Times Tables Bootcamp

This is a guest article by Caroline Mukisa who publishes Maths Insider.

Does your middle- or high-schooler know their times tables? If the answer is a resounding “Yes” then, great, have a great day, and read the other great tips here at MathFour.

I also have some great tips and advice on how to guide your child to maths success on my Maths Insider site.

If not, then it’s time to help your teen develop their own times tables boot camp.

Why are times tables important at all?

Well it’s used loads in algebra, and those geometry questions usually need a fair bit of multiplication or division. It’s also great for those grown-up things that they’re going to be doing in the years to come, working out payment plans, home remodelling, calculating sale prices and just plain making sure that they’re not ripped off in life.

Of course we’ve got computers and calculators, but who wants to be fiddling about to open a smartphone app, just to work out the price of a pair of jeans. And if they press the wrong buttons, how will they know the answer is wrong?

Yep, they’re important!

Why are times tables a problem for older learners?

It’s like spending years trying to pass a driving test. Or still not being able to conjugate Spanish verbs after studying them for ages. Or trying to lose those last few pounds of weight. It sucks, and it gets to the point where it’s easier to develop a work-around: catch the train everywhere, just get by with a few Spanish phrases, or buy bigger clothes.

Of course, your teen can “get by” and may even do rather well at maths without knowing their times tables. But before you give up, try some of the following strategies to help your teen make their own times tables bootcamp to fix those essential times tables facts in their heads. It’s never too late!

Times tables boot camp strategies

1) Figure out what they know, and what they don’t know. Are they fine with their 2’s, 3’s and 4’s and 5’s but shaky after that? Then focus on quickly reviewing the easy tables before some concentrated repetition of the harder tables.

2) Use incremental steps. Make sure the 5’s are solid before moving on to the 6’s and the 6’s are fast before moving onto the 7’s.

3) Give your teen a fixed target. It’s completely possible to learn the times tables from 2-9 in a month with just 5-10 minutes of daily study.

4) Let them choose their own activities. Worksheets won’t be a popular option – iphone apps, You Tube videos, online games are all things that teens are more likely to tolerate.

5) Be encouraging – don’t say, “That’s easy, you should know it” instead say, “I can see you’re working hard on this, keep it up.”

Use these strategies to help your child plan their own successful times tables boot camp, so they won’t have to just “get by” in maths any longer.

Caroline Mukisa is a homeschooling mom of 4, who publishes at Maths Insider and wants to share more times tables strategies for kids of all ages in her free video, “How to Guide Your Child to Times Tables Success in Just 31 Days” Head over there now to get started!

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3 Responses to Times Tables Bootcamp

  1. I love seeing blog posts about the principle, “big picture” foundations of good math teaching, such as times tables. Well done, Caroline and Bon!

    Perhaps we’re seeing a backlash to the trend that seemed to gain traction around 10 years ago, to de-emphasizing times tables memorization “because the kids now have calculators”. I certainly hope so – that was a really bad idea IMO.

    I love the Napier’s Bones graphic – a great example of application of times tables, in a pre-microchip “calculator”.

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