Why learning times tables is important?
Learning times tables is not just about memorizing numbers; it’s about building a strong foundation for mathematical thinking, problem solving, and success in various academic and real-life situations.
How do I know it?
Well, my Mom used to be a Math teacher in elementary school for 40+ years… 😉
And my Daughter just started to have math lessons where they are dealing with multiplication. Her teacher is amazing, uses various multiplication games, and strives to show fun ways to introduce the multiplication problem. But we still have work to be done at home to deepen her knowledge.
What my Mom says is that multiplication is the basis of all future maths and young children who properly learn it at the beginning of this journey, will find it easier later to move on with more complex math concepts.
So whether you are homeschooling your Little Ones, or just want to give them a head start, teaching them multiplication times tables properly is something worth putting some extra effort into.
How to introduce multiplication in an easy way?
Learning the multiplication times tables and understanding the concept behind them are two different (but of course very well-related) aspects that teachers and parents need to be aware of. Kids are different, and one might need to use different concepts to let them find the best way that works for them.
We tried at least 5 different ways to help my Daughter understand the most important multiplication facts and introduced new concepts in simple steps to be able to find the most effective approach.
You can find below a step-by-step example of how you can introduce multiplication concepts. But please be patient (well, not my superpower either 😅), and try to incorporate as many fun games as possible to make math facts and multiplication work more interesting! It can be important with older children as well – we might easily forget, but our elder struggling students (even those in secondary school!) need our support as well if their foundations of multiplication and division facts are not strong enough.
You can use some of our hints to make multiplication fun and build up their math basics too!
So a great way to start with times tables can be the following:
Step 1: Introduction to Equal Groups
You can begin to help your Little Ones understand the concept of multiplication by physically grouping objects into equal sets. It can be a good idea to use toys, blocks, or candies and arrange them into groups of two or three.
My Mother usually brings a small pack of M&M’s to make math more fun for my Daughter 😅 Well, as a Mom dedicated to developing healthy eating habits I am not always 100% happy about this method… but I need to admit, it really works 😁 They can practice once a week, and my Daughter is happy to even work with larger numbers when M&M’s is involved…
You can ask questions like “How many groups of two do you see?”, and make groups of certain numbers by colors, set up times tables… just use your imagination – or ask your kid to ask you a multiplication problem by using those little chocolate pieces 😊 This “reverse questioning” works for us pretty well too, and it is really helpful to test whether her understanding is deep enough. Besides multiplication M&M’s are also great to practice addition and subtraction as well!
As a next step (or another day when sweets are not involved), you can also use images of various things that can be arranged into groups.
Step 2: Introduce the Multiplication Symbol
After understanding equal groups, introduce the multiplication symbol (×). You can explain that it’s a shortcut for repeated addition. For example, 3 × 4 means 3 groups of 4, which is the same as 4 + 4 + 4.
Learning to use the symbol itself properly is very important. What I notice is that younger kids tend to mix up the various symbols when they see them written. Of course, it is a totally new thing for them, so they need some practice to get used to it.
What is helpful for us when we are working with different types of calculations, is that I ask my Daughter to read the task out loud. This way we can notice immediately if she mixes up multiplication with division for example. And when she understands the math problem well, finding out the right answer gets simple.
Step 3: Multiplying on Fingers
Probably your children used, or are still using their hands for addition or subtraction of different numbers. It can come naturally as a next step in their journey of becoming young multiplication experts to start multiplying on their fingers. In public schools usually, there is some time they can calculate on their fingers – at least until kids get a solid foundation to multiplication. With smaller numbers, it works basically the same way as with addition or subtraction facts. But as we got a bit stuck with some bigger numbers, I started to Google for some tricks that can be used easily by 7 or 8 year olds when doing the mental math.
This video shows an amazing trick for specific times tables 6 to 10… I wish I had seen it when I was having a hard time finding easy steps back in school to solve these maths problems fast 😅
Step 4: Visual Aids – Arrays and Grids
Multiplication arrays are visual representations of multiplication that organize math manipulatives into rows and columns. It helps in understanding the concept of multiplication by visualizing it in another way that we tried in the previous steps.
You can make arrays of any object, but I would vote for memory cards to start with (as after making the grids you can have a short break to play the memory game 😊). For example, you can make a grid of the cards: have 3 rows and 4 cards in each row (4 columns). This equals to 3 x 4.
