4 Merry Times Tables Games


Merry is a friend and fellow blogger at Merry Makes.  She’s also a qualified Science and EFL (English as a foreign language) teacher and is in great demand around these parts to tutor. Previously, Merry  gave us 5 Merry Maths Games which she had used with her reluctant learner. Merry couldn’t teach a boring lesson if she tried, so read on to find out how Merry used 4 different ways of teaching times tables using games.

Visual times tables

I asked my student to draw for me what 2 x 3 = 6 meant. I played the role of the student while he was the teacher. He drew 6 circles then crossed out 3, without explaining it to me. So I asked him to describe his drawings to me. He mumbled something and I managed to catch the ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘6’ come out of his mouth, but not in any coherent sentence. The purpose of this exercise was to diagnose exactly what it was about multiplication he didn’t ‘get’.

As a result of this I let him experience  multiplication visually. I took out coloured mathsticks and carefully counted out the matchsticks as I pointed to them. I pointed out the 2 groups of 3s, and then asked him to add them all up.

3D Times tables keyboard game

I have this cool piece of equipment I picked up in a Turkish market stall several years ago, which I used extensively for my own children. It is a 3D times table chart up to the 9 times table. Each button when pressed down reveals the answer behind the opaque button. You may well ask yourself, what is the advantage of this over a regular paper chart? Think ‘kinaesthetic learners’ and there you have the answer. Of course, pointing to a chart and chanting the sum is also kinaesthetic learning but this cool tool helps the child to be in control of their learning. And we all know how much fun it is to push buttons!

I demonstrated the 3D grid and asked him to use this to test me, first! You may be wondering, well, who’s teaching who, here? I have always found that children take great joy in testing adults, and even more joy if we get stuck or get one wrong. In this case, I wanted to show the student that the task I was asking from him is one I have achieved myself, also to make it less daunting for him. From a child’s point of view, it is extremely stressful to be the only one under scrutiny, to be the one expected to know the answers, the only one getting things wrong. So to provide them the opportunity to turn the table on the adult brings down barriers, increases willingness to participate in the learning process. Needless to say, my student loved asking me my multiplication tables.

Times tables games with answers

I drilled him for the 2-times table and made sure I asked the sums in both serial and random order. All the while he was allowed to use the grid to provide answers. You may think, surely he should know the answers without looking. Well, if you provide the opportunity to drill whilst armed with answers, it sets up the model for what you want. Secondly, the child practices under ‘safe’ conditions i.e. safe in the knowledge that he cannot fail: all he has to do is take a look. Later you can take away the information, in this case, the grid, and you will find that the child will have picked up a lot of the correct answers through repetition. As before, I asked him to test me on some easy and ‘hard’ sums too. It gave him great pleasure, and took down another wall between us.

Times tables flick cards

In the next session, I made  some “quick flick cards” which are basically flashcards which have the multiplication sum on one side, with the answer on the other side.

When I show my student the sum he reads it out loud. I give him a moment to answer it (about 5 secs) but if it takes him longer than that, I quickly flick the card with a movement of my wrist and let him see the answer, making sure I flick back to the sum. If he watches carefully, he can see the answer and it turns into a fun way to get him repeating his timestable. In later sessions, I will gave him less than 5 seconds to respond, and when he fails to answer, cards are set aside to drill again. All cards which he gets correct, he can win off me, so he can see his achievements in a tangible form, which is a great motivator for learning.

Then I set some follow-up tasks for him to complete at home:

A a few multiplication sums from his grade 3 workbook,

B drilling his 2 and 3 times table with his father (also testing his father),

C counting out beans or pasta to write out his 2 and 3 times tables, under mother’s supervision.

5 take away tips

It is vital for the child to feel that he is supported at home in all aspects of his learning, and the involvement of parents is often enough motivation for a reluctant child. And finally, it is extremely important to acknowledge his progress and successes. After all, what is a moment of triumph without a loved one to share it with?

1 Take an active part in your child’s learning process

2 Show your child what you expect from him by modelling it

3 Praise when he succeeds

4 Encourage when he struggles

5 Set targets and provide another opportunity to succeed when he fails.

After just 4 sessions with me, he brought me this door-knob hanger (a present from me for spotting one incorrect sum on the 3D grid).

It totally made my day when I read what he’d painted on it: ‘Mathmatison Working’ !!

Big punch in the air from me! He’s gone from being a reluctant math-student to ‘Mathmatician’ in just 4 sessions. That is why I love teaching.

