If you have a child in grade 3, the time has come for him or her to face those dreaded multiplication tables. Understanding the concept of multiplication is a must, in order to solve division problems and tackle more complex mathematical ideas. The problem is, few children learn to love the times tables.
According to some math educators, forcing your child to memorize the times tables can actually inhibit your child’s ability to develop creative approaches to solving math problems, on top of severely diminishing their interest in math.
A growing number of educators think we should scrap the times tables, but is this good news for your child?
Math facts like 1✕1=1 are fundamental assumptions required in order to use math. But rote memorization of products without recognizing the underlying process will not help your child develop an understanding of numerical relations.
That doesn’t mean your child should ignore the multiplication tables, however, since they outline some of the basic building blocks of math—that would be like studying language without a dictionary. Fortunately for children, the times tables don’t have to be dreadful—it’s all a matter of how we approach the task of teaching them.
So, how can you help your child to acquire an adequate familiarity with the times tables, while enabling them to come up with the answers on their own?
Better ways to learn the multiplication table
1. Start by explaining basic concepts of multiplication
2✕2=4: Two group of candies, each containing two candies in it, makes a total of four candies.
2✕3=6, 3✕2=6 : Whether you give three candies to two friends or two candies to three friends, you still have a total of 6 candies.
1✕0=0, 2✕0=0, 0✕3=0, 1000✕0=0, 1✕2✕0=0, 5.5✕0=0: multiplying any number by 0, the answer is always 0.
2. Use pictures and descriptive objects to increase understanding
For example, for 2✕2=4 : if there are two ducks in each pond and there are two ponds, then the total is four ducks.
3. Help your child to understand groups and relationships
Show them how skip counting relates to the times tables. Once your child can skip count by twos, threes, fours and fives comfortably, it will enable them to master the rest of the multiplication table more easily.
For example, when your child is comfortable with skip counting by twos, practice doubling the answers to understand multiplication by 4. Once they can skip count by fours, double the answers again for multiplying by 8.
Repeat the same concept to show the relationship between 3 and 6.
4. Use other numbers to find the answer
Remember that 7✕9 might be overwhelming for your child, but 7✕10=70 is much easier to grasp. Demonstrate how to find the answer they need by expanding on what they already know; for example: if 7✕10=70, we can subtract the “extra” seven to solve 7✕9: 70-7=63.
Here are some more examples, using the same strategy for other challenging sets of factors:
- 7✕8 is like 7✕10 minus the extra two sevens, so 7✕8=70-14=56
- 7✕5 (or 5✕7) is like 5✕10 minus the extra three fives, so 50-15=35
- 7✕4 is double 7✕2, so (7✕2=14)✕2=28
5. Use some tricks for extra fun!
The trick described below is an example that makes multiplication easier to understand, by paying attention to the unique characteristics of number combinations. If you look at the products in the 9 times table for factors 1 through 10, you might notice that the digits always add up to 9:
9✕1 = 9 → = 9
9✕2 = 18 → 1+8=9
9✕3 = 27 → 2+7=9
9✕4 = 36 → 3+6=9
9✕5 = 45 → 4+5=9
9✕6 = 54 → 5+4=9
9✕7 = 63 → 6+3=9
9✕8 = 72 → 7+2=9
9✕9 = 81 → 8+1=9
9✕10=90 → 9+0=9
Because of this aspect of the 9 times table, multiplying 9 by a factor from 1 to 10 not only results in a product whose digits always total 9, but whose digits in the tens position each increase from 0 to 9 as those in the ones position decrease from 9 to 0: (09, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90). As a result, we can use a finger trick to make the 9 times table easier and more interesting to learn:
The 9 times table has a cute finger trick to help your child.
Open both your palms facing toward you, pinkies together. Now, visualize the fingers from left to right each indicating the numbers from 1-10 that will be multiplied by 9.
For example, fold in the left thumb to indicate 9✕1. Now you see 9 unfolded fingers to the right. 9✕1=9.
Next, with all 10 fingers open again, fold in only the left index finger to indicate 9✕2. To the left is your unfolded thumb, representing 1, and to the right are your other 8 open fingers; you read the 1 and the 8 as 18, so 9✕2=18.
For 9✕3, fold in the left middle finger for the number 3. Now you read the open thumb and index to the left of your folded middle finger as 2, and the open fingers to the right as 7, to make 27.
By folding in the finger representing each factor from 1 to 10, you will get all the answers for multiplying them by 9.
In spite of good intentions to the contrary, the multiplication chart is still an unavoidably useful tool for learning math, containing the essential building blocks your child needs to grasp further mathematical concepts. The dread most children experience learning multiplication isn’t a result of the chart itself—the problem lies in how we teach them to memorize it.
Help your child take time to observe the multiplication table and understand number relationships, in order to get a flexible sense of how to arrive at the answers through a variety of different methods. This way, your child will not only develop a deeper understanding of multiplication, but will also acquire a sense of the underlying relationships between numbers, which will enable them to approach math with reasoning and problem-solving skills.