Best way to teach times tables over holidays

(60 Posts)
neveronsunday Fri 26-Jul-13 09:53:51

DS needs to work on his tables.

We have Squeebles on my phone which is great for practice, but not so good for teaching them in the first place.

I don't want him to feel like he's in boot camp over the holidays so need a fun way for him to learn them.

He can already do 2,5,10 & 12.

All suggestions welcome.

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 07:54:03

Thank you all very much for your interest and comments. You raise some interesting points which I shall try to answer below.

ThreeBeeOneGee. Your children's school is absolutely right in that what is necessary is instant recall of table facts, as opposed to having to chant through a table in their heads to get to the answer they need. Well done them! I am not sure what you mean by DS3 is achieving 40% on the weekly speed drills. Could you please give more detail?

If I were you I shouldn't stop them for three weeks of the holiday, but you could reduce the frequency to twice a week. You say yourself that if they stop they will lose speed, so keep up the practice, but perhaps less often.

When they are doing this at school there will be certain incentives not available at home such as competition with their friends (this may not be encouraged by teachers, but it happens anyway) and when they see an improvement in their other mathematical work, so at home perhaps you could introduce some incentive of your own such as giving them a small reward every time they beat a previous time - all the time emphasising that accuracy is the most important factor, of course.

If you keep this up they will notice how much better they are than their friends when they return to school, but six weeks is a long time to wait for a small child.

Good luck!

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 08:05:29

ToffeeWhirl. Well done - I'm glad it is working for you. Your comment raises the opportunity for me to emphasise two points:

Firstly, it's a good idea to read the manual several times, especially if you are new to all this, and to follow the four steps in order. Remember that I had thirty years to formulate these ideas and if you are not a teacher of maths, it might take a little while to absorb it all. It would be a very good idea for you to go through the Commutative Law a.s.a.p., making sure that your child draws out several of the diagrams as described in the handbook. Once they get the idea, they love doing it. Children love it when they suddenly understand a new concept or learn a new word, especially a tongue twister such as Commutative.

Secondly, the ideas covered will not only help with tables, but other mathematical ideas too as they move up the school. Learning tables is one of the greatest confidence boosters you can give children in the mathematical realm. once they have learned the Commutative Law, you could encourage them to ask grandma etc if they can show that 6 x 8 = 8 x 6 and then they can demonstrate their new found knowledge by drawing the diagram for them! What a confidence booster that will be.

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 08:07:03

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alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 08:09:12

3birthdaybunnies. Good question about how to start teaching tables and that will require a longer answer. I have to drop my wife off to work in a moment, so I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

I think you are right about the rewards. Their accuracy is fine but I could set a target of trying to complete the grid in a certain number of minutes.

At school, they have a weekly test of 100 random multiplication and division questions. There is a time limit (I think it's 2 min 30 sec). Within that time, DS3 has time to answer about 40 questions (all correctly). He really needs to be answering 100. I realise this would be one question every 1.5 seconds. DS1 and DS2 were regularly getting 99% and 100% on these tests in the first term of Y5.

DS3 and DD's times on the grids eventually get below 10 minutes when they practise regularly. They need to be completing a grid in less than 4 minutes to be up to speed for Y5.

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 09:54:56

ThreeBeeOneGee, Thanks for explaining that. I must say that I think a target time of 2 min 30 secs is pretty tight for year 4, although I know some children can do it in that time. My very best time (which I hit when I was about 30) was 1 minute 23 secs and the best time I saw a year 6 child do was about 1 minute 40 secs with others trailing up to about five minutes. Perhaps you could ask the teacher if they could have a little longer, so that more children could finish the whole square. You could make the point that the faster children get to practice more (all 100) while the slower ones only practise a certain percentage when it should really be the other way round. It's rather like in a game of cricket - the children who are the better batters get to stay in longer and get more practice!

There is a limiting factor here and that is how quickly the children can write the answers. I can see that some could take 1.5 seconds just to write the number 56, say, without the added time of having to work out that 7 x 8 = 56.

I suggest you watch your son doing a square and try to see what the problem is. Could it be also that there are just one or two table facts holding him up, in which case you could focus on going over and over those for a few days.

Some children also like to pick out the easiest questions first which means they are jumping about in the table. It is much quicker to start at the top left and work along the rows. They have to do them all, after all.

