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How do you develop memory?

(16 Posts)
MerryMarigold Mon 01-Dec-14 21:04:01

Ds1 has poor short term working memory, according to a test he did. Also really, REALLY struggles with remembering times tables. No sooner is one cracked than he's forgotten the last one. It is quite pronounced (my other kids do not struggle in the same way).

Wondered how I can help his memory, and particularly times tables, but any general strategies too.

Ferguson Mon 01-Dec-14 22:26:44

Numeracy needs to be not only learnt, but more importantly UNDERSTOOD. If the understanding isn't there the information may not sink in. This is my standard information for early numeracy:


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 :


diamondage Tue 02-Dec-14 09:17:20

One thing to think about is whether there are things he finds easier to remember. Does he find it easier to learn song lyrics, routes, faces, patterns or anything else?

In my experience memory can be spiky in its profile, with some strengths and other weaknesses. If you can work out the way he remembers most easily then this can guide you. If he has a better memory for sounds then use the time table songs - even if he has to sing the song through it's a start.

The other main method is repitition. With my DD I opted for Kumon because she could not remember her number bonds - I had used every method bar doing a huge amount of basic sums. The huge amount of repitition has worked. It is stupidly expensive but for a targeted intervention for a few months has been worth it for us.

They do cheap workbooks e.g. via Amazon (you can also find free worksheets online) so you could choose just multiplication ones and opt for daily repitition. It's a slog and you may have to be firm with lots of carrots in the wings but when a child sees themself improving after applying themselves in a consistent way it can do wonders for self esteem because suddenly they realise they can achieve things that seemed impossible before.

It's really helpful print off a multiplication square and colour in all the ones he does know. The 1s, 10s and 11s for example (with very simple patterns) How about the 2s and 5s? Did you know that once he knows those 5 and the 3s and 4s there are only 17 more multiplication facts and you know all the tables to 12 - as long as he knows that 4x5 = 5x4. It's very satisfying to see that for each multiplication fact you learn 2 squares get coloured in!

Also a second for Ferguson's post because many children need to really understand why 5x4 = 20 and that 20 can be made into a number of different arrays (2x10, 10x2 20x1 etc.) And also that 4x5 = 5+5+5+5 whilst 5x4=4+4+4+4+4.

MerryMarigold Tue 02-Dec-14 10:10:51

Thanks. Yes, he does understand what it looks like and can work them out eg. he can work out his 9's by doing x10 and subtracting 9, but they need to know them 'off by heart' in order to do their Maths more quickly. I know it's probably just a lot of repetition, but my 6yr old now knows the ones my 9yo has done, because 9yo doesn't retain it. I definitely need to do so much more of it, but he really hates it. Sorry, I should have said he is Y4 now, and is quite behind on his tables, although the rest of the Maths is ok.

That's really helpful what you said about grouping them so I am going to work on 3,6,12 and 2,4,8 separately as he is struggling with the 6 and 8. 7 and 9 we can do later. He has finally (taken 2 years) cracked 5's and 2's. 3's and 4's aren't bad but not quick enough.

He has been taught really well, so I am impressed with his mental Maths and he definitely does understand relationships of numbers once he has 'got it', but it's the pure 'memory' stuff. I know 9x7 immediately because my teacher once shouted at me for not knowing it and I have never, ever forgotten it. It's that instant access he needs to have for all the tables, as well as the understanding. (Although let's face it, he will be using a calculator for the rest of his life!).

It's also a great idea to do a song as his musical memory is very, very good and he remembers tunes almost immediately and doesn't forget them. Any good recommendations? Some on youtube, but they seem a bit babyish. We have done the colouring in patterns as his visual memory is better, but need to do more.

Thanks for all the ideas, really appreciate it.

diamondage Tue 02-Dec-14 11:34:11

I forgot a stage - skip counting. This can be done to a tune as well, I'd suggest he picks his own tunes, silly / fun ones, whatever will help it to stick - also can he write them whilst singing (may or may not help, you'll know).

