Monday, March 7, 2011

Learning Multiplication Facts

At some point, most kids are expected to learn the multiplication facts and have very speedy recall of those facts.  The relationships of numbers in multiplication is a gateway skill to long division, fractions, algebra, and other "higher" math.  You can learn those concepts without the multiplication facts in memory, but it will be painfully slow.

There are two keys to learning the facts: one is practice, the other is matching the practice to your child's learning style.  The following is a menu of the most useful practice activities I've found, sorted roughly by how your child learns.   Many kids will enjoy more than one of these activities (as we usually have strengths in more than one learning style) and it's good to vary the practice you do.

Mathematically inclined kids will benefit from activities that emphasize the patterns found in the multiplication tables.
  • Make several copies of a hundreds chart, and have your child color all the multiples of two on one page, the multiples of three on another and so on. You will find interesting patterns in the colored squares.
  • Your child might also find it interesting to use graph paper to cut out squares and rectangles for different numbers. For instance, for the number 12 you can make a 1x12 rectangle, a 2x6 rectangle, and a 3x4 rectangle (three facts that equal 12).
  • You can also spend time finding patterns in the multiplication table.
Kids who enjoy games and personal interactions may like the following:
  • Play Two Card War: Use a deck of cards with the face cards removed. Each player lays down two cards and multiplies them. Whoever has the highest answer wins all the cards. Ties are broken with two new cards. For details on this game and other card games, visit the Lets Play Math blog.
  • Timz Attack is a professional looking 3-D adventure game in which the facts are the weapon of choice. There are both free and paid versions of the game.

Kinesthetic kids might take to Math Wrap Ups, which keep your hands busy while practicing the facts.

If your child has auditory strengths, he or she may learn the facts from listening to Schoolhouse Rock multiplication songs or one of many other music CDs available.

For kids who are more interested in playing with language than numbers, try Memorize in Minutes: The Times Tables or Multiplication in a Flash. Both books use the same basic concept in that each number is associated with a word (five-hive, three-tree) and then the fact is a combination of the two words plus a rhyme to the answer (tree times tree equals line). A story and picture complete the memory device. The first book has a story for every fact. The second book teaches the math tricks for twos, fives, and nines, and then shows that if you eliminate the facts that are the same (6x8 is the same as 8x6), there are only 15 facts left to learn and teaches stories for only those facts.

Flash cards and timed drills can be useful to some kids. Be aware if your child is a slow writer, a timed drill will never tell you what he or she really knows and flash cards can sometimes put off a child who is not strong with putting ideas into words. 

Article by Heddi Craft

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