- History of the Multiplication Tables
- How well do you know the Times Tables?
- Why are Times Tables important?
- 1. Times tables are the basic building blocks of maths.
- 2. It teaches children to recognise patterns.
- 3. Division, the other side of a rather useful coin.
- 4. Learning the times tables is good brain exercise.
- 5. Knowing your multiplication tables is VERY useful.
- 6. Knowing the multiplication tables frees up brain space.
- The best order in which to learn the multiplication tables
- Not-so fun ways to learn the times tables
- Entertaining ways to practice times tables
- Additional tips on learning the times tables.
Even as adults, we find many of our friends uttering those words “why can’t I remember my times tables?” So a lot of the advice to follow will be useful for you parents out there too! We’re going to look into all the fun ways to practice times tables, because believe it or not, multiplication practice is not supposed to be that hard, or that boring. We’ll discuss ways to spice up the times table learning process, why it’s important, the order in which you should teach/learn them etc.
When you’re done, you’ll be equipped with not only new ways of looking at an old problem, but also various times table resources you can use to implement these fun tips to on how to learn the times tables.
And, let’s be honest, while pretending to little Jonny that you were a maths whizz all along, you might just be quietly brushing up on the multiplication tables yourself!
Let’s dig in…
History of the Multiplication Tables
The history of multiplication tables starts all the way back with those well known maths geniuses, the Babylonians. Thing is, they used a base of 60 (we use a base of 10 in case you wondered) so if you think you or your kids have it hard, think again!
Additionally, in 1820, the mathematician John Leslie advised all our young folk to learn their multiplication tables up to 50 x 50. Again, we commonly use a times table square showing up to 12 x 12, so you can tell your kids that’s what’s in store if they don’t behave!
How well do you know the Times Tables?
In case you’re wondering where you sit on that dishonourable scale, it turns out the easiest to recall was the 2 times table (no, really?) , and the hardest was the 8 times table. People older than 55 did much better than those between 25 and 34, what does that tell us?
A whole host of clever people commented on these results, all using big words and vague conclusions, but the upshot is this: How are you supposed to help your little genius learn the times tables at home if you don’t know them yourself?
Why are Times Tables important?
We’ve all been told we need to know the times tables. We feel under pressure to make sure our kids know them. Why? We just assume they’re important, but are they really? Are they possibly just an ancient form of torture passed down from generation to generation, or is knowing the 8 times table actually a good thing? Hang on, what are calculators for?
Before you think you’ve discovered a conspiracy and you can now instead focus on turning little Judy into a Youtube star… you’re unfortunately not off the hook just yet. Turns out, knowing 2 x 2 = 4 is actually all kinds of useful. We’ve listed just a few benefits below:
1. Times tables are the basic building blocks of maths.
They’re the base upon which more complicated maths concepts are taught. This means, unfortunately, that should a child struggle with multiplication in primary school, they’re likely to fall behind in secondary school.
2. It teaches children to recognise patterns.
Knowing the times tables aids in in recognising patterns, a vital skill that is applied throughout higher level problem solving.
3. Division, the other side of a rather useful coin.
Multiplication is, of course, the inverse of division, so all the above applies to anything involving quick division.
4. Learning the times tables is good brain exercise.
Learning times tables is exercise for a young brain, simply improving mental arithmetic and in itself, teaches the satisfaction of learning something new.
5. Knowing your multiplication tables is VERY useful.
Although the https://www.nctm.org/ have started to advise against rote learning in this fashion (they obviously don’t know about our fun ways to practice the times tables) there’s no denying that knowing your times tables at least up to 12x is just so incredibly useful.
How else do we quickly work out how to divide the last blocks of chocolate among three impatient little sugar addicts?
6. Knowing the multiplication tables frees up brain space.
Simply put, children can focus on reasoning and other skills once they don’t have to allocate memory to the multiplication aspects of a given problem.
The best order in which to learn the multiplication tables
Right so we’ve decided learning the times tables is an altogether brilliant move, how do we go about it? How to teach times tables in a way that will make those pesky numbers stick?
And is there a best order to learn times tables? Turns out there is:
Though there is some debate it is generally accepted that, regardless of age, the easier numbers should be memorised first.
So for instance, the child would learn the 1x, 2 x, 5 x and 10 x tables first, before progressing onto the 3 x and 4 x tables. After those, you’d tackle the 6 x, 7 x, 8 x tables and so forth.
It’s at this point you might point out to children (or yourself) that they have memorised more than they think due to the concept of commutativity.
Commutativity refers to the way things can be moved around (the word comes from the word ‘commute’, to ‘move’) and essentially means that when you learn one multiplication, you learn a bonus three facts:
- If e.g. 2 x 3 = 6, then you also know 3 x 2 = 6
- Because division is just multiplication in reverse, you now know 6 ÷ 3 = 2
- Because of commutativity, you can add another fact: 6 ÷ 2 = 3
You’re practically a genius already…
Not-so fun ways to learn the times tables
I’ve had to include this section, because try as you might, there often is no substitute for just plain old repetition.
If you pulled a face when I mentioned times tables, it’s probably because you’re picturing or remembering the multiplication drills you used to do at school. You know the ones:
1. Chanting the times tables:
This is where you simply say the answers out loud as you go up and down the times tables. The auditory stimulus is what locks the answers in and hey, it works. Here’s a riveting example:
Sorry, I may have nodded off while that was playing. Of course, not all chanting needs to be this mundane. Using rhymes and rhythm in conjunction with flashcards will be much more fun and entertaining. Here’s a good example:
Much better, and now you have an ear worm for the rest of your day, sorry about that!
