Thursday, May 24, 2012

the dreaded humdinger

I am proud to announce that my daughter passed off the humdinger, the final rite of passage into the 36 club.  The humdinger is 36 addition cards + 36 subtraction cards + 36 multiplication cards + 36 division cards mixed together and completed in 5 minutes or less.  Humdinger doesn't even begin to describe it. You have about 2 seconds per card.  There isn't time to get stuck on one problem. Every problem must be memorized. There isn't anything I can do to help kids pass them off at school, but there are things parents can do to help their kids pass it off at school.

Many students decide they can't do it before they try.  One little girl came out in the hall today and told me she wasn't ready to do the humdinger.  She wouldn't even try.  It sounds intimidating but most students can do it if they work on it at home with a parent on a daily basis.  Here are some tips to help your child on the road to success.

1. Work on individual sets until your student has their time down to 1:15 per set before you mix the cards together. (This is 15 seconds less time than they had when passing off the individual sets.  Mean.  I know.)  Make sure they know they can already do all the problems in 5 minutes.  They just have to learn how to do it when they're all mixed up. (The cards, not the student.) Once they are combined, don't expect a great time.  They have to train their brain to take in all those signs and numbers and spout off another number in less than two seconds.  It takes time.  If they get stuck, remind them if their adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing.

2. They have to go through the entire deck every day.  I noticed if my daughter missed a few days she would add a lot of time to her score. It was frustrating for us both. The repetition also helps them get over their nerves when they do it in school.

3. Don't do it more than once a day.  With the individual sets I didn't let them stop until they beat their previous time.  There were days when we worked on cards for half an hour. But I've noticed the humdinger tends to fry little brains.  They do it only once no matter their time.

4. Keep track of their time and if your child's time is not improving:
    A. As you go through the cards with your child make two piles.  One for the cards they know as soon as they see them and a second pile for the ones that take them longer than two seconds.  Go through the second deck with your child until they can do all the cards in less than two seconds.  Keep the hardest problems toward the front so they know they can get them over with.  For some reason my daughter hates this method but she can't argue with the results.
    B. Slowly move the cards toward your child as they figure out the problem.  This is similar to the previous method but they can actually see their time melting away.  My daughter hates this method even more than the previous method. I think she improved her time just so I wouldn't do it to her anymore.

5. Make sure they get a chance to pass their 36 club stuff off at school.  Volunteer. My kids didn't pass off their math until I volunteered in their class.  I'm the only parent that does 36 club for both my elementary school aged children.  In previous years the parent volunteers never got to my children because we are toward the end of the alphabet.  They never got through the entire list and always started at the top.  I usually mark the student where I left off.  I don't get to my own kids every time. I wonder how many classes don't get any volunteers at all.  It makes me sad.  I've seen other students improve significantly as I've worked with them individually.  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the light in their eyes when they finally get it.

6. Bribery.  My daughter really loves gum. I really hate it.  So as an incentive I offered to get her a pack of gum when she passed off the humdinger.  It worked.  She has her gum. (And she'd better not get it in her hair.)

For help on individual sets click the links below

Comments are nice.  I really like them.  Comments help me to know that I'm not just writing this for myself.

I'm thinking of doing a post on helping kids learn to read.  Anyone out there interested?


  1. Yay! For you and your daughter. We just passed it off this week as well, so I was nodding through your whole post! I think it was you who clued me in to the 1:15 idea. I finally got to the point that I told my son 1 - he had to practice on his own before I quizzed him, and 2 - he needed to get through the humdinger to get to play his iPod during the summer. Bribery, threats, whatever it takes - they did it!

    Now I need to keep him practicing this summer. I decided he needs to finish it next year right off the bat so we didn't have to spend another 5 months working on it.

    Wahoo!! And thanks for the tips.

  2. I'm glad the 1:15 thing worked for you too. It was looking sketchy for a while there. Summer is only 3 weeks. How much can they forget in that time? :)

  3. Wow! That's a heck of a test. I'm thinking that's going to be a game for this summer - we'll have to keep it to addition/subtraction since we're just finishing 1st grade, but it'll keep the math fresh for the start of next year.

  4. Wendy, it is one heck of a test. First and second graders do addition and subtraction separately and get 3 min per set. I haven't mixed the cards for my 1st grader. I just time him on each set and he tries to beat his old score. He's already passed them off in class so we're in don't forget mode.