This year I have tutored several students who did not know their addition, subtraction or multiplication facts, and who even had trouble remembering them when I drilled and quizzed them week after week. There comes a point when the tutor can only do so much heavy lifting, and the student needs to sincerely try and resolve to memorize, learn or retain something. This requires motivation and memorization techniques.
In some cases, with older kids especially, I have been able to reason with them and say, "Look. You know you need to know these. Not knowing them is affecting how well you can keep up in class, keep up with what your teacher is explaining, and focus on more complex problems or assignments. I want you to spend your spring break memorizing these." This worked in one case.
Sometimes I wonder if we as American students even have good memorization techniques - how does one properly use flashcards? My favorite technique is to keep small cards or a folded up paper in my pocket. Whenever I think of it during the day, I quiz myself mentally, and pull out the cards to check myself. The trick is to use them often, and for a sustained amount of time. Don't stop when you know it just barely, keep going until you know it cold; that is, immediately and every time. Be honest with yourself. You either know it immediately or you don't.
When my students succeed in memorizing a complete set of something, like the times tables up to 12 x 12, I usually give them a small prize. Do other tutors do this? What are people's opinions on giving prizes? Of course, I would prefer that students motivate themselves and work hard for the love of learning or pride of accomplishment. But barring that, what do you think? As with most things, it probably depends on the student. In the next post, I will discuss alternative motivations to prize motivation. Until then, happy studying!