Remember too that all children are different and in any given family, some will move on with a particular skill quicker than other.

Having said all that, I must also point out that if your children know all their tables, even if they are a little slower than some of the other children in the class, they are way ahead of many children in the country who only know a small percentage of them.

valiumredhead Fri 02-Aug-13 10:03:48

When ds was in year 5 he was tested every day and they expected a 5 second re call.

valiumredhead Fri 02-Aug-13 10:04:57

Obviously that's each table not a whole gridgrin

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 10:35:47

Valiumredhed, thanks for that. I think that five seconds is a much more reasonable expectation.

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 10:36:38

3birthdaybunnies, How to teach tables?

It is important to understand that in order to learn tables, children need to understand a number of concepts.

Firstly, there is what mathematicians call ‘Conservation of Number’, i.e. the idea that if there are six objects on a table, there will always be six, no matter how you jumble them up. Children who have been talked to by their parents a lot normally acquire this between three and six years old, although some may take longer (Piaget says age 7 or even later). You will have a fair idea if children have understood this by simply asking them how many fingers they have on one hand. If they say, ‘five’ straight away they are probably beginning to understand this. If they count them, you will have to wait a while yet.

Secondly, they need to understand simple addition. It’s no good trying to show them that two sixes are twelve if they don’t understand that six plus six equals twelve.

So, let’s assume that your children have these skills and are ready to move on to times tables.

I would begin with a practical situation to get the idea of multiplication. For example, three rows of counters with four in each row – how many counters altogether? They will need to count them all to understand that three rows of four is twelve.

Watch out for rectangles of all sorts. In your garden centre you will often see items on display – six rows of five flower pots, four shelves with three coloured jugs etc. Paving slabs are often arranged in rectangles and we walk over them all the time. Find a simple rectangle of slabs and do the same.

Once they have this idea, you can start with something simple like the ten, five or two times tables. When I was young and we played hide and seek the person who was ‘it’ had to count up in fives to a hundred, say, and this is a good place to start. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty five, thirty … has a certain rhythm to it which children love to tune into, so you could start with this sequence. This is related, of course, to the number of fingers we have on our hands, so you could ask how many fingers on three hands (have the family over to tea to help with this!). Get them to count up in fives.

Do lots and lots of activities like this. For the two times tables you could look at the house numbers on one side of the street as they nearly always go 2, 4, 6 etc. Get them to tell you what the next number is. Then look at how many houses you have passed. If you have passed four houses, then four twos must be eight.

All this work establishes two things, firstly that multiplication is repeated addition and that tables are related to number sequences.

However, you should not fall into the trap of thinking that learning tables should be done by chanting that once five is five, two fives are ten etc. Children have to know the tables facts in isolation as I say repeatedly; the work I have been talking about simply establishes what multiplication and tables are all about.

There is a great deal of maths work that can come out of a study of number sequences, but it’s nothing to do with learning tables facts.

So, once you are happy that your children can say that four fives are twenty because, for instance, that’s the number of fingers on four hands and a few other similar examples, it is probably about time to start learning the facts independently as described in the teacher/parent manual.

I should emphasise that all this takes time and depends on the maturation of the brain. Brain maturity is a crucial factor in all this and you should take each step slowly until it is understood. If you push your children onto learning the tables facts in isolation before they are ready, you will only give them bad vibes, as we used to say in the sixties (was I a hippie, you are probably wondering!).

If you give your children lots of practice in maths, it’s surprising how quickly they learn. One thing I’ve been doing with my grandson recently is getting him to count money (yes, the real stuff).

I have made up a dummy paying in book with clear spaces for the penny, two penny, five penny etc coins and notes and I take a whole lot of money ranging from £50 notes (when I can afford it) to one penny coins and I tell him I need to pay this into the bank. Would he like to help me count it. We add up the £50 notes and write the total on a piece of paper. Then the £20 notes etc right down to the pennies. Then we use a calculator to add it all up. He then copies it all to the paying in slip. When I go home I tear out that slip and bring another lot next week.

If you want to do this, start with a small amount of money while they get the idea.

Already he has learnt how to count in 50’s, 20s, 10s, 5s, 2s and 1s with both notes and coins. He knows that we put a dot (decimal point) between the pounds and the pennies. He can complete the paying in slip and he can just about use a calculator to add up the individual sums and write the total on the slip.

