Turn It On Its Side and It's a Figure Meaning Infinity
One day in fourth grade, my teacher, Ms. Cantelmo, had a fit--remember teachers having fits?--she just lost it and started yelling at the whole class that we needed to get our acts together, buckle down and LEARN THE FRICKING MULTIPLICATION TABLES. Well, she didn't say fricking, but you get the idea. And that we'd better stop goofing off and go home and memorize those tables and have them learned by Monday.
I skittered off home in a panic. Of course it wasn't anything I'd done that had set her off, but I was sure we were going to have a big test on them on Monday and that I was going to FAIL because I did know some of the multiplication tables but I was a long ways from having them down, especially the 6's and 7's.
So I sat down in my room that night, on a chair in front of my little orange suitcase record player, and I listened to the Multiplication Rock album over and over and over until I could sing the songs by heart. Even the sevens, even though I didn't like Lucky Seven that much, I thought that rabbit was kind of irritating.
By Monday of course Ms. Cantelmo had forgotten all about it, but it didn't matter: I knew those tables backwards and forwards and up and down and sideways. Even today sometimes when I'm trying to remember, say, what twelve times eight is, I'll hear Blossom Dearie's voice in my head reminding me that it's the same as ten times eight plus two times eight: "80 plus 16...96!"
The Mermaid Girl is working on her multiplication tables now; apparently we've advanced mathematically here in North America and third grade is now the standard age for multiplication-table learning. Tonight I brought home Schoolhouse Rock on DVD from work, and we watched a scattering of songs--two or three as a reward after each step towards bedtime. By the time she'd done her homework, practiced the piano, put on her pajamas, fed the fish, and brushed her teeth, we'd run through most of Multiplication Rock and a fair bit of Grammar Rock. She got as big a kick out of the videos as I did--I'd forgotten how funny and clever the animation is--but I also saw her focusing during the math ones, mouthing the words to herself.
So now my kid will be taking up the fine old tradition of learning math facts from Multiplication Rock. Thank you, Bob Dorough. And thank you, Ms. Cantelmo, too, wherever you are.