Start with 3s, 6s, 12s, as you said. Make sure he can skip count forwards and backwards.

Once he has his skip counting sorted and as he knows his 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s, for his 3X table he needs to learn: 3x, 4x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x and 12x. I've left out 11x because if he doesn't know that table then teach it first because it's such a quick win - he will only need to learn 11x11 and 12x11 as he should already know the pattern for 10x11.

So that is 7 facts he needs to learn for the 3X table.

He may prefer to have a tune for the whole table, or little ditties for each fact. Ideally this process should as fun as possible but a little reward for each fact learnt or a slightly bigger reward for each table.

When he comes to learn his 6x table he will only need to learn: 4x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x and 12x. So now he only has 6 facts to learn. I think it's really helpful to spell out that the amount of facts he has to learn will go down with each table cracked - until he will only have 1 fact left to learn (either 9x9 or 7x7).

It will be good to have a workbook / sheet or to check verbally to ensure that he can answer 8x2 as quickly as 2x8, however little and often is the key and the worksheet should only focus on the tables with which he is confident.

There are also some very good games out there for testing times tables skills and plenty of apps too - does he like / have access to a computer or tablet as that might help his enjoyment levels around having to slog hard at learning his tables go up a bit too?

MerryMarigold Tue 02-Dec-14 12:41:30

We have a pants tablet and did have a timestable app on it but it was a very cheap tablet and constantly crashes so we don't really use it now. There is a site school recommends called I think a little tune which he already knows on each one is a great idea.

What's your suggestion for retention? He does eventually get a table. Then move on the next one, and boom - it's gone again. Eg. I can imagine if we do 3x for a week, 6x for a week and 12x for a week - revising the 3 and 6 when we are on the 12...then we will get to 2,4,8 - learn them for 3 weeks and then the 3's, 6's and 12's will have gone by the end. He does also have other homework so we can't focus exclusively. I really like the idea of telling him how many new facts he needs to learn each time...that will encourage him.

We can try and keep the numbers going in his head with the songs. Do you think it is helpful with the song to sing the whole sum eg. 2 x 1 is 2, 2x2 is 4, 3x2 is 6 or just to learn the numbers 2,4,6,8.

WillkommenBienvenue Tue 02-Dec-14 12:48:24

If he has good musical memory it might be that he remembers patterns well, so try a system that uses shapes and patterns, maybe give him a blank piece of paper to draw them on. Geometric shapes might work.

SilasGreenback Tue 02-Dec-14 13:06:42

The Percy Parker cd is quite good for learning times tables songs - at least not as annoying as most.

I have one with a much worse memory than the others. Took quite a few weeks to learn the months of the year/ days of the week when the others were never really taught them.

We play a lot of the memory game I went to the moon - where each person has to add another item and then you repeat back the list. I think this has improved his memory - at least it has shown him you have to think and try to remember things. Before I think it never occurred to him if you didn't just remember something you were meant to try and learn it!

Cloud2 Tue 02-Dec-14 13:11:31

I would suggest to play some memory games, you can goole it. Like the one mentioned up. And also shopping list etc.

Also I would recommond a diet rich with fish, or omega 3 supplement( there are kids one with other vitamin added)

PastSellByDate Tue 02-Dec-14 13:47:15

Hi Merry:

Hi Merry Marigold:

(very long - apologies - but easier to just explain fully what our approach has been)...

I agree with a lot of what people are posting - but would also ask whether your DS response well to video games/ enjoys them. I say this because DD1 is clearly a visual learner - I can explain things verbally or pen to paper hundreds of times and it doesn't sink in - but if she watches a video/ plays a game - BINGO! she gets it.

One thing with times tables is that it is important that your DS appreciates the patterns/ tricks involved.

So I'm not sure what year your DS is - but as he's working on his x9 table - I'm going to presume he's pretty far along....

First off

x0 - anything x 0 is 0 - easy.

x1 - anything x 1 is itself - again easy - and worth remembering later for x11.

