Help Us, Multiplication God!

After leaving school for good (not counting my grad-student years, where I learned nothing about finance..) I went back as a teacher. It’s just an attempt to avoid the dreaded unemployed status, at first. After all, yours truly used to climb up aircraft skeletons to check for metal defects and went down muddy jatropha plantation to look for the next biofuel.
Teaching a bunch of rowdy middle-grade students is not what normal people aspire as a career. Still, now that I’ve left my beloved middle school and its students, turned out I missed my days as physics teacher terribly, more than I did my days as engineer or stock-exchange slave.That’s what you get for being a teacher, you hate the job but you’ll miss the students as soon as you stop being one.
Now there’s a little boy living in my house. My 7-y.o. nephew is a 2nd-grader struggling with his multiplication table. (Tryin’ to remember when the first time I started learning the multiplication. Probably in 2nd grade just like he is right now?) See, grade school is a whole different arena compared to middle school. In my class, kids are expected to have the ability of multiplying integers and rational numbers. My nephew is just about to climb the lowest rung to achieve multiplying numbers 1 to 10 – and school nowadays expect these little kids to master this before going to 3rd grade! If you ask me if I’ve ever multiplied something without using a calculator, I would have said yes, but that situation is most likely few and far between outside school and work in general. Now that there’s a calculator in every tablets and smartphones AND watches (Galaxy Gear, anyone?), would there be any need to memorize numbers?
To make his life easier, we tried the Kumon method – there’s a bunch of shiny overpriced workbooks available out there – and my own hands-on memorization technique (that involves screaming and jumping around!) to motivate my nephew, but so far only few numbers managed to get stuck on his little brain.  Basically, Kumon helps kids get familiar with numbers; at the end of the day, it’s just a drilling technique to memorize these numbers by repetition, not unlike the olden days using tables.
Honestly, it was a miracle he finally succeed in memorizing up to 100 (1X1 through 10X10) in less than a month, I’d have to give him credit for his hard work. Still, I’ve found out recently that half of his class is able to score more than 80% in the last test (his was a mere 71..) There must be something wrong with me and my nef! Help!
Navigating life is hard enough with or without Math. I still want to see my favorite nef grows up to become a paleontologist, and that means he has to survive his Math, and Science, and English, and 6 other subjects in grade school. Now who would dare say being a teacher is noble but only suit hopeless unemployed people? Please, people of all ages, strive to be the best teacher to your kids, and maybe, just maybe, we can cure this world of all diseases..

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