Teach Your Child How To learn The Times-Tables
Is your child struggling to learn their multiplication tables? Is it a school target for them?
We’ll show you what to do!
First of all – here’s what usually WON’T work:
1. Hoping they’ll just pick it up as they go along.
Schools have so many other things to be getting on with, time spent reciting tables can easily get pushed to one side.
2. Playing Times-Tables computer games / iPad apps.
These are marvelous for practising tables they’ve already learned! Unfortunately though, not for learning them in the first instance.
There is, however, one time-honoured, CAST-IRON method of learning them, that’ll work for the majority of children to varying degrees. It doesn’t require unusual resources, it isn’t expensive, and it doesn’t need much planning. It is simply…
RECITE, RECITE, RECITE!
Follow these instructions for preparation:
1. Have a colourful, CLEARLY WRITTEN poster up on their bedroom (or playroom) wall displaying those tables they need to learn. Don’t opt for a grid, choose a poster with the Times-Tables written out in linear, calculation form i.e.
1 x 7=7
2 x 7=14
3 x 7=21 …
(I’m aware that some countries reverse this so that it would be 7 x 1 = 7, 7 x 2 = 14 etc…)
2. Close to this, have a poster of a NUMBER LINE, which displays numbers up to 150. It’s important that this shows ALL the numbers, not just markers to indicate a number. (They are freely available if you Google it – or try Sparklebox.com)
3. Find yourself a ‘pointing stick’ – I use a chopstick from a Chinese restaurant!
Now you’re ready to go…Choose the Times-Table to learn, then EVERY NIGHT for TWO WEEKS:
a. Recite the whole times-table through with your child 4 times. Point to the relevant part of the Times-Tables poster as you do it. Encourage him/her to join you. Recite the WHOLE THING, not just the sequence of answers i.e. 1 x 2 = 2, 2 x 2 = 4 would sound like ‘One two is two’, ‘two twos are four’ etc…
b. Next, repeat this activity, but this time point to the answers on the number line – make a big deal about the start (at 1 x), then middle (whatever 5 x is) and the end (whatever 10 x would be). This will give them a mental picture of the whole set of answers. Do this activity 4 times in total.
c. So to recap, you’ve ‘chanted’ the times-table four times, referencing the Times-Table poster; then you’ve chanted it another four times, referencing the number line. Now, see how far they can get reciting the whole thing from memory. Do this another four times. If they get stuck, you can help them by referencing back to the posters.
As in most sets of instructions, the written form sounds far more complicated than the actual activity in practice. To do the whole thing should take no more than 10 minutes. In most cases, the child will be able to recite all the way through in much less than 2 weeks. Repeat this for any Times-Tables they need to learn fast!
Once they’ve learned to recite their Times-Tables to an acceptable degree, THEN they can consolidate, practise and play lots of computer games, iPad apps, worksheets etc.. to improve their speed of recall and accuracy rate.
One great online resource is the good old BBC Schools website. You'll find a good times-tables game here. There are hundreds more if you simply search 'times-tables games'.
There actually isn’t one Holy Grail method that will work for EVERY child in the land. Learning Times-Tables requires a multi-method approach, involving the study of patterns, writing them down, trying them forward and backward, playing games, using multi-media, looking at the concrete as well as the abstract, the list goes on…
As a teacher with 20 years of classroom experience, nothing I’ve come across has quite as many benefits as recitation, when used as a foundation upon which to build. It is important to point out that this is part of a PROCESS, that will need to be revisited many, many times over their school life. After all, no-one would ever suggest that once a child learns their weekly school spellings, they’re secure in their memories for evermore. Many things educational follow the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ maxim! Keep it fun, keep it stress-free and they’ll learn.