He does still need quite a bit of guidance and practice. How old is he? He’s moving from reception to year 1 in September. It just shows you what children are capable of if you give them the opportunity.

I mention this because the other day he did something that had me gobsmacked. He was counting the 20p coins and he knows that one pound is 100p. We had a whole bagful of 20p coins on the table and he suddenly put one finger on one coin, another finger on another coin and so on until he had all five fingers on five coins and he pulled them all out together – thus demonstrating that five twenties is a hundred! I was so surprised. So then it occurred to me that you could do the same with other coins. All ten fingers pulling our 10p coins so ten 10p coins make a pound, one hand on each of two 50p coins. For 5p coins you will need toes as well or the help of an interested sibling!

There is so much maths around us that helps with tables and many other mathematical concepts. We only have to open our eyes to see them.

I hope this helps.

valiumredhead Fri 02-Aug-13 11:31:19

Ds moved from primary to middle school and barely knew his tables, he learned them in a week, back to front and upside down. It was really hard, he even went to sleep with a poster by his bed so he could look at it. It wasn't nice to have to hot house him in such a short period of time so the sooner you start OP the better imo to spread it out a bit.

valiumredhead Fri 02-Aug-13 11:33:38

Just to add,I think takes are the most useful thing ever apart from adding and subtracting, so useful for everyday life add an adult and so hard if you don't know them.

valiumredhead Fri 02-Aug-13 11:33:54

Tables not takes

alanyoung Fri 02-Aug-13 22:11:57

Valiumredhead, I agree wholeheartedly about how important times tables are.

Thank you alan so basically wait until he is seeing times tables in the environment and is counting in multiples then start on the programme - I would have thought it might be easiest to start with the lower half of the tables 1, 2, 5 and 10 first - e.g. 4x5 as these are easier to extrapolate from the world around him. He is nowhere near that yet (not that I expect him to be - he's not quite 4) - he has conservation of numbers, and is starting to add and subtract 1 from numbers up to 10. It is just knowing when to start on the learning of facts. From my assessment of the girls I think I will be teaching him before the school manage to.

I did the grids with the girls tonight -dd2 is just going into yr 2 and had lots of missing knowledge at level 1- but she says that at school they only recite the number sequences - 2, 4, 6, 8etc- they don't yet do 2x3, (she is top table) and that is why she has been trying to teach herself from the wall chart. Bearing that in mind she did get loads right too so she has a good start. We also discussed the commutative law - which she seemed happy with. I will go over that with her again over the next few days. She also isn't expected to know them for a few years yet.

The main child I am doing it for though is dd1, going into yr4, I did assessment 2, and there were 11 missing facts (including 10x10 - which she got wrong on the sheet and verbally when I wrote out the facts she needs to know- she did then say that she knew it really and got confused with 10x11, but much to her disgust it is still on the list). She also admitted that when they are chanting in class that she just mouths to the ones she doesn't know, and that when they do grids (like yours- though don't know if they are from your site or another) - the teacher highlights incorrect ones which they then correct at their leisure - generally by counting on her fingers, but they don't practice those ones in isolation. So the facts she doesn't know have never been isolated for her. She is desperate to do more of the grids because she says she enjoys them, but I've told her we need to learn the extra facts first. We did 3x6 for her today and 3x2 for dd2, who has also now learnt 3x6 by listening to dd1.

I'm hopeful that when she goes back in September she will be confident at level 2 and maybe learning the facts for level 3. Thank you, she is eager to fill in the gaps, so hopefully she will persevere.

alanyoung Mon 05-Aug-13 10:34:48

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Thank you, what I was thinking with ds is whether it would be better to teach say all of the 2x table facts first, or whether it is better to do the lower numbers of tables 2, 5 and 10, before moving on to the higher numbers which seem to be harder for them.

Both girls seem to be enjoying it, and even ds came out with the answer to 7x2. Dd2 is learning some of dd1's facts too by osmosis. Dd1 hasn't asked to do the grids again since first assessment - but is looking forward to them when we go on holiday. She is looking forward to showing her new teacher her knowledge.

alanyoung Tue 06-Aug-13 06:55:51

I think I would do whatever seems easiest for your children. In one sense they are all equally easy or hard because each is just a soundbite to be learnt. Why should 'six eights are forty eight' be much harder than 'eight twos are sixteen'.

