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Help little learners master multiplication with these fun activities, including DIY times table charts, real-life examples and games.
For kids, the prospect of learning the times tables can be daunting but it’s an extremely important puzzle piece in kids’ learning, and once they’ve learned them, they’ll remember them for life. With mastery of the multiplication table, kids can move on to more complex sums with larger numbers and tackle new concepts. Cement what they're learning at school with some fun at-home activities, including DIY times table charts and real-life examples that will have them reciting those times tables like seasoned pros in no time.
Find a recipe to make – your child's favourite biscuits or a batch of playdough – and play around with the quantities before you get down to business.
Step 1 Take a playdough recipe as a simple example:
Choose a number between 2 and 12 together and write it down. Next, ask your child to secretly choose a second number between two and 12 and multiply it by the first number. Have them tell you the answer – then blow their mind by telling them what their secret number was.
Explain how the trick works: if the number you chose together was four, and the number your child chose was six, then the answer should have been 24. You were able to find out their secret number using the multiplication table. Try the trick again, but have your child as the magician this time.
A times table chart is a useful tool, and the information will stick even better if your child makes the chart themselves.
Draw up a graph with the numbers one to 12 running horizontally along the top and down the left side. The empty graph may look daunting, but the more your child fills out, the more their confidence will grow. Start small: get your child to fill in the entries she knows right away and skip the ones she doesn’t. Help with some prompts such as:
Or try a wipe-clean ready-made chart. Place wall charts around the house where kids can see them (the back of the bathroom door is always a good spot!) to help reinforce their learning.
Gather together at least 72 small objects – try beads, buttons or counters – and use them for a series of problems. Take a number – 56 for example – and ask your child what they think is the best way of counting 56 objects. They might suggest two rows of 28. Next, ask them to count 56 objects in lots of four. Ask how many groups of seven they think there would be in 56. Count them out – were they right?
This hands-on manipulation of objects helps children make sense of maths, and being able to visualise the numbers as lots of smaller numbers helps them understand the patterns of the times table on a deeper level.
Teachers may be au fait with this teaching tool but for those of us not familiar, a counting stick is just that: a stick or length of wood, long enough to accommodate 12 equal-sized sections on which you have room to place cards or sticky notes with different numbers written on (try this metre-long ruler – simply paint it and use masking tape to divide into 12 sections).
Now, the technique. The counting stick employs different mathematical strategies, such as doubling a number, multiplying by 10, and adding on, that can be used for all times tables. Using these strategies, kids will be able to work out the answer to any times table, by establishing patterns and links. This video explains the concept.
Egg cartons, the MVP in any parent’s craft kit, also happen to be an excellent (or egg-cellent!) times table game, thanks to their dozen egg-shaped indentations.
Here’s how to play. Number the bottom of each indentation one to 12. Place two marbles inside and tell kids to shake the carton. Open it up and whichever two numbers the marbles have landed in, multiply them together.
All you need for this fun and highly competitive game is a standard deck of playing cards, where aces represent ones, jacks represent 11, and queens represent 12. Remove the jokers and kings from the deck (or make it extra-tricky by making them 13 and 14). The first player flips over two cards and multiplies them. If they get the answer right, they get to keep the cards. If not, they go to the bottom of the deck. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the deck is the winner.
With a game like bingo, kids will be having fun and using their maths skills at the same time. You could make your own cards and chart with cardboard and markers, or try this Multiplication Bingo game, which has boards that wipe clean. Yell out a multiplication or a number and kids can cross off the answer on their board. Make sure there’s a special prize for the winner!
Reciting the multiplication tables may seem old-fashioned, but there are few better ways to make it stick. To help kids remember – and to make it a little more fun – try adding your own made-up rhymes:
Remember, rhyming is a useful tool to help kids remember their times tables, but it should come after they’ve understood how multiplication works – you don’t want kids having to recite their entire times table before they're grasped why eight times 12 is 96.