There’s no way of avoiding them. The times tables are a necessity if one is to progress along the mathematics learning journey. So, like them or not, knowing your times tables is important. They are the building blocks for further maths study later on – division, long division (urgh!), long multiplication, fractions, calculating area and so on.
Not only that, but knowing the times tables is important for tasks in our daily lives too – working out quantities in recipes (especially if doubling or quadrupling quantities); working out money-off discounts at the shops; measuring for furnishings around the home (widths of curtains for instance).
It is important when learning times tables to engage the learner. Simply reading and trying to memorise long lists of times table sums may work for some but not for everyone. Also, rote learning will not provide the learner with the background understanding of the operation of multiplication – that multiplication is the grouping of sets, repeated addition and the inverse of division. Once the understanding of the concept of multiplication is secure, then it is important to move on to fast recall. And this is helped by the fact that, actually, the number of sums to memorise and recall is halved by learning pairs of sums together – 4×5 is the same as 5×4. This happy fact is considered below when we look at using arrays.
5 ways/tools to engage your children when learning their times tables
We used smarties (adds to the appeal of any activity, believe me!) to make up arrangements of columns and rows to represent the two parts of a multiplication sum. These are called arrays. And the beauty of using arrays is that they clearly show that 7×8 is the same as 8×7 in a very clear and visual manner.
The above arrangement of smarties shows 7×8=56, 8×7=56, 56 divided by 8 = 7,
56 divided by 7=8, 8+8+8+8+8+8+8=56 and 7+7+7+7+7+7+7+7=56. (Of course, other small candy-covered chocolates are available! I wouldn’t recommend chocolate buttons though (messy)).
The Terrific Times Tables Book by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels
A very visual and stimulating look at the times tables with lots to do on every page – flaps to lift, dials to turn, flowers to grow, sweets to make and so on and so on. Throughout there are really helpful tricks to help children learn their tables, e.g, when learning the 4 times table, remember that 4 is twice 2, so all the answers are double the answers in the 2 times table and when learning the 5 times table, all the answers end in a 5 or a 0. The 9 times table is fabulously represented by a 3D pair of hands leaping out of the book. The idea here is to push every tab so that all 10 fingers are pointing upwards. Then pull down the finger with the number you want to multiply by 9. You then count the fingers to the left of it – these are your tens. Count the fingers to the right of it – these are your units. A very visual and fun way of explaining a clever trick for learning the 9s. This is a fun book for exploring the times tables and my 9 year old loves it. For some though it might be too visually stimulating. Age 5+
Hoo Ha! Times Tables Playing Cards by Hoo Ha! Enterprises Ltd
On first inspection, the idea behind the Hoo Ha Times Tables playing cards appears to be too simplistic. But actually the simplicity of this game is the reason why it works so well.
Inside the box are 3 sets of playing cards – the 7 times table playing cards, the 8 times table and the 9 times table. (Other box combinations are available). Each playing card within a set has one sum on it, including the answer (this is important and I mention why later on), e.g, 1×9=9. There are 24 cards in each set, 2 cards of each sum, e.g, 2 of 1×9=9, 2 of 2×9=18, 2 of 3×9=27 and so on. There are also 4 extra cards – 2 of ‘Hoo’ cards and 2 of ‘Ha’ cards. Play is based on picking up pairs of matching sums or matching the Hoo and Ha cards to spell Hoo Ha! The key to this game however (and I can’t stress this more strongly) is that as a child plays the game, he/she has to read out the sum clearly as they turn over each card (it is part of the rules). By doing so, they are seeing the sum (visual), saying the sum (verbal), hearing the sum (aural) and physically turning the card over (kinaesthetic). It is this that makes the game so successful. In addition, the game can be played equally well by children with a wide range of attainment levels because the answers are on the cards (year 2 through to year 6). My 6 year old and my 9 year old are able to play this game together very successfully and it is the reading out loud and the hearing of the sums that makes this game both accessible and successful for learning and memorising the times tables.
Arcademic Skills Builders Website – Online Maths Games
If you have children who respond particularly well to learning and practicising maths skills using computer applications, then Arcademic Skill Builders is an excellent site. My daughters use this site in conjunction with other learning methods and I have no problems with this at all. The games are fun, competitive and very engaging. As well as multiplication, there are games for the other mathematical operations and for other areas of the numeracy curriculum.
Times Table Snap by BrainBox/The Green Board Game Company
Although this game too is based on pairs (and snap) like Hoo Ha (above), it is a very different game to play. It is more suited to children who are more secure in their times table knowledge but could do with more practice and perhaps need to develop faster recall. The pack is made up of selected times table sums from across the entire range (1 times table through to 12 times table), numeric answers and answers written in words.
As in traditional snap, play starts by shuffling the pack and dealing out all the cards equally between players. Each player keeps their cards face down. The first player then starts by turning over their top card and placing it face up in the middle. Each player takes a turn and turns over their top card and places it on the pile in the middle. The first player to recognise that a match has been made calls “Snap!”. A match could be 4×3 and 6×2 or twenty-four and 6×4 for example. The pack could also be used to play pairs.