He presumably learned to count by 2, 5 and 10 in KS1. Although he may need to us fingers and count up - he should be a able to cope with 5 x 7 or 2 x 12.

So the next 2 questions: Does he get doubling? This is really important because it unlocks so many times tables. Make sure he understands x2 is doubling.

Does he know his x3 times table (this is critical as key into x6 and x12). Learning to count by 3s is tricky but seriously worth the effort.


If he's got 0/1/2/3/5 and 10 times tables he's on the way.

x4 (take x2 times table fact and just double it). So 4 x 6 - don't worry about it - think 2 times table facts so instead of 4 x 6 think 2 x 6 - which is = 12 and then double that 24.

x8 - if you know your x4 tables - then just double x 4 table facts / if not - use x2 table facts/ double those and then double again. so with x4 facts - 8 x 8 is the same as 4 x 8 = 32 and double that = 64. Or with x2 facts - 8 x 8 is the same as 2 x 8 = 16/ double that = 32/ double again = 64.


x6 - take x3 times table fact and double it. so 6 x 6 is the same thing as 3 x 6 = 18 and double that = 36.

x12 - can be done by doubling x6 table facts or by using x3 table fact/ doubling/ doubling again. so 8 x 12 is the same thing as 8 x 6 = 48 and double that = 96. or using x3 facts - 8 x 12 is the same thing as 8 x 3 = 24/ double that = 48/ double that = 96.

You can also split anything x 12 - into (? x 10) + (? x 2) -


18 x 12 is the same thing as (18 x 10) + (18 x 2) = 180 + 36 = 216.


x9 - use your hands as a calculator - put your hands palm up - with thumbs at each side. Numbering from left hand thumb as 1 to right hand thumb as 10.

Now use the hand calculator. Fold over whatever finger is the multiple. so 7 x 9 - fold over your 7th finger (your right hand ring finger) - you'll see you have 6 fingers to the left of the folded finger (which represent tens digit) and 3 fingers to the right of the folded finger (which represent unit digit) - so the answer is 63.

You can also consider the beautiful patterns in the 9s table:

1 x 9 = 09
2 x 9 = 18
3 x 9 = 27
4 x 9 = 36
5 x 9 = 45
6 x 9 = 54
7 x 9 = 63
8 x 9 = 72
9 x 9 = 81

There's a very simple pattern between 1 x 9 to 9 x 9 - the first digit in the answer is always 1 less than the multiple. The second digit is whatever number + first digit = 9.

So with 4 x 9. One less than 4 = 3. So the first digit of the answer is 3. What + 3 = 9. Well 6. So the second digit is 6. So 4 x 9 = 36.

10 x 9 = 90 - should be straightforward - move the 9 one column to left (or old fashioned add 0 at end of number)

11 x 9 = 99 (can be thought of as 10 x 9 plus 1 x 9 = 90 + 9 - or often children just know that answer to any single digit number x 11 is just that digit written twice.

12 x 9 - may be more tricky - but again you can use various tricks - x6 times table fact and double it (6 x 2 = 12) so 6 x 9 = 54 and double that is 108. or can think of it as (9 x 10) + ( 9 x 2) = 90 + 18 = 108. (as you suggested he can think of a fact he knows - maybe 10 x 9 = 90 and then add the right number on 90 + 9 = 99 and 99 + 9 = 108).


11 is just fun / lots of patterns/ tricks

1 x 11 = 11
2 x 11 = 22
3 x 11 = 33
9 x 11 = 99

that's usually pretty easy for kids.

10 x 11 = 110 (so knowing to move each digit one column to the left and place a zero in the units column - or olde fashioned just add a zero at the end).

12 x 11 and beyond for all two digit numbers there is a nice little trick.

