Thursday, March 28, 2013

Teacher of ACC Student - Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting

Alexandra Berube is a former Kindergarten teacher, who taught a student with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum in her Kindergarten class (and she also tutors the student). The student is currently in a regular 3rd grade mainstream class.

Alexandra has written several guest blog articles about her teaching experiences with her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. Her article today is about teaching multiplication using skip counting.

You may like to view a previous article, written by Alexandra last year, regarding Introducing Multiplication to her student with ACC.

Math is an abstract subject that many kids who have Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum find very challenging.

*Alexandra's article below reprinted with permission from Dr. Alicia Holland-Johnson, where it originally appeared as a guest blog posting on her Helping Tutors Become Their Best blog.


Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting to a Student with Special Needs
by Alexandra Berube,

I have a student with a rare condition: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (a complete or partial absence of the corpus callosum, the band connecting the two hemispheres in the brain). He struggles with mental math and memorizing facts, and benefits from a more visual and tactile approach. I don't specifically use Touch Math with him, but I do incorporate those concepts. Multiplication through memorization tends to be the main way that students are taught nowadays. They are given drill after drill, hoping that rote memorization will be enough to keep the facts grounded into their heads. But what if they don't understand why they're multiplying, and what multiplication really means?

It is very important to me that my students understand why a math concept works. I introduced multiplication to this student by expanding on what he knew about addition. If we have two of something, and then we have two groups of those, then we have 2×2. He adapted to the concept of multiplication very quickly, but it's another thing to then be able to multiply larger products.

We practiced with skip counting, the concept of 'counting-by,' such as counting by twos (2, 4, 6, 8). If we had one 2, and then we had another 2, we would have two 2s. If we added another 2, we would have three 2s. This looks like 2×2, 2×3, etc. We connected each sum to the concept of multiplication, until he grasped that counting by 2s would give him the multiples of two.

We then worked on 5s, because it's just easy for kids to count by five, and they've been practicing since kindergarten. Then he knew the multiples of five. Next came three, but that was harder for him. He's getting used to the multiples of three enough to memorize them somewhat, but what he tends to do is start at one number, count up three to the next number, and so on, using his fingers to guide him along the way. So he started with six, with his thumb pointed up, then counted up three until he got to nine on his pointer finger, counted up three until he got to 12 on his middle finger, and so on.

With fours, I introduced the idea of actually skip counting as he counted by twos. So this way he would count two, four, six, eight, and omit every other number. We practiced this by verbally counting by twos and whispering every other number while saying louder every other number (say 2 out loud, whisper 4, say 6 out loud, etc.). We also did this visually by writing out 2, 4, 6, 8 and then crossing out every other number. Once he has a better handle on his threes, we will be doing the same thing in order to master sixes (skip counting every other multiple).

When he gets to a multiplication problem, we have a strategy for when one of the two numbers is five or below (if both numbers are above five he has to draw it out--for 6×6 he draws six dots six times--not the most efficient strategy but we’re working our way up). He underlines the smaller number, knowing he's going to skip count by that number the amount of times indicated by the other number. So if it's 2×4, he would underline the two, and count by twos four times (2, 4, 6, 8).

Over time, he is memorizing more and more of the products, and the multiplication drills that he's doing at school will certainly benefit this as well. But it's so important that he understands why he's multiplying and has additional strategies for when memorization fails him. I'm sure all adults have gotten to a mental block at some point where we just can't remember a multiple of seven, or eight. Teaching multiplication through memorization should be a backdrop to a greater understanding of what the student is really doing.

About Alexandra Berube

Alexandra is the Managing Director of Boston Tutoring Services, a tutoring company that offers one-to-one in-home tutoring in Massachusetts. She is also a former Kindergarten teacher who also tutors students in grades
K-8, in all subject areas, including test preparation.

--click below for printable version of this article--

Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting to a Student with Special Needs - printable version

As a teacher and professional tutor, Alexandra might possibly share a few more guest blog posts here in the future--where she will reveal additional insight into her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and how it affects the student's education, and she will also be sharing teaching strategies that have helped her student.*

*Note: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum has a very wide range of effects--ranging anywhere from no symptoms--or mild learning disabilities--to severe mental and/or physical challenges. It can sometimes also be seen with other medical conditions, genetic syndromes, chromosomal anomalies and more. Every person with ACC can present differently in terms of their development, cognitive abilities and educational needs.

Each child who has ACC is a unique individual with their own abilities, weaknesses, challenges, motivations, strengths, as well as their own style of learning.


  1. Great article! I am very interested in hearing more about the teachers experiences with the student. I have a son who has ACC and is in kindergarten. He is having s hard time with the rote memorization aspect of learning. He tries so hard and gives 110% but is more becoming frustrated as the school year ends. His teacher has a special ed background. We will be holding back next year and she will be teaching him again. I am just looking for ways to help him and her and myself in his learning. Finding this article right now seems like a God send. Hopefully I can find out more info. Thanks!

  2. Dear Kate,

    Thank you very much for your comment. I just passed it on to Alexandra, the teacher/tutor who wrote the article about her student who has ACC.

    Thank you also for sharing a little bit about your son in Kindergarten who has ACC. I'm sorry that he is becoming increasingly frustrated in school. I truly hope that you will soon discover teaching methods and other strategies that will speak to your son's style of learning and his educational needs.

    Just in case you may not be aware, the teacher has also written several other articles regarding teaching/tutoring her student with ACC that can be found by going to the bottom of this article where it says "Labels" and clicking on the link that says: "Teacher/Tutor of ACC Student". You will then be able to view every article she has written from the most recent all the way down to her very first article about teaching her student with ACC.

    In addition, I have some information regarding ACC and Education (as well as social skills information) that I would be happy to send you via e-mail if you are interested. If you would like to receive it, please send me an e-mail:



I am very interested in reading your comments and
look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.