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The Fast Way to Study ALL Your Times Tables - for Teens

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 '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 teens as for anyone else but many teens are acutely embarrassed to openly discuss problems with memorizing their times tables, as they believe this is something they should really have accomplished at an earlier age. This embarrassment doesn't help them overcome the problem, and for many the problem could be easily addressed by simply teaching basic mental multiplication skills rather than expecting teens to become memory experts.

The Fast Way to Study ALL Your Times Tables - for Teens

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

When you take the approach of developing mental multiplication skill to address the need for solving problems listed in the times tables, it is really helpful to develop a strategy of identifying the fastest (normally the easiest) route to solving any particular multiplication problem. By doing this at outset, the steps required to arrive at the final answer to the multiplication problem are much easier to handle, and can often be run through at a speed similar to that with which rote-learning students are able to recall the answers from memory.

With practice, the speed difference can be so negligible that any observer may think that you are recalling answers from memory, and certainly with greater confidence in the accuracy of answers.

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