How many of us share the same memory of sitting in a primary classroom every maths lesson chanting through the times tables? How many of us still remember them?
Back in my school days, maths was far from my favourite subject. I could do everything I was asked to, but I didn’t understand how it worked. Rather than being a skilled mathematician, I believe I simply had a good recall, a strong memory.
When I started my teacher training at the age of 22, it became clear rather quickly that I needed to relearn my times tables. Other than the odd episode of Countdown (I was a student, remember?), I had very little use for my times tables. Faced with the maths skills test and having to answer questions under timed conditions, I will admit that I started to panic. I recalled the look of fear on some pupils from my primary school’s faces when the teacher picked on them to answer a question and suddenly, I was one of them; I was a frightened child who needed to remember lots of numbers.
Learning so many number facts can be overwhelming, so try to adopt a ‘little and often’ approach. You know your child better than anyone else: when signs of tiredness appear, stop and do something else; come back to the times tables later on if possible, but don’t worry if you can’t. Quick times tables recall will support pupils in answering questions much more efficiently, in their SATs, for example.
I can’t offer a magic solution to supporting children to learn their times tables, but I can give you some effective and fun ways in which you can do it!
- Old-school chanting
For some children, this really does work. Regular and repeated exposure can apparently enable brain cells to grow and new connections to be made, according to neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner, Eric Kandel. Just a few minutes each day, maybe whilst waiting for the taxi to arrive or over the breakfast table, could really support your child’s learning. Make it fun by choosing a different voice to recite them in e.g. be a robot, a mouse, a monster, Donald Trump!
- Finger tricks
The nine times table finger trick is great… but I would recommend using it in conjunction with learning by rote (by heart). Check out the video below to see how to do it.
Rather than playing a usual game of Bingo, why not make up some cards featuring answers from times tables questions (remember to include the related division facts too)? If you picked out the number 72 from the bag, ask, “What’s 9 x 8?” or for the number 8, ask, “What’s the square root of 64?” Establish the answer before moving on to the next question, so they aren’t at a disadvantage if they were unable to solve the question.
- Rock, paper, times tables
This was a real hit in the classroom. We even held tournaments (at the pupils’ requests)! Hold out both hands as fists and count to three, one three, both of you should hold up a number of fingers. Multiply those two numbers together and the first person to give the correct answer gets a point. If your child is struggling with a certain times table, limit the choices you make e.g. only show a 2, 5 or 10 to start with.
- Pack of cards
Get a pack of cards and deal equally between two players. Players should turn over their top card simultaneously. The first player to call out the correct answer wins e.g. if Player 1 turned over a 4 of diamonds and Player 2 turned over a 6 of spades, they would need to shout out, “24!” (4 x 6 = 24) to win those cards. The player with the biggest pile of cards at the end is the winner. Warning: this can also be quite competitive and may end as Monopoly usually does in my house (with one person saying they’re tired or storming out of the room!).Get a pack of cards and deal equally between two players. Players should turn over their top card simultaneously. The first player to call out the correct answer wins e.g. if Player 1 turned over a 4 of diamonds and Player 2 turned over a 6 of spades, they would need to shout out, “24!” (4 x 6 = 24) to win those cards. The player with the biggest pile of cards at the end is the winner. Warning: this can also be quite competitive and may end as Monopoly usually does in my house (with one person saying they’re tired or storming out of the room!).
- Times Tables Tennis
Use real or imaginary bats (and ping-pong ball!). As you hit the ‘ball’ to your partner, say the first number in the times table e.g. if you’re practising 5s, you would start with 5 and then your child would say 10. Keep going. Challenge yourself by going backwards too!
- Times tables songs
My Year 4 classes used to love Percy Parker and his catchy tunes relaying various times tables facts. Bizwas the Bee, for the six times tables, was a personal favourite of one particular class. I even caught one of the more boisterous boys singing the song during a maths test! There are numerous CDs available and many songs can be streamed via Spotify. You’ll also find a massive selection of videos on YouTube, though the majority are American.
- Times Tables Rockstars
This is a paid-for online times tables game, but the cost is fairly low at just £6.00 for a family plan (two adults and three children). Some schools subscribe to this, so do check that before paying out. From my experience, children get very excited when they know they’re going to have the opportunity to play this game… as with all computer games, do restrict the length of time they spend in front of the screen. To find out more, check out: https://ttrockstars.com/home
I hope that you found these ideas useful. Do you have any further suggestions to share?
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