How To Help Your Child Learn Times Tables
Times (or multiplication) tables (or facts) seem easy when you've already learned them but they drive fear into many children - and this in turn has a negative effect on learning. In this article, I'm going to look into learning times tables, help you identify your child's knowledge of them and provide some useful tips on how to help at home.
First, find out which tables they know and don't know
It makes sense to take stock of where your child is with tables before trying to help them. To do this we've developed a unique new tables quiz that identifies exactly where to start.
- in 10 minutes you'll have a times tables progress report
Kickstart not only identifies which tables your child knows but it will also let you know which are truly mastered.
So let's start learning tables
Think of the times tables like a daunting climbing wall - it's scary when you're a first-timer standing at the foot looking up - but once you start making a few hand and foot holds it gets much easier.
This diagram shows the 81 times tables multiplication facts that every child needs commit to memory. (We'll leave the 11 and 12x tables aside for a moment.)
One secret is choosing the right route - we'll deal with that later but first let's consider what we mean by "commit to memory" and "mastering."
It's tempting to think that being able to answer the times tables and mastering them is the same thing. Unfortunately, it isn't.
Children need to be able to recall any times tables answer within two or three seconds - preferably in one second. That leaves no time for counting the way up to the answer from 2x, 3x, 4x etc - the answer has to pop out of memory pretty much instantly.
It sounds harsh but this level of "number fluency" is the ideal foundation for any child - so how do we get there?
What order should we learn times tables in?
We, of course, start with the easy tables first - the easy times tables are the 10, 2 and 5 times tables.
The 10 times tables are a natural part of counting, the 2 times tables are familiar because of doubling, even numbers and they simply chant so well: "2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?" The 5 times tables are helped by knowing the 10 times tables and the fact that we have five fingers.
There's some debate as to which are easiest from here but the 4 and 9 times tables are usually next. The 4 times tables are double the 2 times tables and the 9 times tables have a few shortcuts to help you learn them. After this you could the 3 times tables followed by the 6 times tables. Then the 8 times tables and the 7 times tables - which are generally regarded as difficult.
Language and times tables
There are many different ways to say the tables and they're all correct - but it helps if you're consistent and if you adopt the language your child already uses at school. For example we have:
- three times eight is . . .
- three multiplied by
- three eights are . .
- three lots of four are . .
So just be aware that what makes sense to you might confuse your child.
What are the methods for learning tables?
- Stick to one times table at a time to minimise confusion
- Start with chanting and writing them out slowly in order
- Then move on to completing the answers quickly in order - on paper or verbally with your child
- Finally, move on to completing the answers in any order
- Keep reminding your child that 3 x 4 is the same as 4 x 3 - this effectively halves the number of tables facts
- Each times table has a square number 3 x 3, 7 x 7 etc (see the coloured numbers in the tables grid above). These are special "hand or foot holds" that can act as memory hooks - emphasize them!
- Talk about the numbers are you encounter them: "5 x 8 = 40 - that's mummy's age", "3 x 6 = 18 - that's our house number"... this makes more memory hooks
- Games are a great way to speed up recalling tables - we have lots of suggestions in our blog here.
What are the tips and tricks for learning each times tables
- The 2, 4 and 8 times tables are doubles of each other, with many common answers: 2 x 8 = 16, 4 x 4 =16, 8 x 2 = 16
- The nine times tables can use the ten times tables and work back or compensate: so for 5 x 9, think (5 x 10) - 5 = 50 - 5 = 45, also note that the digits in the answer always add to 9. (There's also a finger method which I'm not a big fan of.)
- The 3 and 6 times table are tricky. Do the 3s first then the 6s - expect these to be more difficult and make an allowance in time
- The 7 times tables are hard but if you've done the other tables first you'll find you've encountered most of the 7s already elsewhere - such as 7 x 4 = 28, 7 x 3 = 21
- 7 x 8 = 56 is often thought of as the hardest times table - but tell this to your child and make a big deal about it and they'll never forget it!
Mastering the times tables
You can know all the times tables without really going on to master them. So once your child has learned the times tables individually the next stage involves practising recalling them quickly in any random order.
The practice can be verbal or written but either way you're looking for accurate answers within three seconds. Getting to grips with this is what Komodo is all about - it provides the an effective and rewarding way to help your child master math at home.
About Komodo - Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost elementary math skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use at home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning math (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into busy routines. Komodo helps users develop fluency and confidence in math - without keeping them at the screen for long.