Is your child struggling to learn their tables? Or, are you struggling to get them to learn their tables? You are not alone. It can be tough, but remember this: maths is a bore if you have to do your tables on your fingers for every question you come across.
Children who know their tables by heart (instant recall) enjoy maths far more, because they can experience the satisfaction of getting far more questions correct. In our view, if you have to work through your 3x table to work out 3×7, then you don’t know your tables. Here are a few tips for helping to learn tables off by heart:
- Start with a variety of means: listening to CDs, chanting, writing out, games, computer programs. See what works with your child
- Keep it short and sweet – 5 to 10 minutes intensive practice is ideal. We favour sticking to one table, and doing: 20 mixed questions with a crib sheet; 60 mixed questions with a crib sheet, timed; as many as you can in 2 minutes, no crib sheet. It takes 8-10 minutes.
- Put a clock on it: ask your child to do 20 questions in a minute and they will have to start using recall rather than counting
- Reward speed as much as accuracy…
- …so allow your child to make an occasional guess
- There are a few rules that really help if they are caught between two answers – such as the only way to get an odd answer is to multiply an odd by an odd.
- Don’t try to learn a new table until they have mastered the ones that go before. The typical order is 2x, 5x, 10x, then 3x, 4x, then 6x, 9x, and finally 8x and 7x.
- Alternatively, many countries do not teach tables according to the multiplier but according to the product. When learning off-by-heart, this can be a great way to do it. First learn the products up to 10 (i.e. 2×4=8, 3×3=9, etc.) Then learn the products to 20 (i.e. 3×4=12, 6×3=18 etc.) Then up to 30, 40 etc. The by-product of this method is that children quickly learn to recognise prime numbers, too.
- Look at games that encourage instant recall, such as web-based racing games (try http://www.tutpup.com) or the Maths Explosion game on DoodleMaths.
Tables are the building blocks of maths. They are essential for division, fractions work, written methods, percentages… the list goes on. You only have to learn them once, and as long as you keep using them, it’s job done!