A novel approach to teaching children the times tables facts
In the past six years I have often tutored children who are aged 8 to 11 who have struggled with mathematics because they have not been able to learn the times tables. This is because they find the task overwhelming. They find it hard to retain verbal information, and most times tables are taught at school by verbal rote learning. They also may just be tasked with writing the times tables in order from a given chart. So they are not asked to think about the facts as they work.
I set out to try and create a times tables exercise book that was not simply a rote learning tool as clearly this approach will not work for children with working memory problems. I wanted to make the children create their own times tables, as they go. My approach has been to start off with the underlying structure of numbers. Odd and even numbers are highlighted at the outset. Multiplying two even numbers produces an even answer: 2 x 4 = 8. And two odd numbers multiplied together: such as 5 x 3 produces the odd number answer 15. But an even number multiplied by an odd numbers produces an even answer: 3 x 6 = 18. The learner is thus already starting to engage with processing numbers and being a detective not a dispirited observer. The book immediately moves on to focusing on the fact that zero is zero whatever it is multiplied by because children can be very confused about this. Zero is not an odd or an even number it is nothing! The exercise book has two pages devoted to each times table and the learner is initially tasked with selecting the correct answer from a non-sequential list of the answers. They then move on to supplying a missing factor that creates an answer. They are not simply given the answers. Each times table has an image, the two times tables image is a pair of trainers, the nine times tables image is a cat. And the book also includes questions related to the times table involved. What is a three sided shape called? What is 32? What is 36 divided by 12? What is the highest common factor of 36 and 12? What is the square root of 9? Worksheets teaching shape names, square numbers and square roots, highest common factors and lowest common multiples are also in the book. The exercise book also highlights number patterns in the answers to the times tables particularly the: 3, 6, 9 and 12 times tables. Most children are quite fascinated by the way the patterns repeat. And hopefully by the end of the workbook they have learnt not just the times tables facts but learnt how to apply these facts in various ways and why the facts matter.
Sarah Cowell © Feb 2018