With any two digit multiple of 11 - separate the first and second digit and in the middle put the sum of the two digits (you may have to carry).

so 25 x 11 = 2 - (2 + 5) - 5 = 275

so 14 x 11 = 1 - (1+4) - 4 = 154

with carrying it's a little more complicated:

38 x 11 = 3 - (3 + 8) - 8 = 3 - (11) - 8 = (3+1) - 1 - 8 = 418


So to recap - your DS at this point would know

x0/ x1/ x2/ x3/ x4/ x5/ x6/ x8/ x9/ x10/ x11 and x12.

We have left out 7 - but it's not a huge issue - because in fact - along the way with all these times tables above - you've learned 3 x 7/ 8 x 7 (by the way if you think 5 - 6- 7 - 8 - it's really easy to remember 8 x 7 or 7 x 8 = 56.)....

so in fact the only one left to learn is 7 x 7. There's no trick I'm afraid - but I've always found 7 x 7 is a swine - which by the way rhymes with 49.


Now learning times tables really helps with things in maths later on - fractions/ percentages/ proportions/ division/ algebra/ calculus...... It's critical to any further maths.

But learning your times tables so you don't even think about it takes familiarity - using them a lot - in school and outside. There are lots of fabulous free websites:

I would seriously recommend the resources and games links from Woodland Junior Maths Zone:

Multiplication resources

Multiplication games:


Multiplication dot com - has tips/ resources and lots of games:


Maths champs has some really fun games reviewing times tables in groups - these are spread across age ranges (and that can be daunting if you're older than the age range) - but tell your DS it's just practice and not to worry about it:


Finally - as a family you can consider playing board games or card games but using them to practice times tables:

so snakes and ladders can be played with up to 2 dice and you can agree which times table you're using. So say x7 table and you roll a 5. You move your piece 35 jumps forward - hopefully not landing on a snake. With numbers > 5 - probably best to play the board a few times.

MULTIPLICATION SNAP - ordinary deck of 52 cards. Ace = 1/ 2 - 9 as marked/ Jack = 10/ Queen = 11/ King = 12. Decide which table you want to practice - maybe x4. I tend to write this down on a post-it or scratch piece of paper (so everybody knows what table we're doing). Shuffle the cards and place them all face down next to the post-it. Flip the top card - say it's 8 - first to shout out correct answer to 4 x 8 - which is 32 - wins the card. The winner is the one with the most cards at the end of the game.

at first we were very gentle and let DDs have a lot of time with working out their times tables - but once they were getting confident we really went for it. The day DD1 beat her Dad fair and square still remains one of my fondest memories in our household! She absolutely knew what a huge achievement that was - as did we all!


I know times tables is one of those 'oh dear that' topics in school - but it is seriously worth putting the effort in on this. Without times tables - so much of senior school options are barred to your child. If you can't easily calculate percentages/ work out proportions - chemistry is rather difficult. Physics will rely on strong calculation skills. Even biological sciences heavily use summary statistics. And of course more complicated maths: algebra/ calculus/ trigonometry/ statistics/ etc... all require solid multiplication skills.

Genuinely having been through all of this - it's worth your time/ the struggle/ even the battles - to help your child over this hurdle.


diamondage Tue 02-Dec-14 14:21:43

Hi Merry

If he has truly learnt his 2s, 5s and 10s, as you mentioned up thread, then he can learn the other ones too.

Imagine that for most children it takes on average say 3 to 10 repetitions before something becomes permanent, well if a person has memory problems (depending on the sort of memory problem) then it just takes a lot more repetitions. It's a hard card to be dealt in life - but if you can find those little ways that help you to remember it makes it all a lot more manageable.

One technique I learnt from MNs is to create some multiplication flash cards. The question is on one side with the answer on the other. In the morning get them out and run through them. If he doesn't answer correctly within say 2 seconds, tell him the answer. You're aiming for instant recall, not him having to work it out. If he get's the answer within 2 seconds then he keeps those cards. In the afternoon go through any he didn't get in the morning. After a period of time he will be able to gain and keep all the cards. Just be patient, if he learnt those other tables he can learn the rest.

