Monday, June 28, 2010

Teaching Times Tables

As much as times tables can be a dread, it is extremely vital for every child to know their times tables by heart. As much as many people and online resources try to make times table learning fun, the truth of the matter is the best way to learn your times tables is to memorize it. It is the simplest thing to do and a guaranteed proven method that if done correctly, your child will learn their times tables once and remember them forever! Start with Times Table 1 and go all the way to Times Table 10 with your child. For each set, they should memorise up till the 12th line (i.e. 1x12, 2x12, 3x12, etc...) That is usually sufficient. Before they start memorising each set, however, I would teach them the concept behind times tables. The best way to do so is to get a bunch of the same objects (pictures on paper), and group them up. For example 2x 3 means 2 groups of 3 rabbits or 3 groups of 2 snakes. Test your child on that concept. Next, have your child memorise 1 times table set at a time. First, test them in order (i.e. 1x2. 1x3. 1x4, etc...). Once they are fluent in that form of memorization, skip around in the same set (i.e. 1x2, 1x10, 1x5, etc...). Once they have mastered that set, go on to the next set. Do the same as you did with the first set. Once they have mastered the second set, mix it up with the first set. Your child should be able to give you the answer within 2-3 seconds. If not, they have not mastered memorising that set or sets. Give them hints. For example, anything x 0 will always be zero, anything x 1 will always be the same number, anything x 10 will just require a 0 added behind the number and so on. Make it sound like you're telling them a big secret! Kids LOVE that!

This will be a grueling process to begin with but if you keep at it with your child, you will only have to go through all 10 sets once through and they will remember it for life. In addition, after the 10 sets, they will also  already know their 11 and 12 times tables as a bonus. Create a nice reward system for them. I like to use sticker charts. I usually make my own through excel spreadsheet or word, and have a bunch of small different stickers on hand. Have your child pick what rewards he/she wants to have and at what accomplishment level. As your child "masters" each times table, allow your child to place the sticker on the chart him/herself. Doing so will allow your child to account for their own learning and be more motivated to keep going. You can also grab a small empty jar and have your child place an m&m, jellybean, beans, etc. in the jar for each one he/she gets correct. When the jar is full, your child will win a trip to the toystore or something fun like that!

When do you start teaching your child the times tables then? Every child is different, but I have found that children as young as 5 have that ability to understand and learn the times tables. I would recommend that your child learn their times tables by the end of the first grade. Why? For two reasons. First, they have a lot more time to learn something like this. Second, not only will it give them that confidence boost as they enter the 2nd grade as an advanced math student, they will be more than ready when it is time to start learning their times tables. Depending on your child's school and teacher, I have found that times table learning can start anytime between the 2nd and 4th grade.

How long should you spend on the Times Tables each day? Depending on how fast your child learns and memorizes things, it can ake anywhere from 25 mins to 1 hour each day. It will, however, get easier as your child gets the hang of the learning method. I would also recommend that you test your child randomly throughout the day. It can be while you're driving somewhere or lunch time. Just ask about 3-4 times table each time. It will keep your kids on track and help them with their memorization skills. If everything goes as plan, it should take about 1.5-2 weeks to master all sets! After that, just test your child randomly to keep them in check. Try it and let me know how it goes.

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