Merry blogs at Merry Makes where she inspires and delights readers with discoveries and tutorials spanning crafts, recipes, gardening and more!

For those of you not able to get to a Turkish Market, Amazon has a similar 3D Times Tables Keyboard!

[amazon_link id=”B00000IUCE” target=”_blank” ]Small World Toys Preschool (They Keep Multiplying!) 12[/amazon_link]

[amazon_link id=”B00000IUCE” target=”_blank” ]Times Table Keyboard[/amazon_link]

What times tables games have you used with your child?

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

9 thoughts on “4 Merry Times Tables Games

  1. @MM:

    This is such an awesome story! I have been reading about your reluctant learner and waiting for the perfect opportunity to reply and this just pulled at my heart strings. I am so happy that you were able to reach that child and touch him in a way that only a true teacher with love and dedication can!! You have reached a point in him where he believes he CAN and that is soo amazing. Keep up the good work!

    thanks for sharing this math’s insider :)

  2. Thank you, Tamara, for your generous compliments.

    I think we can be truly successful when we believe that it matters, that it does make a difference, that we’re worth the effort. And if someone else believes in us, too, it can be an unparalleled motivational factor.

  3. Merry, Yay! Mathematicians working!! That doorknob hanger is definitely a keeper!

    I had never thought before about how it is hard for kids to always be the only ones under scrutiny and making mistakes. I really like how you turned the tables! I recently started doing something similar with one of my own tutoring students–making “math casts” where she is a news anchor giving a broadcast about how to do a certain kind of math problem. And you are right–giving students a chance to teach can be a great way to assess without making them do a worksheet or a test.

    I am always on the lookout for fun new ways to teach the multiplication facts, so thank you for sharing these here. I’ve also found singing and rapping the facts to be useful–if you’re interested, I wrote about this is in an article about fun ways to help your kids learn math:

    Looking forward to more of your tips!

    Thanks for hosting this guest post, Caroline!

  4. Fantastic story and wonderful ideas! Thank you. You have a wonderful blog for sharing math strategies. I also have a site that offers new strategies, Arithmetic Village. I will definitely link to you. The more ideas the more chance of reaching different learners! :)

  5. @Rebecca Zook – thank you for the compliment.
    I like the idea of using music or a news broadcast format to help assessment of learning. It also gives the student ownership of their learning – they’re in control. These are good methods to explore with a vocally active and interactive child.

    If you’ve read my previous post in which I taught my student for the first time, you will remember that he was very inhibited and reluctant to engage with me on any level. When I noticed he was constantly fiddling with things I thought: kinesthetic learner, and that’s where I took my cue from. I wanted to employ and channel the inclinations he already has to help his maths learning. Now we are moving on to more vocalisation of this maths knowledge and understanding. I will see if my student would like to add music to his maths, too! It’ll definitely take the game up a notch.

    • @Merry – that totally makes sense! I didn’t remember that he was so inhibited and reluctant at the initial meeting. Way to pick up on fiddling=kinesthetic learner! I absolutely agree that asking him to sing at that point would have been not a good idea.

      I appreciate what you’ve written because I’m always on the lookout for tools to squirrel away for future use so I can pull them out of my sleeve at the right moment.

      For example, I’m working with a student who LOVES to build things, so we work on building the math facts with the math u see manipulative blocks. He has also memorized all of the multiplication skip counting songs from the rockin’ the standards album even though initially his parents didn’t think he’d be into singing. So the singing was a useful tool, but only after we had explored other avenues and established a good rapport. :)

      I look forward to hearing more about your work with your students! :)

  6. @Kimberly – you’re welcome!
    I just had a quick look at your site, and the book you’ve written for little ones sounds great. Keeping the fear of maths away from our children is a big step towards removing illiteracy in maths.

  7. I’m writing to share my web site, http://www.FreeMathFlashCards.com.

    I’m raising my nephew because both his parents passed away. He was depressed and had a lot of trouble memorizing the multiplication table. I’m a programmer, so I wrote a program to help him. He went from an F (50%) to an A (100%) in one week. He studied a total of 2.5 hours. He was also the first student to complete the test that day. When he came home he said, “I even got done before his friend and he’s the smartest kid in the class”. I said “Well, I guess today you were the smartest kid in the class.” It’s one of my favorite memories.

    I think Free Math Flash Cards is the fastest easiest way to memorize the times table.

  8. Hey Caroline,

    Your website is great. It is really refreshing to have teachers that have new and innovative ways to get their pupils learning. My daughter is only 5 but I can’t wait to try out some of your methods with her.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Beth :)

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