You can give each other various equations as a task to make a grid of, while you also play in the breaks the memory card game. This way the kids get a bit of practice every time, without even noticing that they are different times tables. 😉
Step 5: Multiplication Songs and Rhymes
Introduce multiplication songs or rhymes to make learning fun. Use music and rhythm to aid memory retention. Sing songs that cover specific multiplication tables, starting with simpler ones. You can use songs and rhymes from YouTube, but I think developing your own ones with the kids makes it even more fun – and easier for them to remember. 😊
Step 6: Flashcards for Basic Multiplication
Introduce multiplication flashcards with smaller numbers. Begin with the basic multiplication facts and gradually increase complexity as kids become more comfortable. You can make “triangle” cards with the multiplication on the bottom and the result on the top. Just cover the result and wait for the correct answer from your child. You can re-use these cards when you are learning division too – just need to cover one number on the bottom instead of the one on top.
Step 7: Real-Life Applications
Connect multiplication to real-life scenarios and relatable examples. Pose questions like “If each person has 2 cookies, and there are 5 people, how many cookies do we need in total?” Relate multiplication to everyday situations to make it more meaningful. Well, actually my Daughter tends to spot when I am trying to add some multiplication to our days… Last time when I asked “by accident” how many humps do 3 camels have, she simply told me that she is not willing to do any maths at that time 😅 So my advice is to try to sneak those real-life applications a bit more smoother to your days!
Step 8: Multiplication Games
Incorporate fun games like “Multiplication Bingo” or “Multiplication War” to reinforce learning. Choose games that align with the multiplication tables being taught.
Here are five multiplication games that you can use to make learning more enjoyable:
- Multiplication Bingo:
- Create Bingo cards with multiplication problems instead of numbers. Provide a set of multiplication flashcards. Call out the multiplication problems, and players mark the answers on their Bingo cards. The first one to get a row or column marked shouts “Bingo!” and wins.
- Multiplication War:
- Divide a deck of playing cards evenly among two players. Each player flips over two cards and multiplies the numbers. The player with the highest product wins both cards. Continue until all cards are used, and the player with the most cards at the end is the winner.
- Multiplication Hopscotch:
- Draw a hopscotch grid with multiplication problems in each square. Instead of hopping on numbers, players must solve the multiplication problem in the square they land on. Use chalk or tape to create the grid on a safe outdoor surface.
- Multiplication Dice Game:
- Use two dice and have each player roll them. Multiply the two numbers rolled together. The player with the correct product scores a point. You can set a time limit, and the player with the most points at the end wins.
- Multiplication Jeopardy:
- Create a Jeopardy-style game with different categories of multiplication problems, each with different point values. Divide players into teams and have them take turns selecting a category and a point value. Ask the corresponding multiplication question, and teams earn points for correct answers. The team with the most points at the end wins.
Step 9: Peer Learning and Group Activities
Encourage peer teaching and group activities. Kids can work together to solve multiplication problems, explain concepts to each other, and provide support. You can easily do it with groups of little friends or older siblings. But as I mentioned earlier, if your Little One is an only child, you can still pretend that you are a younger kid, and he or she is the teacher 😊
Step 10: Apps and Online Learning
Well, we all know that practicing multiplication times tables can be boring… Even though I try to limit screen time, there are some cases, when education apps and online learning can be really useful. And for us, practicing multiplication and general math skills is such a case. Interactive games and quizzes can provide additional practice and engagement more enjoyably.
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One of my favorite Apps is Calcuralis. It is an app made by the Swiss Company, Constructor, focusing on providing individually tailored training to help automate math skills (not only multiplication!). And it is also great for kids with dyscalculia. You can check their website and sign up for the free trial if you are planning to include apps in your kids’ multiplication practice.
Step 11: Celebrate Achievements
Recognize and celebrate the progress of your child. Positive reinforcement, such as praise or small rewards, can motivate kids to stay engaged and enjoy the learning process. You can also prepare your own reward board to keep up motivation
Step 12: Consistent Practice and Gradual Complexity
According to my Mother, with regular practice, once each kid learns those times tables 😊 You just need to be consistent, and keep in mind that this is really the basis for future maths, so absolutely worth putting some extra effort into learning multiplication properly.
Set aside regular time in your daily routine for multiplication practice. Gradually increase the complexity of problems as kids become more confident. Reinforce the idea that practice leads to improvement.
Teaching multiplication times tables isn’t just about numbers; it’s about nurturing a foundation for mathematical prowess, problem-solving skills, and future academic success. As the child of a dedicated math teacher, I’ve gathered insights into effective and enjoyable methods.
From creating equal groups with everyday objects to introducing the multiplication symbol and incorporating engaging games, the journey can be both fun and educational. Visual aids, songs, real-life applications, and online tools add layers to the learning experience. Remember, consistency and gradual complexity are key.
Celebrate the small victories, and watch as your child’s confidence in math grows. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or looking to give your child a head start, investing time and creativity in teaching multiplication is undeniably worthwhile.
The journey may not always be smooth, but the rewards of building a strong mathematical foundation will undoubtedly pave the way for future success. So, dive into the world of multiplication with enthusiasm, make it an adventure, and witness the growth of a young mathematician.