into pieces we can handle.” Fran looked like he’d just spoken to him in Chinese. “Look at this.” He laid out eight eights with plus signs in between them. “Eight, eight times. You add them all up and you get the answer.” Fran shrugged. “Tell me the first couple multiples of eight that you know.”

“Eight. Sixteen. Twenty-four.”

“Okay, good enough.” Jerry pointed at the eights. “Eight, plus this one is sixteen, plus this one is twenty-four.” He put brackets around two sets of three. “This one’s 24. So’s this one. And this one’s 16.”

“I hate it when the teacher starts using those bracket things. I don’t understand why she can put them around one set one of numbers and not another.”

“Well… we don’t have to use them.” I covered the numbers with my hands, so that we could only see three eights at a time. “You get that each of these sets of three eights adds up to 24.”


“Okay. So 24 plus 24?”

He did the math. “48.”

“And 16?”



Fran sipped his water. “That’s weird. But I get it.”

“Now the bad news. Tricks like that help, but you have to memorize the numbers, too.”


“There isn’t a shortcut.”

“I hate this part.”

“I know. We’ll do it until you get the whole eight times table right.”

“That’ll take forever.”

“Every time you get one right, I’m going to do a pushup. How does that sound?”

Katie called in, “If you’re going to do pushups for him, you have to do situps for me!”


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