When you move onto the next table add in the ones he found hardest from the previous table - he should find those easy now and therefore always have some cards to 'win'.

Once a week go through all cards - once the recall is instant it won't actually take that long.

You can print off templates here (just get rid of the annoying adverts by clicking the x), or just buy some white card and make your own. You do need card otherwise you can see the answers through the other side.

Oh and do give yourself and him a realistic target. Start with one new table a month or two and once you're down to only having to learn 5 new facts then maybe one new one every couple of weeks to a month. To be honest it will depend on how able you both are to put aside the time - as you say there's other things to do too and life is really hectic. 5 minutes every day is better than 15 minutes every 3 or 4 days.

It is frustrating for everyone when knowledge that seemed secure a week ago seems to have just disappeared - just try to take heart that the hard work will pay off eventually. Especially if the tunes work - after all many adults forget quite a lot of their times tables, or don't have instant recall, unless they use them in their jobs, and they still manage to lead successful lives.

MerryMarigold Wed 03-Dec-14 11:27:49

Thanks everyone. Some really, really useful stuff here. Need to sort and absorb and actually DO! That long post was very helpful pastsellbydate, I didn't know that stuff about the 9's and 11's!!! LOVE 7 x8, that always gets me. 56 or 54? Now I can remember that one! Ds2 would love all those facts. I like the idea of explaining the table first, looking for patterns etc. and then learning it.

It's difficult because at the same time I am trying to balance helping ds1 with ds2 not overtaking him and making ds1 feel even worse. It's not easy. The difference being ds2 loves it, so of course he will be good at it. There's a 3 year age gap, so ds1 does feel it.

Definitely need to do the 5 mins a day and find a time when that can work. The Wii has now been restricted to only on Wed and Sun so that will help!

MerryMarigold Wed 03-Dec-14 11:31:07

Willkommen, do you know much about musical memory? What kinds of things can he do with this? I'd love to find something he can excel in as he struggles with sports and schoolwork.

It has always stunned me how he remembers tunes, or recalls exactly where he's heard a tune which he's only heard once a long time ago. Sadly he hasn't been able to develop that talent. I haven't got him onto musical instruments as school was enough struggle and he is dyspraxic so found even a recorder very difficult to play and I decided it would be more hard work for him than fun.

WillkommenBienvenue Wed 03-Dec-14 13:11:46

Try piano, it's one finger one note - any instruments involving lots of simultaneous movements with different body parts probably won't work. A choir is always a good option as well. There are lots of choirs springing up and I know people who have got their children into private schools based on their singing experience.

As far as the times tables goes, musical versions will be the thing to go for.

MerryMarigold Wed 03-Dec-14 14:50:05

Thanks willkommen. Piano is an option, although 2 notes simultaneously, with different hands, is what put me off. Tried choirs, but none round here. School choir is only Y5. I think we are going to start with the 3x table on 'Il est ne le divin enfant' which is song of the moment. Either that or "I wish it could be Christmas every day" - see which fits the times table better! (neither, probably).

Ferguson Fri 12-Dec-14 18:35:43

Hi again -

I'm interested to see you have moved on to musical aspects.

Apart from the artistic, emotional aspects music is really ALL numbers, if some form or other. It also often follows that children who do well at music are frequently successful academically. This may be because of the parental support, or maybe it is a 'brain' thing.

Piano with only one note in each hand won't be exciting for very long, which is why I invariably recommend electronic keyboards. Today instruments from around £100 upwards offer hundreds of sounds, dozens of rhythms and accompaniments, and 'drum kits' for 'live' percussion, or designing your own rhythm. Often, keyboards can be connected to hi-fi systems for better sound, and to computers for recording, multi-tracking etc.

Over twenty years ago I ran a Yr6 after school keyboard club, where I encouraged children to make up their own tunes, and do basic improvising, and we had a primitive digital sequencer for multi tracking.

There are many teach-yourself music books, which are easy to follow and don't need much in the way of musical knowledge from the adults.

I'll give more details should you be interested in the above.

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