Helping your child to learn their times tables
Most schools begin by teaching the two, five and 10 times tables, starting with counting up in these intervals. Many children can do this from quite a young age.
Once your child can count up in these intervals, they need to know and understand that 2 x 2 means 2 'lots of' 2. When this understanding is secure, they will need to begin to learn to recall tables facts quickly in any order.
The two, five and 10 times tables are usually followed by the three and four times tables, and often the nine times table comes next as it has lots of patterns which are really helpful. From this, the six and eight times tables can be learnt by doubling the three and four, leaving the seven times table until last.
Learning tables at home
Make it real
Use real-life situations to help your child understand what the tables are all about and why they are useful. For example, if you're cooking, look at the pattern of moulds on the muffin tin. They are usually in four rows of three. How many cakes will this make altogether? Try putting two chocolate drops on each cake and ask, "If we made 10 cakes, how many chocolate drops do we need?" "What if we put three on each one?"
Counting up and back
Your child eventually needs to be able to know a single times table answer without having to go through the whole table (eg 7 x 8). But being able to count up through the table is a good starting point and helps children feel secure.
Try saying them aloud in a rhythm as you walk or drive to school, perhaps beginning with taking it in turns to count up in a particular table, eg you say three, your child says six and so on.
Vary whether you say '2 x 2 is 4' or just count up the multiples. Both are helpful, as children need to know the number facts, but also recognise the multiples themselves, as it helps later on with fractions and division.
Look for patterns
Times tables are full of interesting patterns, which your child may enjoy spotting and showing you. Use a multiplication square like the grid activity to help reinforce this.
If your child can identify tables with a strong recognisable pattern, they can begin to work out if a number is in a particular times table, eg knowing that all numbers in the five times table end in a 5 or a 0. Encourage your child to talk about the patterns they see, using language associated with maths and explaining what they know is an important part of numeracy in schools.
Identify the tricky ones
Most children have particular times tables they find harder to remember. Often the higher tables, such as 7 x 8 and 6 x 7, can be tricky. Get your child to devise silly rhymes to help them remember, eg 'For 7 x 8 I need some tricks, to remember it is 56'.
If your child seems to be more of a visual learner, try making some picture cards with the tricky fact on, eg put 56 inside a picture of a goal with balls showing a 7 and an 8 heading for the goal. Get them to picture it in their mind before they answer.
Games to practise times tables
Build your child's confidence with times tables by playing games rather than sitting them down to test them. Many can be played to pass the time on long car journeys, and when waiting in restaurants, airports etc.
- Try using dice to generate times tables questions by throwing twice and multiplying the two numbers. (Many mobile phones have a 'dice throwing function' which saves carrying dice around with you.)
- Car number plate tables is a good game for long car journeys. Look at the two digits on car number plates. Does your child know a times tables fact linked to them? Eg 24 is 6 x 4. Can anyone else in the car think of another one for the same number? If it is a prime number (only divisible by 1 and itself) make up a number statement by adding or subtracting a number as well, eg 57 could be 7 x 8 +1.
- Guess my number - someone thinks of a number and the others must guess the number by asking questions. Eg 'Is it in the three times table?' 'Is it odd?' etc. A limit of 10 questions is probably enough clues for children to guess. Whoever guesses correctly thinks of the next number.
- Rainy day tables games: provide your child with the craft materials to make their own game to practise their tables, perhaps making a board or special cards, and inventing rule for how points will be scored. They can be as creative as they like and link it to their favourite hobbies or TV programmes.
How to practise times tables
When your child has been practising a particular times table, help them to recall it by exploring different questions. How many questions can they answer on a particular times table in a minute? If they are competitive, get them to try and beat their own personal best each time they try.
Try giving them the answer and they have to give you the relevant tables fact, eg for 64, they would say '8 x 8'. Help them to explore all the different ways the same tables fact could be asked.