“I’ll try if I know all the things I used to know. Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is–oh dear!”- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
If, like Alice, your child is struggling with remembering their times tables, you’re not alone!
Ask a random selection of kids some of the trickier times tables and you’re going to get quite a few “Ums” or “It’s….well…it’s…….”
The thing is – it’s not necessarily your kids fault that they’re not comfortable with the times tables facts. Perhaps:
- They weren’t given time to thoroughly learn them
- They haven’t had time to practise them
- They don’t see the point of being fast at them
In this article I’m going to share with you:
- Why it’s important at all for your child to learn the times tables
- The best age to start learning the times tables
- What your child’s needs to know before tackling this important task
- The DIY system that parents around the world are using to guide their children in the times tables success
- The resources you need and where to get them.
Are you ready to get started?
Great! Let’s begin!
Why is learning the times tables so important anyway?
So, why is learning the times tables important? Why can’t your child just get by? Well, High School math is filled with questions that require the use of times tables. Algebra is a lot easier if your child isn’t constantly reaching for their calculator.
Also, when your children grows up they’ll be:
Managing their finances
Splitting checks at the restaurant;
Working on a recipe conversion;
Trying to figure out if that price really is a good deal in the sale.
All these require a good level of comfort with the multiplication facts.
In a BBC survey only 40% of the adults surveyed could give the correct answer to 8 x 9 but among the over-55’s in the survey, the number of correct answer rose to more than 60% so numeracy skills are definitely declining.
In a survey of California, Algebra 1 teachers, they reported that 30% of their students do not know their times tables.
So actually if your child can learn their times tables it’ll not only help them be more confident with math, it’ll put them ahead of the general population!
So what age should the children start to learn the times tables?
In this age of competitive parenting where we race to toilet train our kids soon after birth, this is a valid question.
Well, there are some five year olds that know their times tables, maybe even you were this young when you learned yours, but six or seven years old is a good time to start learning the times tables, even if it’s starting with skip counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.
However, even teens who are still shaky on their times tables still have time to straighten out those multiplication facts. It’s certainly not too late.
The one thing your child really should be good at BEFORE starting their times tables
Whatever age your child is, there’s still one thing they should know before starting the times tables:
They need to be confident at addition and subtraction;
and if they’re not, then this needs to be sorted first.
Fluent addition and subtraction skills will make the whole learning-the-times-tables process much easier, since not only are times tables just repeated addition, but some times tables shortcuts depend on addition and subtraction.
Click the image for a color or black and white printable Times Tables Cheat Sheet
If you ignore this piece of advice then the whole learning in the times tables process is not necessarily doomed to failure, but it’s just going to be a more difficult. So if at all possible – sort out the addition and subtraction first.
So how long will it takes for your child to learn their times tables?
Well, if they are working on it daily – only about 10 minutes a day – then it’s only going to take them a month or so.
Start selling that to your child, “Hey – you could learn the times tables in a month if we did 10 minutes practise a day”
Can you find 10 minutes a day?
How to get to started?
Well, the first thing, the really important thing, is to plan in advance what time of day your child will be working on their times tables. Choose a time when both you and your child are free. You might not be doing anything more reminding your child to practice their times tables, but still it’s important to set aside this “reminder” time.
A great time to get on with this type of practice is first thing in the morning after breakfast, before school. If you walk or drive your child to school, this is another good time to review.
After school as a warm up to school homework also works well, but whichever time you pick, pick that time and let that be the “times tables time”.
So, what is it you actually need to do? What system do you need to use?
Well , let me tell you what I usually do with my students. I start at the beginning. I start with the two tables.
Now maybe you’ve got an older learner, so you might be tempted to start with the six times tables because they are fine on the 2’s 3’s, 4’s and 5 times tables, but my advice is just start with the two times tables.
Let them whizz through the easy tables, and then they can spend more time concentrating on the higher tables with their renewed confidence.
If you really want to rush the process, you can start AT THE LAST TIMES TABLES THAT THEY KNOW WELL.
But my advice is just to start at the beginning.
Let’s break down the 31 day times tables system
Now it would be great if your kid can do a 100 times tables questions each day – that is definitely worth aiming for. If they can do 100 questions in just five minutes then brilliant! They are fluent and fast in their times tables and they can move on. If they are doing 100, two times tables in five minutes then great, they should move on to the three times tables.
With the multiplication facts, we are aiming for them to actually answer each question in about three seconds, so if you’re using audio, or you are reading out questions to them use the rhythm of three seconds per question.
If it’s taking them 10 minutes for 100 questions, that’s still fine. But you need to just check – are they taking 10 minutes because they’re staring out of the window or fiddling with their pencils, or are they actually taking 10 minutes to concentrate on each of the questions and answering the questions?
