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Learning times tables

(13 Posts)
FairyPenguin Tue 28-Oct-14 09:35:04

DD is in Year 3 and is struggling with times tables. The school has a times tables challenge where the students progress through different stages. She has completed her 2, 5 and 10 times tables, and the first stage of 3,4,6. The first stage is 20 multiplication questions in 2 mins, then 20 division in 2 mins.

She is now stuck on the next stage which is answering 40 questions in 2 mins. Basically the only way this is possible is if she knows them by heart. She can do 40 questions in about 5 mins at the moment. This is because she calculates them in her head, eg 9x4 is double 9, then double again. I think this is the correct way for her to work it out but this is not fast enough to pass the test. She also knows that 9x4 is the same as 4x9 so uses that tool too, as well as doing 4x10 then take away 4.

I've been thinking about teaching her to learn them by rote the way we did at school but my first attempt was unsuccessful and I don't really understand why the school are pushing them to be able to do this when she knows how to work them out and can give an answer in a decent amount of time. Surely that's more important?

Should I continue to encourage her to learn them by rote, or just keep letting her practise them by calculating in her head?

noramum Tue 28-Oct-14 09:43:25

She needs to do both. Learning by rota without understanding the principle are useless. It seems she understands how multiplication works but needs now to know them by heart.

But for the tests instant recall is necessary. We play lots of games on the ipad where DD does them instantly and we ask her random ones in the car or while queuing or anywhere basically. The key is not to teach her 3, 6,9,12 etc but do it randomly.

FairyPenguin Tue 28-Oct-14 09:48:01

Thanks noramum. We use apps and websites that the school subscribes to, eg Squeebles, supermathsworld, and have been using for a while but she still takes a while to work them out. It's almost as if she wants to double-check her answer even if she knows it.

educatingarti Tue 28-Oct-14 10:49:34

I'm a tutor and I've just started using this product. (I think that the video ad on the webpage is very annoying but don't let that put you off!) I'm finding that for some children who have found learning tables quite tricky, this system can have fantastic (in one case almost magical!) results. It hasn't been so effective for those at the more severe end of the dyslexic/dyspraxic spectrum but they often find it nigh on impossible to learn tables anyway so I'm persevering with them to see if it still works but more slowly!

By the way, in case anyone is wondering, I have no connection with the tutor that produced this product (happy to pm my details to anyone who wants them) - just something I have found very helpful!

KatoPotato Tue 28-Oct-14 10:52:20

Aye right educatingarti That guy is your BOYFRIEND!

KatoPotato Tue 28-Oct-14 10:52:34

seriously though, looks a great system!

educatingarti Tue 28-Oct-14 16:06:51

Kato - lol! You've sussed me out! wink

Ferguson Tue 28-Oct-14 17:56:49

This isn't specifically Tables, but it may go some way to clarifying numeracy matters:


Practical things are best for grasping number concepts - bricks, Lego, beads, counters, money, shapes, weights, measuring, cooking.

Do adding, taking away, multiplication (repeated addition), division (sharing), using REAL OBJECTS as just 'numbers' can be too abstract for some children.

Number Bonds of Ten forms the basis of much maths work, so try to learn them. Using Lego or something similar, use a LOT of bricks (of just TWO colours, if you have enough) lay them out so the pattern can be seen of one colour INCREASING while the other colour DECREASES. Lay them down, or build up like steps.


ten of one colour none of other
nine of one colour one of other
eight of one colour two of other
seven of one colour three of other

etc, etc

then of course, the sides are equal at 5 and 5; after which the colours 'swap over' as to increasing/decreasing.

To learn TABLES, do them in groups that have a relationship, thus:

x2, x4, x8

x3, x6, x12

5 and 10 are easy

7 and 9 are rather harder.

Starting with TWO times TABLE, I always say: "Imagine the class is lining up in pairs; each child will have a partner, if there is an EVEN number in the class. If one child is left without a partner, then the number is ODD, because an odd one is left out."

Use Lego bricks again, lay them out in a column of 2 wide to learn 2x table. Go half way down the column, and move half the bricks up, so that now the column is 4 bricks wide. That gives the start of 4x table.

Then do similar things with 3x and 6x.

With 5x, try and count in 'fives', and notice the relationship with 'ten' - they will alternate, ending in 5 then 10.

It is important to try and UNDERSTAND the relationships between numbers, and not just learn them 'by rote'.

I am sorry it seems complicated trying to explain these concepts, but using Lego or counters should make understanding easier.

An inexpensive solar powered calculator (no battery to run out!) can help learn tables by 'repeated addition'. So: enter 2+2 and press = to give 4. KEEP PRESSING = and it should add on 2 each time, giving 2 times table.

There are good web sites, which can be fun to use :


PastSellByDate Thu 30-Oct-14 08:33:29


I think your DD is approaching this well - knowing to double 2x table facts to get 4x table facts (4 x 9 example) - shows appreciation of patterns/ numbers.

The issue is speed. I see why you're questioning the need for speed - but let's just start with how you might improve speed....

We found that the stage between being able to work out the answer and being able to answer swiftly just basically required a lot of practice.

Our solution was to play a lot of different video games.

If your school belongs to My Maths - snaky sums is fun and great practice.

You can download the free version (2 platforms - castle/ dungeon) of times attack: - you're cast as a young ogre who goes through the castle or dungeon solving multiplication problems. These are also shown as multiple additions. You then are quizzed by progressively fiercer & bigger ogres. The stress of the big ogre quizzes is the really useful thing (although it made DD2 shreak when they came out to quiz her) - because it's forcing you to think under pressure.

