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Times tables - lots of practise but little apparent progress...

(23 Posts)
rabbitrabbit01 Tue 04-Mar-14 10:03:23

DD is in year 3. We practise tables daily using a combination of 'Mathletics' which school tells us to do; computer games; completing worksheets and saying tables aloud in and out of order (not all on a given day though!). At school the children do a weekly test in 'Big Maths' consisting of 24 tables questions in a different order each week. The actual questions are almost identical week to week and they get 1 minute to answer as many as possible. I think DD gets about 8 questions right in the time...but this score isn't improving. I'm wondering what to do next. Maybe picking one sum eg 7 x 8 and just focusing on that for a week would be better, together with consolidating one table that she knows quite well eg. 3x.
An unexpected result of all this is her younger silbling (year 1) seems to be picking it all up no problem, just by watching and listening - she remembers all the tricks and shortcuts which her older sister forgets. I sympathise with my eldest and unfortunately it has the potential to turn into a Horrid Henry/Perfect Peter situation. I guess we just keep on with the practise...but has anyone else experienced this - lots of practise but little to show for it? I think the time limit on the weekly test may be a major obstacle which could be masking underlying progress - how demoralising is that???

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 10:11:03

Why not use solid objects? Times tables are only a shorthand for objects in the real world. If your daughter can't see any good reason for retaining this knowledge maybe that's because you haven't given her one.

Learning things just because the school says we have to is always a crummy reason for doing anything. If the knowledge isn't useful, why keep it?

AbbyR1973 Tue 04-Mar-14 10:48:14

There was a great post about learning tables on Mumsnet a while ago. They were recommending as you say learning individual facts, taking advantage of those you already know from commutative law eg if you know 9x2 you also know 2x9. There was also a grid for practising. As far as I remember the basic message was work out which facts DC is confident with then build up from there, 1 fact per day. Will see if I can find it- I think there was a link to a free website resource.

AbbyR1973 Tue 04-Mar-14 11:01:47

The thread I'm thinking of was in August last year and the helpful poster was an alanyoung. There were lots of useful links posted and a really good method for tackling tables, but looking back a lot of his posts have been deleted by mumsnet for breaking talk guidelines- ?because of posting links to his own resources, I don't know what breaches the rules. Anyway it's a shame because I thought what was posted was really useful.

AbbyR1973 Tue 04-Mar-14 11:05:37

Good old google it was grin

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 11:05:54

I think you can find him in google using his name and times tables. I've been to his site and read his free paper. It's OKish, provided you already know some times tables.

But it still doesn't explain what you need the actual tables for. The OP was saying her child "doesn't get it." And if you basically don't get it then all the tricks in the world won't help. You need someone to explain what all the fuss is about in the first place.

And, let's face it, which of us really knows that?

coppertop Tue 04-Mar-14 11:08:30

Three of my children were/are exactly the same. I've lost count of the hours I've spent playing times tables CDs, and listening to endless rote-learning. The eldest is now 13 and still barely remembers them, despite doing very well in maths. His maths teacher at secondary has confessed that she doesn't know hers either, so presumably it hasn't held her back too much!

The younger two have recently started playing the Timez Attack game online, and it's been a surprising success. The downside is that the times tables aren't learnt in order, so it didn't immediately make a difference to the weekly tests. The big advantage though is that it gets children into the habit of recalling the answers very quickly.

Dd (Yr3) has gone up a couple of test levels in less than 6 weeks. Ds (Yr6) has stopped panicking about having to answer quickly in tests.

We have the free version from

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 11:10:57

Once the child has used groups of objects for a while, mum should take her shopping.

Times tables basically make multiplying easier and you need to be able to multiply to work out what you can afford.

Best done when the shop is not busy. Get the child to calculate and pay. Shop assistants do help. (But not when they've got a queue.)

rabbitrabbit01 Tue 04-Mar-14 11:18:39

Thank you everyone for these helpful suggestions - plenty here to try!

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 11:23:04

If the younger child is better at calculating then I'd leave her at home during the experimental calculation field trips. It's impossible to work things out if you've got a smartypants telling you the answers.

nobutreally Tue 04-Mar-14 11:25:38

I think I would focus on one table a week rather than trying to remember them all - ds loved times tables & learnt his quickly - dd (also y3) is not motivated - but we've found that with 5/10 mins in the car each morning, we can pretty much nail a table every week or so. That's SO much more motivating that trying to plug away at all the gaps.

My dd is not a fan of 'learn it because I say so' so as others have said, we've had to make it clear why times tables are helpful with lots of modeling behaviour and me using them for recipes/shopping etc.

Another thought: ds's times table results were rubbish not because he didn't know them, but because the pressure of trying to get them down in the alloted time really got to him! So with him, what we practiced was staying calm under pressure as much as time table facts.


