The best way to teach times tables depends upon the child, according to the Math Forum at Drexel University. Some children learn kinesthetically, through movement or activity; others respond best when music or verbal learning is involved; some children learn visually; and still others learn their times tables through rote memorization. Adapting your teaching methods to meet the child’s learning needs will improve the efficiency of the learning process. It will also ease the child’s frustration at not being able to learn multiplication tables when presented in a manner not easily grasped.
In its advice to teachers regarding ideas for teaching times tables, the Cumbria Numeracy Team recommends having kinesthetic learners stomp or clap while learning difficult times table facts, or have them hop forward three times while multiplying three times five, chanting each increment.
Encourage children to use building blocks to build up or group their multiplication tables. Have children count increments of the times table being learned on their fingers.
Music or Verbal Methods
In a study published in the Fall 2007 issue of the Institute for Learning Styles Research Journal, Prasanthi Pallapu noted that verbal learners get more from learning when they can hear the words, whether spoken by themselves or when interacting with another student. The Cumbria Numeracy Team recommends having children chant or sing their multiplication tables. For example, have children chant “one times five is five” and on up the table.
For calculations that are difficult to remember, have children croak or whisper the answer, or make up rhymes, such as “eight times eight are 64 opening doors”.
The Cumbria Numeracy Team recommends having visual learners write out their multiplication tables so they can see how the answers grow. Use posters to display times table facts, and display the facts visually. For example, use two sets of five dots to demonstrate that two times five equals 10. Or use beads on a string to emphasize how numbers build up when they are multiplied.
Use flash cards with the multiplication question printed on one side and the answer on the other. Place correctly answered cards in one pile, and incorrectly answered in a second, and go through the second pile until all cards have been placed in the pile for correct answers.
Flash cards can be made from construction paper or card stock, or you can use a deck of playing cards. Turn the Jack, Queen, King and Joker into zeros or numbers greater than 10, and use the Ace as a one. Turn up two cards, and have the child multiply them together.
- The Math Forum at Drexel University: Learning to Multiply
- The Cumbria Numeracy Team: Some Ideas for Teaching Multiplication Tables
- Institute for Learning Styles Research Journal; Effects of Visual and Verbal Learning Styles on Learning; Prasanthi Pallapu; Fall 2007.
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