If they’re hesitating on each question or using their fingers, it’s worth repeating these early tables to get them to lose the habits that could be hijacking their chances of success.
I would advise that they probably need about 3 to 4 days for each of the times tables. So if they take them 10 minutes the first time, let them repeat that particular times tables, for a 2nd, 3rd or maybe even a 4th day to see if you can get their timing to closer to five minutes.
If after 4 days on that set of times tables facts, they’re still taking 10 minutes that’s fine – let them move on.
If they’re taking 15 minutes or more, then step back to the previous times table (or to the last times table that they were fluent in) to help them build up their speed, then go back up to the problematic set.
Now while most people think the process goes like this:
Which can definitely work:
I prefer to run through the times tables so it plays out like this:
But my kid HATES times tables worksheets
I hear you on this! My 2 older kids ploughed their way through times tables worksheets and learnt them that way with no fun and games, but my younger 2 are worksheet-a-phobes!
Everyone learns in different ways. I’m very much a be a visual learner and maybe your child is a hands on learner and your child’s times tables efforts will get better results if you can tailor their work to their learning style.
Worksheets are a great way to learn the times tables if your child takes to them, but after doing worksheets all day at school, the last thing your child may want to do is more worksheets!
There are some children who do find worksheets terribly grown up, and you don’t necessarily need to avoid worksheets altogether.
In my 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program, you’ll find printable games, audios, activity suggestions AS WELL AS worksheets to suit different learning styles.
If your child responds well to visuals, you can get them to read out the questions themselves and then shout the answers and then YOU write down the answers (or just keep a running check on whether they’re getting the answers correct).
Or you can read the questions to your child and and she writes down the answer.
You can even print out copies of the worksheets and then have a race against your child – if they like a bit of competition!
For auditory learners you can use audio instead of worksheets. There are audio CD’s that you can buy or if you look on YouTube you’ll find plenty of times tables raps, rhymes and songs.
Your kids could even make their own times tables audio that they can listen to!
Want some resource ideas? Grab my 31 Ways to Practise the Times Tables FREE PDF eBook
Games, games, games
Remember I told you that my youngest kids are worksheet-a-phobes? Well the one thing that’s really helped them with their times tables are times tables games.
My kids love playing the printable games that I printed out and laminated. Some needed dice and counters but they seemed to love the ones that used those washable whiteboard pens!
You could even make up your own games with just a pair of dice, a pack of playing cards, or a random number generator (Google will be able to help you out there!).
You can have your child play an online multiplication game or download a times tables app and give your child a smartphone or tablet to play on. Sentencing your child to 10 minutes a day on a smartphone won’t be such a bad thing on their eyes!
There’s plenty more ideas in the FREE 31 Ways to Practice the Times Tables eBook
So where can you find these resources?
Well, bookstores are a good starting place. They’ll have plenty of workbooks, CD’s and also some pre-packaged games or flashcards as well.
A YouTube search will give for times tables resources will yield a huge amount of results. When I looked up “times tables raps” there were over 300 YouTube videos for times tables raps and time tables songs, as well as instruction videos showing how the times tables work.
Google is also a great resources, whether for buying times tables products or looking for free worksheets, you’ll get plenty of choices, but the difficulty is how to choose between all these resources.
Of course you can also grab my 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program
Choosing the right resources
Whether you choose ready-made resources or you are writing your own worksheets, make sure you start with the easy questions first. So don’t just go straight into 8 x 9
Start with 2 x 2, 2 x 3, 2 x 4 etc. then make sure the questions increase in difficulty gradually.
Make sure the questions have some built in review, so for example if they learned the five times tables, once they finish practising those, then make sure to include some questions on the 2, 3 and 4 times tables before moving on to the 6 times tables.
More importantly, choose a resource that fits with your child’s learning style.
If your child is a hands-on learner, then you probably want to spend more time playing games. Worksheets are fine with these types of learners, but supplementing these by playing some hands-on games will help to fix the multiplication facts.
If you want a way to get started immediately. I’ve developed the 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program which contains all the worksheets (including built -in review), audio, printable games and activity ideas to guide your child to faster, more confident times tables in one month.
You can find out more about the faster times tables program here.
In the meantime let’s go over the main steps:
- Start once your child has great addition and subtraction recall
- Begin easy and master each times table before moving on
- Build in review
- Use resources suited to your child’s learning style
Now whether you’ve choose to use the DIY system that I’ve just laid out for you or whether you choose to go ahead and purchase the done-for-you 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program at www.fastertimestables.com it is really, REALLY important that you start to develop a plan, tomorrow or in the next couple of days, to really tackle those times tables with your child.
Once you get started, it will only takes 10 minutes a day to help your child to faster more confident with times tables!