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The Easy Way to Learn ALL Your Times Tables - for Boys

Learning your times tables needn't be anywhere near as hard and time-consuming as most people experience. Not because they're stupid, but because the traditional approach to learning them is!

This is certainly not intended to be an attack on those fine parents and teachers who know no better than to put their young ones through the age-old process. But bear with me and see why I believe it's time we shake this whole thing up!

As you read this article, bear in mind there is a very subtle difference between memorizing and remembering tables.

Notes

Note 1

When learning the times tables by rote, plain parrot-fashion repetition only taps into the oral experience. This is far less powerful for most people than things that we experience visually. For this reason, pictures can often be used to support rote-learning especially if the mind is able to recall a strong visual image that clearly hooks the multiplication problem to the answer.

Also, be aware of why many people consider the times tables to be limited to 12 x 12 when, in this decimal era the number 12 seems a rather strange limit. But this goes back to the days of counting in dozens (e.g. 12 inches in a foot) when an English shilling was worth 12 pennies.

Taking these ideas into account may lead to different conclusions when considering the times tables for children or specifically boys and girls.

Note 2

To be clear, you need to define what you mean by 'easy':

Are you desiring something that's easy to do, makes those times tables answers easy to remember and easy to recall, easy to apply in other areas of mathematics and in real life situations, easy to retain over the longer term, or simply an approach that's best matched to your personal learning style to make the learning process easy?

See here for more information about how to take this into account kids, teens and adults.

Note 3

These notes are as relevant for boys as for anyone else but many people expect boys to be more comfortable with their numeracy skills than girls, although this is an ill-founded expectation. It can however lead to degree of embarrassment or even humiliation for any boys who fall short and struggle with the times tables.

The Easy Way to Learn ALL Your Times Tables - for Boys

Study Multiplication

When rote-learning the times tables by rote, parrot-fashion repetition can be greatly supported by the use of rhyme or song. This helps the learner tap into their musical/rhythmic intelligence rather than depending entirely on the verbal/linguistic aspects of repetition. To experience this, try memorizing a news story word for word and then compare how difficult that is with learning the words to a nursery rhyme or song. The rhythm itself, and the rhyming words, and the tune of a song all play their part in carrying you through the recall process.

Study Ideas

The times tables is often treated by schools as a grid of number facts that need to memorized, no matter how difficult, painful and time consuming this may be. If schools took the same approach with addition and subtraction however, we would have a grid of standard addition problem answers to memorize and likewise one for subtraction problems.

But addition and subtraction are more readily recognized as number skills, part of a numeracy syllabus. If we can let go of hundreds of years of tradition for one moment and consider how easily mental multiplication could be treated as a skill, we could do away with memorizing the answers to the times tables grid altogether. And such a skill could be developed in a fraction of the time, with less pain too.

In recent years, many people have challenged how appropriate it is to attempt to learn the times tables up to 12x12. Some prefer to limit the learning objective to 10x10 often citing decimalization as the reason for this, without speaking out the truth which underlies their motivation, being a preference to dumb-down the learning objective as it is then easier to accomplish.

On the other hand, those who value the ability to multiply (typically those who are comfortable themselves and often fail to see the problem through other people's eyes) suggest raising the bar to empower students with skills based on enlarging the times tables to cover up to 20x20 or even 100x100. This kind of goal cries out for a skill-based approach, rather than memorization of number facts.

Even with the use of rhyme and song, however, the question remains as to whether rote learning of the times tables is really the best way forward, compared with developing the skill of effective mental multiplication.

Teaching Ideas