These are the perfect ages for learning the times tables. Though multiplication is started in grade 2, most kids are taught, or should be taught in grade 3, 4, and 5 (ages 8-12 in Canada). However, some kids are ready to learn them earlier and we have taught some as young as 6 years old, though they won’t start understanding how to use them until later. Also there are many older kids who haven’t learned them and along the way have developed bad habits with numbers like finger counting which are tough to break. Roughly less than 1 in 3 kids will actually master them, which means most kids suffer through math class without really understanding the most basic math skills. We want to catch the kids before the develop bad habits or start struggling with math.
The multiplication tables are taught with the same techniques used by people with high IQ’s, photographic memories and memory athletes. These words are used to describe people with a powerful memory and despite myths and misconceptions, anyone can use these techniques and harness the power of the mind. Simply put we remember objects and stories rather than lines or symbols. We can easily remember what Goldilocks ate in ‘The Three Bears’ story, but we struggle to remember what symbol is above the ‘5’ on a computer keyboard. Ancient techniques such as a memory palace allow people to put information in the mind in the form of an object or a story.
Kids have trouble remember lines or symbols. Here is an example to show that adults have the same trouble. What symbol is above the number ‘6’ on a computer? Each key with a number has another symbol above it. For example ‘3’ has ‘#’ above it and ‘8' has ‘*’ above it. Even though some of us use a computer every day, the symbol doesn’t pop into our head. If you can’t remember, don’t worry because most people don’t. It is just a symbol, an abstract line(s), that doesn’t look like anything we are familiar with.
If I asked you about what blew the house down in the ‘Three Pigs story’ you would right away know the answer (if you heard the story as a child). If you never heard this story, I’m sorry for your sheltered childhood. It’s a pretty violent story. One of the stories we use is about a crazy mom who tries to kill a spider with a golf club and accidentally breaks a window. Since we know that kids can remember stories, we know this one will stick, especially since it’s about a crazy mom they know and it’s funny how the window gets broken. We then use this story to remember 8 x 9. The spider is 8 (8 legs, body shaped like an ‘8’) and the golf club is 9 (9 iron, shaped like a 9). When they think of these 2 objects, right away they think of their mom being inside the house (with a roof shaped like a ‘7’) and the (2) curtains of the window which is the answer (72).
When you watch a child do multiplication the traditional way (counting sets or fingers) you see kids struggle because it a long, hard, painful process. When you see them talk through a story, it’s quick, fun and they learn to love math.
It is easy to tell if your child is doing well at math. Simply if they are able to add and multiply quickly, then the rest of the skills will be easy. Our school system has come up with many ways to distract from kids not knowing these basic skills like teaching ‘discovery math’ or ‘hands on learning’. Research (and common sense) says that kids should be able to answer each question in less than 3 seconds. That means if you ask an 9 or 10 year old what 7 x 8 is, they should be able to answer in less than 3 seconds. If it takes longer, especially if they are counting on their fingers or drawings sets of line, then then are going to struggle down the road. Answering 28 questions like this one in 5 minutes will give you a clear idea of how much they know. Knowing these questions are basic facts that will show up in most concepts in any math class taught by any teacher.
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