Woodlands Junior School Maths Zones has lots of resources/ games to help with practising times tables: - lots of other great resources in maths zone as well.

Multiplication dot com - has great games to reinforce times table fact speed:

Finally - you can reinvent card & board games to work on times tables.

You can play snakes & ladders (may have to play the board more than once) - practicing multiples - so maybe you need to work on x6 table - get two dice - and you move that roll's multiple of 4 (so if you roll 9 you move 9 x 4 = 36 spaces). We found with numbers >5 you had to play the board at least 2x. But with two dice you have up to x12.

You can play SNAP with an ordinary deck of cards. Ace = 1, 2 - 9 as marked, Jack = 10/ Queen = 11/ King = 12. Decide the times table you want to practice - maybe x3. Shuffle cards and place them in a pile face down. I usually make a post-it and wirte x3 (or whatever table - just to remind us all what we're doing). Flip the card. Say it's 9. The first to shout 27 - wins the card. The winnder is the one with most cards at the end.

With MULTIPICATION SNAP - we started off letting DDs do well at first and then gradually got fiercer about answering quickly. This can get very loud and rowdy - so (based of bitter experience) - may not be wise to play out at a restaurant whilst waiting for your food.

I think in terms of why is the school trying to push this - why do you need speedy recall of times table facts - that's a slightly more complex answer.

Yes - of course knowing your times tables is the main issue - but what they're actually after is near instant recall of times table facts. Knowing them so well it takes you only milliseconds to know 12 x 12 is 144 or 9 x 8 = 72.

This is important when ultimately you're presented with 5781 divided by 3 will be a whole number (so knowing all the digits in 5781 add up to 21 which is divisible by 3) - knowing quick multiples/ working out that 3 goes into 5 once, remainder 2 & draw down the 7 to get 27 - 3 goes into 27 9 times, draw down the 8 - 3 goes into 8 2 times - remainder 2 draw down the 1 - three goes into 21 - 7 times - so your answer is 1393 (long division way).

or to use your own knowledge of x3 table to work it out in chunks.

5781 divided by 3
knowing 3 x 1000 = 3000
3 x 900 = 2700
3 x 20 = 60
2 x 7 = 21

3000 + 2700 + 60 + 21 = 5781

so adding those multiples up (1000 + 900 + 60 + 21) gives you 3 can go into 5781 some 1981 times.

And ultimately - it is speed (facility) of recall that allows you to then go on to really fly with more complicated forms of mathematics: algebra, trigonometry, calculus. Just dealing with fractions or percentages is so much easier if you have strong times table skills. Too many politicians/ academics play fast and loose with statistics purposely to confuse/ obfiscate the issue. Certainly many people just don't get that buying something on credit often means you're paying for it 2x or 3x over. Now - you may have needed the item/ house then and there and this was the only way to access to capital to have it - but a lot of times you don't really need that sofa - understanding saving for a bit longer and buying it cash saves you money in the long run is in your interest.

You need that level of maths skills for many sciences - chemistry (calculating temperatures/ properties - graphing results, etc....)/ physics - calculating speed, orbits (ellipses/ circles), arcs, pressure (gravity), half-lives, etc..../ biological studies (for example calculating statistics/ percentages/ proportions/ etc...)

I think it's very easy to dismiss learning times tables as not particularly improtant - but really having a solid grasp of times table facts and being able to apply that knowledge in multiplication/ division swiftly is a real advantage going forward: e.g.

So yes, FairyPenguin - I get that you feel your child knows the concept (and I think you're correct there) - but I think you need to think through the advantages of near immediate recall of these facts can be hugely beneficial in the longer term.


FairyPenguin Thu 30-Oct-14 10:36:39

Thank you everyone for your comments, and for all the ideas and links. Will have a look at them all and try some out. I like the idea of Multiplication Snap, esp as we're on a 3 hour train journey tomorrow. Ideal opportunity to try that one out!

AmateurSeamstress Thu 30-Oct-14 11:50:46

We have a good helpful CD, albeit with an awful name - Kool Kidz Mix.

It first plays through songs of each table in full, then counting in steps (3,6,9 etc) to the same tune, then the table again with gaps for the child to give the answer. Then there's a separate set of tracks, same tunes with the questions mixed up, and gaps left for answers: 3x6 is _, 7x6 is _, 12x6 is __. We play it in the car.

When I first got it I thought the 2nd set were far too hard and didn't play them, but after a month or so with the first set DS now gives them a good go.

Pipsqueak16 Thu 30-Oct-14 23:13:45

Suggest work out which individual times tables facts she does know for 3,4 and 6. When you have identified which ones she is less secure on ie has to work out, then pick 1 or 2 individual facts each day to learn. Ask at various points in the day. Eg DS's like to answer 2 quick questions in the car and then choose a song on a CD. Every so often mix it up by throwing in one she is secure with so that those ones aren't forgotten.

jacobibatoli Sat 01-Nov-14 17:38:09

cut out a load of cards, 12 colours, 1 for each table
chop each coloured card up into 12 playing card sizes ..ish
write on each eg
3x7 on one side and the answer on the other
so you can test dc on each set of tables
in order or in a random order
and then when the big day comes juggle the whole lot up
nice and homemadish and it works

worked for mine and have now passed on the cards

I don't think the grids that kids are sent home from school with work and invariably they are in order so all they do is go 2,4,6,8,10.... down a column

I think learning by rote is the best way

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