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The Fast Game to Remember ALL my Times Tables - for Boys

The experience of facing the times tables is something most people recall vividly. For some, it fills with dread. For most it brings back memories of struggling with lists of answers, some harder than others. And for very few are those memories pleasant. Yet we far less easily recall the struggles we went through learning some of our other childhood skills.

I am going to suggest that perhaps this is because, with our times tables, we went about learning them in an unnecessarily painful and difficult way.

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

Notes

Note 1

With games you have a great opportunity to engage with multiple senses (e.g. sight, sound and touch) to make your learning of the times tables more effective. The learning advantages of this multi-sensory approach however are greatly enhanced when tightly associated with solving multiplication problems of increasing difficulty, provoking the learner to think rather than just develop point and click reflexes to a list of times tables answers.

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 'fast':

Are you hoping to minimize the amount of time required per lesson, the overall amount of study time needed to complete the process, a shorter number of days, weeks or years, or the total time required to become suitably competent with the times tables.

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 Fast Game to Remember ALL my Times Tables - for Boys

Study Multiplication

Memory hooks are a great way to help us recall answers. But if we treat the times tables as a grid of many answers, we are going to need a vast number of memory hooks to help us out. A skill-based approach can still however use memory hooks to support you in applying multiplication skill to the problems covered by the times tables.

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.

Study Ideas

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.

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