Learning Multiplication

Ideas for learning multiplication concepts from the Living Math Forum

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The Living Math Forum (LMF) was quite active from 2004 through 2014, a ten year period of time that we were homeschooling our four children over Pre-K through high school years. Following are responses to the question about learning ideas. 

Question posted: Any suggestions to make teaching/memorizing multiplication tables fun?  My daughter is resisting the memorizing!  Thanks,  Robin


Robin, My daughter struggles with rote memorization even though she has NOproblems with math concepts. I was a the end of my rope when I found this great resource. She knew them in a week after starting this book.  It may work for your child. Jackie


Play Yahtzee.
Also, we played "War" with cards, only you had to say the multiplication fact to win the hand.  So, I put down a five and my son puts down a seven,  and he (with the higher number) says "Seven times five is thirty five" and wins the hand.  When we first started, we did this with a chart visible with the "answers."
Also, I kept blank multiplication charts on the refrigerator, with some facts filled in.  They would "mysteriously" be filled in a little at a timeby wandering boys.  When they got full, I'd put up another blank one, andso on.  
We have an old game from my mother-in-law's school (she was a principalwhen the school closed) that is called The Winning Touch.  It is sort oflike Scrabble only with the multiplication grid as the playing board.  Youdraw tiles that have the "answers" to the multiplication tables and you have toplace them adjacent or diagonally to a tile that is already in the correctplace.  I am not sure if this game is still available; it looks prettyold.  But it would not be hard to make up a similar version at home.  
My very kinesthetic boys ("very" is an understatement) played basketball w/ me to practice their times tables aloud.  We drew circles on our patio with numbers 1 - 12 on them.  Then we all shot a pre-determined number ofbaskets from each space and "said" the related math fact.  I think weplayed it like H-O-R-S-E somehow, but I can't quite remember. But I can rememberstanding on seven and shooting three times and having to say seven times threeis twenty-one; then the next person doing it and so on.  Again, you couldmake up your own variation of the specifics -- the point at my house was thatdoing something physical lessened the boredom and increased the memory andfun.
My youngest son is the most "unschooled" and he is simply "picking up" math facts, tho' we have played the Winning Touch, which actually totally frustratedhim.  He is extremely competitive and takes the game part so seriously (thepotential for winning) that he completely was distracted away from the math facts.  Funny how something that worked so well for the other kids was a flop with him.  But anyway, with him, he has figured out that he knows "theeasy ones" (twos, fives, tens, elevens) and is just sort of acquiring theothers.  I have gotten out the blank times tables for him but he has notshown interest in filling them in.  
Hope this helps.  JeanneBack in Virginia


A couple of years ago I found some placemats at Walmart of the US with the capitols.  Quite easily and without trying, both ds and dd memorized them and during breakfast, lunch and supper they loved to quiz us and have us quiz them.  It was quite painless.  

So I had them make placemats for math facts - one for each, 7 facts, 8 facts, etc.  So for instance they wrote all the 8 facts on a colored piece of paper and then we laminated it.  We use one at a time and we don't change it until those are mastered.  Every meal they are looking at it and for some reason they love to be quizzed at meals!  Try that at math time and for some reason it's not enjoyable.  LOLI think it will be a great way to keep the facts fresh through the summer as well.



There is a downloadable game called Timez Attack which many kids enjoy playing. It's free.  Samantha

Timez Attack is great! http://www.bigbrainz.com/index.php is the link. Only one comment, when my daughter was just learning her facts, it was very frustrating, so we put it aside until she had faster recall. Once you have recall, it's a way of getting faster, but not of learning them in the beginning. Second, the way it is played on the computer was no problem for my son, but she had difficulty controlling it with the keyboard. She ended up playing more with her brother keying in her answers to get them in fast enough. The graphics are excellent.


--- In LivingMathForum@yahoogroups.com, faulconjen@... wrote: > So, I put down a five and my son puts down a seven,  and he (with the higher number) says "Seven times five is thirty five" and wins the hand.  When we first started, we did this with a chart visible with the "answers." > 

Jean, I also find it key to find ways to talk about multiplication. When we first start, it's "seven fives are thirty five" or vice versa. Then eventually we get to the seven times five terminology.
> Also, I kept blank multiplication charts on the refrigerator, with somefacts filled in.  They would "mysteriously" be filled in a little at a time by wandering boys. >

We have this large white board in our living room that I do the same thing with :o). But I like your idea, I can even put one in the bathroom to replace the filled in one I put there when someone else mentioned that idea!

> We have an old game from my mother-in-law's school (she was a principalwhen the school closed) that is called The Winning Touch. >

Here it is: http://www.educationallearninggames.com/multiplication-math-games.asp  Looks fun!

One thing I've noticed with my kids, and that a veteran homeschooler pointed out to me one time in a post I wish I'd kept. Some kids have radar for "teachable moments" or activities that involve something they've decided they simply do not want to learn. 

So while many of the games etc. that you list Jean would have worked for two of my kids, with my stubborn 9 y/old, she would have looked at slowing a game down to recite facts as irritating and being stuffed with something she did not desire, and my oldest son at this age just simply could not remember no matter what we tried until he *used* them.

Finding a resource that my daughter liked was key to her motivation. We worked for a while with Eugenia Francis book, Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, and because she was in control that worked for a while, she didn't finish it, but caught on to some patterns through sheer repetition. I asked her what she would like to do, and making up our own games with 3 by 5 cards such as matching facts up was something she really enjoyed. I think that overall, I could not rush her. 

She now knows most of her facts because we've been using them a lot in higher level math activities. For example, yesterday she was doing an activity based on Pythagorean triples, because we played around with those when we read What's Your Angle Pythagoras (I posted about that last week). 

The activity I created for her was a hunt for the "impostors" among the genuine Pythagorean triples, and it involved squaring each number and seeing if the sum of the first 2 squares equaled the last. The challenge at the end was to go the other way - I gave the squares and she had to figure out the three roots. I mixed up squares she knew with larger numbers she used a calculator for. She really enjoyed doing this. 

Another way she is applying and therefore solidifying her recall of math facts is through the Hands On Equations activities. When you solve an equation, you rebuild the equations with the pawns and dice and check it. This usually involves either skip counting or multiplying up to 10 times. If for example the answer to x was 7, and the original equation had 6 pawns on one side, she either has to multiply 6 times 7 or skip count. She recalls most other tables easily from memory, but many people find that 7's and 8's are more difficult to recall. This is a way to continue to see multiplication and apply it in a concrete way, and I am seeing a lot of progress in her recall.

I just don't know a lot of kids who enjoy multiplication drill, and it is a challenge to find *fun* ways to use it. With a lot of Jean's ideas, they work if the parent enjoys it, but if they feel it is drudgery or dislike working with tables, that may very well come through. I'll admit I do not like doing flashcards or drill, I find them boring, over the years if the kids even wanted to do it, I'd usually suggest they do it with a sibling, LOL. But using multiplication in real activities like games and puzzles I love.