We can all become frustrated when children don’t know their times tables. This multiplication skill is typically mastered by the end of third grade, but I encountered many students in middle school who were still struggling. Basic facts are important building blocks for mathematics. Don’t depend solely on the school to teach your child the facts. As a parent, it’s worth your while to ensure that your son or daughter masters the math facts. Students learn in different ways-they can be primarily visual, auditory, or tactile learners. If you are helping a child to comprehend her multiplication facts, incorporating all of these modalities will result in success.
If you give a child a bunch of pennies and ask her to show you what “3 x 5” looks like, she’ll probably put 3 pennies in one pile and 5 in the other.
The understanding is obviously not there yet. Build the correct array with her.
Show her that the pennies for 3 x 5 look like this:
Emphasize that multiplication is just repeated addition. Tell her she can replace the times sign with ‘groups of’.
For example, 2 x 8 is actually 2 groups of 8.
Your child can also use Room 108’s Visual Multiplication Game to form multiplication arrays online.
Do Some Drill and Practice
Since kids like computers, they seem to be more willing to do math on the computer. Programs like Honor Point’s Multiplication Madness are good for drill and practice through the 12’s. The child should master one fact family before moving on to the next one. There’s also an option where students can take online tests.
Let’s Get Physical
Some students just need to be active in order for the learning to reach the brain. When I tutor that type of child, I find it helpful to practice facts this way. I smear some shaving cream on a desk, and let him draw the answers in the cream with his fingers. It’s easy to clean up too.
There are programs on the market that put the facts to music like these Multiplication Songs. Have the music playing when students enter the classroom in the morning. Parents can sing along with children at home as well.
Once the facts are mastered, there are plenty of online multiplication practice games…and children love to play. Kids can show off what they’ve learned about the 1-12 times tables by playing Multiplication.com’s Penguin Jump. They can opt for private games or join in on public ones.
Transfer to Paper and Pencil
Of course, having children ultimately work with pencil and paper is the goal. The Teachers’ Café has free, printable sheets where you can concentrate on one fact family or mix them up. Reward charts are good tools. Parents can celebrate each number that’s mastered and post it on the refrigerator. I used to challenge my students to races. I’d do a sheet of multiplication facts at the overhead projector as they worked at their seats. If a student could match my time, I’d buy him lunch.
Are Cheat Sheets Okay?
When kids get to middle school and are still clueless about the multiplication facts, parents often wonder if it’s okay to let them use math fact aids. My opinion is that it’s okay in class and for homework. My reasoning is that I’d rather have the correct answers consistently reinforced than have them learn nothing by guessing. I want them to concentrate on the new concept that’s being taught. However-and this is a big deal-they generally can’t use help aids on tests, particularly state and national exams. If a student doesn’t know his math facts by the time he starts fourth grade, I strongly urge parents to work diligently on helping him achieve mastery.
A Trick for the Tricky 9’s
Lots of boys and girls have trouble learning the times tables for 9. If you haven’t heard of the clever hand trick that can be used, click here to take a look at my slideshow portraying it.
Pictures Show That Multiplying by 9’s Is Easy