LindseyLM Tue 04-Mar-14 11:40:58

I mentioned this on a similar post last week - but we tried a game called PLYT last year and it was great. We played with the children and they really enjoyed it which meant they wanted to play and it didn't take long for them to improve. May be worth a look.

anklebitersmum Tue 04-Mar-14 11:48:34

CD's in the car & bedroom and the old fashioned 'sing it out loud' method here. You know, the much laughed at 'once two is two, two two's are four' method.

DS2, 7 plays with his lego and has to sing out the times table in question so I can hear him.
Then, when he thinks he knows them hubby does 'a press-up for everyone you don't answer fast enough' while I do the final bit of the countdown music. It's improved his scores no end although we do all look a little bit barmy

anklebitersmum Tue 04-Mar-14 11:49:26

*every one not everyone blush

RunAwayHome Tue 04-Mar-14 11:53:43

If you have an iPod/phone/pad, then there are apps like Squeebles or Times table clock or others that can help. Some are good for just practising speed etc if you already know them, whereas others are good for learning visually, which might help children who don't seem to get anywhere with the rote repetition out loud.

lifeissobusy Tue 04-Mar-14 12:09:49

Hi My DD was exactly the same - we finally cracked it by downloading clouds timetables game on her ipod. You can set which times table you want to practice. I set my DD a target with each time table get it right in under a minute with no penalties and she could choose to a small reward. She is now currently working on her 12 times table and she remembers them all as she practices each one every day (which hardly takes any time at all) and every now and then when she gets them all right (ie no penalties) she gets a small reward. It really has worked. Hope this helps

Meglet Tue 04-Mar-14 13:16:52

Using choc buttons help them visualise it. I would lay out a big grid of buttons, ie: 4 x 5, then cover the middle and tell DS that he can have all of them if he can calculate how many there are in total. Sometimes it led to a whingy tantrum but generally it meant he had a jolly good think about it and gave me the correct answer. Obviously this can only be done every so often though or you'll rot their teeth.

We've started doing rough calculations of how much shopping costs. Ie; if I'm buying 4 items at approx £2 each and 2 items at £3 each. As long as the queue isn't busy he has a little time to think about it and give me the answer.

We also have songs in the car (itunes), times table poster on the wall and quick-fire times table flash card sessions.

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 13:27:18

We used lego, but my daughter never had any trouble seeing what it was all about.

I could be wrong, but if you lay the blocks out in rows presumably the behaviour is self explanatory. (As long as the child can count the individual blocks.)

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 13:31:10

Once we'd got into a rhythm I'd ask her to predict what would happen next, how many are there? blah, blah, blah
Of course the answers are predictable. Then we'd make a great show of counting the blocks and pretending to be surprised when they added up to what we thought they'd add up to. Of course it's extremely repetitive! (but fun) I didn't expect her to actually remember the tables themselves, but she knows how times tables work.

columngollum Tue 04-Mar-14 13:33:21

We had a times table book open on the floor. So she was reading the answers from it as well as counting the blocks.

Wizard19 Tue 04-Mar-14 23:09:33

Your 2 DCs have different learning styles. I have DD in Reception & DD in yr2, I have found that they pick up new stuff differently. Oldest DD has major trouble learning new things by listening - more practical & visual. Youngest DD learns great through seeing & listening.

Think about things your child has learned, or perhaps things they seem to recall. Does your DC have a good visual memory?

Not a brag but if it worked for my DD, maybe it could work for you
DD can instantly recall all her tables, and this was after 1 week of learning in yr1, has retained all the info over a year later - hopefully forever. Used a visualisation method.

Can any teachers say if they have used anything similar? Recommend one.

iloverainbows Wed 05-Mar-14 01:04:54

Hi Rabbit, after it taking ages with DD to learn TT I have approached it differently with DS and its been really successful. I am assuming that she is comfortable with counting in 2,5 and 10s and understands multiplication is repeated addition.

We learn in the car on journeys, normally there is a bribe involved, like he gets to play on my phone :-) We started with 10's and then did 5's - explaining that the answer can only end in 0 or 5 for the 5x table. Then came 2's which is actually doubling - also something they will have covered. We then moved on to 4s and 6s but always testing all the ones we have learnt so far. I explained that the 4s is double the 2s and this has helped him work it out, I will often throw out questions that relate e.g. 2x4 followed by 4x4, 2x6 followed by 4x6. In between times I have given him little strategies e.g if you don't know the 9x something thing of the 10x and then take away the number you are x (I know there are loads of other strategies for 9x). In fact he often 'goes' to the one he knows and then works it out. Eventually this becomes embedded and he can just answer.

This may not help but I hope it does, my son actually enjoys doing it. I have also found this great for then doing division questions.

mummy1973 Wed 05-Mar-14 03:01:21

I feel your pain grin

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