How to help your child learn their times tables

The pressure on children to be on top of their times tables is growing. Rob Eastaway and Mike Askew, co-authors of Maths on the Go! offer some tips to make the whole process easier (and more enjoyable!)

1. Look for patterns

Times tables might feel like just a jumble of random numbers, but you can help your child to spot that they have patterns.

Try these:

  • Numbers in the five times table always end in five or zero
  • Numbers in the six times table end in 6, 2, 8, 4, 0 and then that pattern repeats again
  • If you add together the digits in numbers from the three times table, you'll get another number in the three times table. So 3 x 7 = 21, and 2 + 1 = 3. 3 x 12 =36 and 3 + 6 = 9
  • That works for all multiples of three: 3 x 142 = 426, and 4 + 2 + 6 = 12, and 1 + 2 = 3. Cool, huh?

2. Connect times tables to division

It's important that children realise that multiplication and division are connected to each other - this will help them enormously when they start learning long division. 

Try this:

You can help with this by writing out each times table fact on a card. You would write 5 x 7 = 35 like this:

Cover up the 35 and ask "Five times seven is what?"  Then cover up the five and ask "35 divided by seven is what?" or "Seven times what is 35?"

3. Celebrate success, not failure

It's demoralising for a child if they struggle with times tables and keep getting questions wrong. Instead of picking out failures, celebrate success. Keep a chart of which facts your child knows, so that they can see their knowledge continuing to grow. Children also like to beat their personal bests.

Try this:

Write the numbers 1 to 12 on different cards and shuffle them. Suppose they are working on their six times tables. Get them to turn over one card at a time, and multiply the number by six. Keep doing this till they've gone through all twelve cards. Use a stopwatch on your phone to time them and record that as their best time so far - then challenge them to beat it.

Times tables hacks 

1. The finger trick for the nine times table

Put your hands on your knees and number your fingers 1 to 10 from left to right. So your little finger on the left is 1, ring finger is 2, and so on all the way to your right little finger at 10. What is 4 x 9?  Bend over finger number four. Now count how many fingers are to the left of the bent finger (three) and how many to the right (six).  So there is your answer, three-six, thirty-six.

2. Multiplying by 11

Everyone knows the eleven times table: It's easy. But what about multiplying eleven by numbers higher than ten?

Here's the secret: Add the two digits of the other number together and put the total in the middle: So for 26 x 11 (2 + 6 = 8), the answer is 286

Try another: 61 x 11 = 671

BUT what about 48 x 11? 4 + 8 = 12, so that makes 4 12 8 - that can't be right? There's a bit of a catch to this trick. If the two digits add to ten or more, the '1' needs to be added to the first digit so 48 x 11 = 4+1 2 8 = 528

Games to try

1. Rock Paper Multiply

Times tables are something you can play with your child in any idle moment, at home or out and about. Instead of 'Rock Paper Scissors' you can play 'Rock Paper Multiply'. Instead of rock, paper or scissors, each player holds out any number of fingers between one and ten. The first of you to be able to multiply the two numbers together wins. 

To make it harder: Make it a rule that the number of fingers you each hold out must be at least three. 

2. Fizz Buzz

Take it in turns to count up. Whenever you come to a number in the three times table, say the word 'fizz' instead of the number. Whenever you come to a number in the five times table, say 'buzz' instead. So the game might start 'One, two, fizz, four, buzz, fizz, seven...' If a number is divisible by both three and five like 15, you have to say 'fizzbuzz'.

Make it harder: Introduce a third word, change which times tables you use or start counting from a higher number.

And remember - learn one and get one free!

Learning every combination of tables up to 12 x 12 can seem daunting. But remember, 8 x 3 is the same as 3 x 8. This means every time you learn one multiplication fact, you are learning a second one for free!  

Rob Eastaway and Mike Askew's book Maths on the Go: 101 Fun Ways to Play with Maths is out now. It's full of fun games, activities and ideas for how to play with maths - grab yourself a copy and start making learning maths fun.

Rob and Mike joined us for a Q&A to answer your questions about helping your children with maths. Read their answers here.

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Last updated: 2 months ago