2. Drilling, not for oil, but for multiplication mastery.
There’s no denying that doing online multiplication exercises or using multiplication worksheets are a great way to test your multiplication tables and the repetition can’t help but cement what’s been taught.
3. Times tables, everywhere…
Boring, but effective. Create an environment for your child where numbers and times tables are visible everywhere, from the bedroom cupboard to the fridge door, his brain will absorb what he/she sees. Of course, these can look really good, depending on how well they’re written or designed, but remember that the numbers themselves need to stand out and be memorable.
Entertaining ways to practice times tables
Like anything in life, if you want to take the chore out of learning and almost learn ‘by accident’, then gamify the times table learning process!
Topmarks have a whole host of games available you can play right in your internet browser, most of them don’t need the flash plugin either. Most of these cover not just multiplication, but also division, factoring etc. They include games such as:
Quick fire questions against the clock covering not just times tables, but also number bonds, divisions etc. Perfect for 6 – 11 year olds.
A multiple choice game that’s… mental! Practises all 4 arithmetic areas and importantly, helps children work out what kind of calculation to employ when given a word problem.
A tablet-compatible maths game focussed on recognising multiples from each table.
4. Daily 10
This one has been designed to use on an interactive whiteboard, a great aid for teachers to deliver ten quick maths problems for some mental maths practice. Suitable for children 5 – 11 years of age, the sets of questions are graded in terms of difficulty which will match year group level in local National Curriculum Maths requirements.
A great little game you can download or embed, covering Multiplication, Division and Factoring.
This one is super fun, tablet friendly and takes you outdoors to go fishing. Okay, not really outdoors, but you do go fishing! The game covers times tables, doubles, squared etc.
7. Tommy’s Trek
A great little game from Mathsframe, it will work on any device. Use the arrow keys to move Tommy as you come to grips with times tables, recognising cubes and a variety of maths concepts.
Nice, a multiplayer game so you can your child can compete! (Remember what we said about making sure you know the times tables yourself? This is where it pays off!) The winner is the first one to line up four number with a common factor, hence the name!
9. Funky Mummy
This isn’t about how contemporary you dress as a mother. We’re talking about the other kind of Mummy. This mobile friendly maths game will test your recall of addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. Aimed at 4-7 year olds. 10 correct answers allow you to compose a message using Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The quicker you are at answering correctly, the easier to aim you’re bowling balls at the pins. A super fun way to learn the multiplication tables!
There are many more maths games on this page, so go try them out!
2. Loop cards
This resource excites and engage children’s learning. It’s fun and educational and great for reinforcing your teaching in this topic. Can be played in groups or independently.
3. Multiplication Songs
We’ve mentioned how the power of song can make learning numbers super fun. See for instance how learning the 6 tables to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ really works!
Or if Taylor’s not your jam, how about the 3 times table to Uptown funk by Bruno Mars?
4. Board games
There are a variety of maths board games especially designed for learning the times tables, but you can also quickly create your own war-game by using a stack of cards.
Two players draw a card from the deck. They then flip their cards over and the first person to correctly guess the total of the two cards multiplied put those cards in their winning pile. The person with the most cards in their winning pile at the end is the winner!
5. The Multiplication wheel
A nice creative drawing distraction (that also happens to teach the times tables) is the Waldorf Multiplication flower, otherwise known as the Multiplication wheel.
Your child will draw the centre of the flower, in which they write a number between 2 and 12. Then he/she should draw 12 petals around the centre, each petal containing the numbers 1 through 12. Lastly, another set of 12 petals is drawn and they contain the centre number multiplied by each petal in the inner circle.
6. Using real life examples
A bit meta, but of course, multiplication is all around us. Make a point of pointing out (see what we did there?) the times tables in real life objects around you and your child. Then, even better, use multiplication and division to solve real life problems, such as dividing up a box of Maltesers between 3 children.
7. Use the Power of Story – numbers going on a journey
For the younger kids, an action packed story about numbers going on an adventurous journey might help to cement early multiplication concepts. You can imagine how the characters have to solve maths problems in order to progress through the story, and to be let through secret gates etc. Lots of fun!
There are a variety of apps now available for this purpose, a popular one is the DoodleTables app.
Gone are the days of boring flashcards and supporting materials for teachers and parents trying to make the times tables fun! Have a look at our own range of homeschooling printables and specifically the ever popular Times Table Origami Fortune Teller.
Additional tips on learning the times tables.
So, armed with the above fun ways to practice the times tables, here are a few nuggets of wisdom to keep in mind.
1. Practice should be regular but not incessant.
Nothing will disrupt and undermine learning the times tables quicker than if your child starts to dread long uninterrupted sessions of learning. Too much of anything becomes a chore.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The number of times the brain is asked for recall is the key to mastering the multiplication tables. In this way, think of ‘starting’ multiple times and focus less on the length of each session.
We are simple creatures in this respect. Dopamine-producing neurons in our brain process rewards and motivate behaviour. Neurons that release dopamine are activated when we expect reward. Dopamine ultimately enhances reward related memories and strengthens synapses in the hippo campus, effectively the brain’s memory centre.
In short, make learning interesting by introducing rewards, training the brain to seek reward in forming memories.
Right, there you have it. Learning 8 x 9 ( 72, in case I caught you out!) need not be boring if you use all we’ve suggested here. Go forth and turn your little ones into maths whizzes.
Oh and, dear parent, make sure you learn the times tables too!