Just relax about it and let it happen. No worries! Kein Angst!

richmal Tue 06-Aug-13 07:41:27

alanyoung, just thought I would say a quick thanks. My dd is older at 10 and basically is OK on her times tables, but is about to do 11+ so your work sheets are proving really valuable for revision.
Having scanned through the last pages, they'll be really helpful for building up her interest in numbers.

alanyoung Tue 06-Aug-13 07:55:27

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thegamesafoot Tue 06-Aug-13 20:27:52

alanyoung firstly thank you so much for the resources and also the info on how to get started smile

My DD, also moving to year 1 in Sept has picked up skip counting easily for 2s, 5s and 10s however before thinking of extending this I think she needs to be more secure with number bonds to 20 (she's reasonable to 10 but not fast and currently I rarely "do" maths with her).

Reading through your hand book it occurs to me that the same principals apply to addition (and therefore subtraction) - so knowing that 6+3=9 and particularly facts that cross the 10s (don't know the maths speak for it) like 8+7=15 helps you to eventually know 136+13=149 and 318+37=355 without having to chunk (as I have to so I can work out these sums mentally)???

I had been thinking of going down a visual route, so x red blocks and x yellow blocks for all of the number bonds to 10 or maybe dice as well so the dots become a fixed visual for mental calculations. Reading your hand book make me wonder if that would work best following your method i.e. with one number bond introduced each day, to 10, then work on speed and then 11 to 20?

Again thank you so much you've really helped me see a clear road ahead and for someone whose not maths confident that's really very valuable.

alanyoung Wed 07-Aug-13 15:55:25

Thegamesafoot, yes, why not try the method for addition and subtraction. I think there is one difference, however, and it is this:

Number bonds for addition can be visualised and this is why it is so important to know which pairs of numbers make 10 as once, say, it is known that 7 + 3 = 10, it is only a small step to realise that 7 + 4 = 11 etc. Multiplication of numbers is difficult to visualise. it's not easy to see, for example, that 8 x 7 is fifty six and therefore this either has to be learnt or you have to go through the sequence to get to it. But why not give it a go - I'd be very interested to know how you get on.

You say you don't 'do' maths with your nearly year 1 DD much yet. If I may say so, I think that's a mistake. To me, it's rather like waiting until she's about six before you start to teach her to speak.

As I have said before, there is so much maths around us, it's the most natural thing in the world to discuss it from a very early age. Just looking around me this morning, I have seen carrots of different lengths in the kitchen that can be measured for length (in cm, of course) and weighed (in grams), the weight of a bus written on its side as 6440 kg, I've poured a couple of glasses of orange juice (how many can you pour from a one litre carton?) etc, etc. There are shapes all around us - what's this shape called, how many sides, edges does it have? It's just everywhere and hard to avoid once you are aware of this, so please give this a go too.

I know I keep writing comments about maths on mumsnet and some people probably get fed up with seeing my name, wondering who this pompous old git is, but I really believe very strongly that if all parents did this elementary maths with their children and all children knew their tables by seven or eight, the level of mathematical achievement of children in this country would go through the roof. So keep up the good work.

alanyoung Thu 08-Aug-13 06:48:52

Just had a thought... If you are a bit embarrassed about doing maths in a garden centre in front of other people, why not take photographs of displays and show them to your children at home on a large screen if possible so they can work out the number of objects in, say, six rows of flower pots with four pots in a row?

That way you might be able to choose the better displays in advance.

alanyoung Sat 10-Aug-13 21:05:59

Any more feedback? I'd be very interested to know how all this is going in your family. Thanks.

Juanitalaloca Mon 12-Aug-13 15:12:48

Just noticed this thread. My daughter was having a few problems with the 6, 7, 8 and 12 timetable and we've spent the summer holiday listening to a great CD, which was given to us by a friend. It's called The Times Tables Album - Maths for Music Lovers. I don't usually recommend products, but we've been so delighted with this and it's really helped her a lot. The only thing is that the songs are sung by a girl, although I'm sure a boy would enjoy them too - they're not the usual annoying affair - more like a good pop album. Hope this helps.

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