I have spent a good deal of time lately helping young people with Algebra. I have been tutoring others as well as working with my own children. Of those who need help, one frequent problem keeps popping up…they don’t know their times tables. Even basic algebra problems take forever if you have to pause at each multiplication and count and think. Now sometimes it’s fractions, but far too often it’s multiplication tables. This is the math they will need their entire lives! When young people face Algebra without their basic facts solidly known, it’s like putting rollerskates on a toddler. They make a go of it, then they just give up in frustration.
I thought I’d share a fun things to do to memorize multiplication tables. Choose what works for you or make up something on your own.
1—Use a 100 sheet
(a piece of paper with the numbers 1 to 100 on it in boxes, with 10 on each line). Pick a colored pencil for each number 2 through 12. Have the child color a stripe on the multiples of 2, then another stripe for the multiples of 3 etc. The overlaps are interesting. The patterns are beautiful. Common factors will be clear and interesting. Which numbers are “popular” and which are less popular may surprise you. Primes will be visible.
2— Tell stories.
There is a company who does this called “Times tales” , and that may work for you. I think it works best when the child makes their own stories. Choose a theme—something your child is interested in. I’ll choose Star Wars as an example. Assign a character or item to each number 3-9. Some will be obvious (C3P0 as 3). Some that your child chooses may surprise you. My daughter chose the number 5 for Luke skywalker, because visually it looks like a whiny open mouth. Then make a one sentence story. Luke bought C3P0 for 15 credits. Write the numbers in pen and the sentence in pencil and draw a VERY basic picture using the numbers as the characters. Hopefully I explained that well enough. Making the stories can be creative and fun. Then read the stories and look at the pictures together.
—Get out a laundry basket and folded socks. Tape lines on the floor and write the numbers 3 through 9 on the numbers. Give the child 10 pairs of socks and see how many they make from each line and multiply it and “pay them” in money, candy or cereal. If they make 6 baskets from the 3 line, that’s 18. This is admittedly more fun with a few more children-depending on the child.
—Buy the 12 sided dice. They are just fun. Roll two dice and multiply those numbers. Roll 4-6 sided dice and try to add, subtract, multiply and divide to get as close as you can to the goal number. You can keep score by recording how far away each person is.
—use 12 sided dice to play yahtzee (you get 5 rolls). The entire top section of yahtzee is multiplication.
5—Play more games
—Write the numbers 1-10 on pieces of paper. Decide on a factor. Use 3×5 cards to write products and time the child how fast they can run the products to their matching factor.
6—Point out the multiplication you notice or use on a daily basis.
Are you taking 3-12 oz water bottles to the park? 36 ounces of water. A one cup measuring cup is 8 ounces, how many ounces of water is 6 cups? We bought 18 gallons of gas and we drove 468 miles, how many miles to the gallon did we get? Do the math of prices at the store outloud. Share what math you each did that day in your work and general “adulting”.
7- The 9’s tricks
-I grew up with one particular 9’s trick. 9 x 2=18 1 less than 2 is 1 and 1 + 8=9 . I thought Everyone knew this trick. Not too long ago I learned the finger trick. Place both hands face up in front of you. 9×3=27. Count 3 fingers over from left to right-that gives you the middle finger on the left hand and bend that towards the palm. Count the fingers on the left of the finger turned down (2), and the fingers on the right (7).
Of course there are worksheets and timers. It’s worth doing. I hope that in addition to the worksheets, there will be games and other means to reinforce it in a fun active way. I’d love to hear what other people do to memorize the times tables.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.