Teaching those terrible times tables. It’s something that all educators and parents who work with kids above the age of about 6 have to deal with at some point. Knowing your times tables is a helpful skill to have, but there is just no real way to learn them other than through mundane repetition and memorisation – or is there?
Today I’m going to share a list of creative ways to help your children practise their times table facts, and yes, there are ways to make learning times tables more fun and interesting than just using tedious repetition and memorisation practices.
One way to change up repeating times table facts is to use skip counting to get students familiar with the multiples for each set of times tables. When using skip counting, students don’t need to worry about trying to recite the full times table fact, which makes it quicker to reach those higher times tables. Working with skip counting also allows you to use a wider range of fun maths activities for times table revision, like the skip counting mazes pictured below.
Focus on One at a Time
It is especially important to focus on one times table set at a time when you are introducing new times tables to your students. Give them time to learn strategies for working with one set of times tables before adding any new times table facts to the mix. This way, you can use a number of different games and activities that all focus on the one times table set, before gradually working through the others. You might like to take a look at this ‘hipster themed’ activity set for the 6x tables to get you started.
Mix it Up
Having said that, once students have been introduced to all times table facts and are growing in confidence, it’s important to give them opportunities to practise switching between different times tables by mixing them up. One way I like to do this is through the use of multiplication grids. Multiplication grids are a helpful visual reference for students. I’ve mentioned using addition grids in a previous post, and similarly, multiplication grids like the one pictured below allow students to work through the times table facts at their own pace, in any order, noticing patterns along the way.
Offer Students a Guide
A guide for reference is a helpful tool for students in any subject area, and this applies when learning times table facts too. While times table charts can be used as a ‘guide’, I find that students get more value out of something that takes them through the process for working out solutions on their own. In the example pictured below, I talk students through the strategy of moving the decimal place when multiplying by 10, 100 or 1,000. This helps them to understand one of the strategies that they can use when faced with a multiplication equation involving those numbers. Using step-by-step guides for a variety of multiplication strategies will help to ensure that your students understand how to use the strategies in different contexts.
Play a Class Game
Playing games in the classroom is an effective way to keep students engaged in their learning. When it comes to practising times table facts, there are many games that you can use with your whole class. I like Times Table Bingo, because it’s simple for students to understand the rules of and it allows them to use the strategies that they find most helpful for working out the times table facts.
Play Small Group Games
As well as running whole class games, small group games can be a fun and effective way to help students practise their times table skills. If you use maths centres in your class, this is a prime opportunity to have some centres that focus on times table skills. If maths centres aren’t a part of your classroom routine, you can still run small group activities for a few weeks as your students gain confidence with the times table facts. Below is an example of a game that I like called ‘Triple Trouble’, which helps students practise multiplying numbers by three.
Listen to Songs
Using songs for learning is such fun. Songs help children with memorisation through repetition. Plus, they build excitement about the topic you’re teaching! There are many, many songs available online that focus on times table facts. A simple search on Youtube will provide you with a wide range of options to choose from. Once students are familiar with a few songs, you could even try asking them to write some of their own!
Colour by Number
There’s just something about colour-by-numbers that gets kids instantly engaged. Maybe it’s the chance to colour in during class, or maybe it’s the code-breaking aspect of this activity, but it’s always been popular in my classroom. I use simple colour-by-number tasks like the one pictured below to help review students’ multiplication skills.
Make it Visual with Arrays
Like multiplication grids, arrays allow students to visualise their times table facts. Arrays are usually used with younger students, simply because it can become time consuming to draw arrays for larger times tables. Arrays involve creating a grid-like image of the times table fact of focus, as shown in the image below, and then counting all of the pictures to find the total. You can find a ready-made set of review pages using arrays here.
Make Timed Tests Part of Your Daily Routine
Timed tests can be an effective way to encourage your students to challenge themselves when it comes to recording times table facts. Each student can work to improve on their own personal best, and therefore can work at their own pace. It doesn’t take long to include a timed test routine as part of your daily or weekly schedule, and it gives students consistent opportunities to practise their multiplication skills.
Go Beyond 12 x 12
If you want to make sure that your students are truly confident with their times table facts, try encouraging them to go beyond 12 x 12. I find that going up to 15 x 15 is a great way to extend their multiplication skills that little bit further, and to make sure they understand how times tables work well enough to apply the concept to new equations. Thinking this sounds like a good idea but not sure where to start? I have a times table pack available for older primary students that focuses on the 10 to 15 times tables available here.
Track Students’ Success
It’s always important to celebrate achievements, and one way to help children stay motivated when learning their times table facts is to celebrate each mini milestone they reach. I like to use tracking charts to do this, like the one shown below. Celebrate each student and the progress they’re making, and you’ll be giving them the encouragement they need to keep working towards their goals.
So, there you have it. Teaching times tables can be fun and interesting after all! I hope that these ideas inspire you to try something new with your students. You can use the links to buy your own copies of the resources I’ve referenced.
Looking for more ideas for your maths lessons? You can read my tips for promoting problem solving skills in this blog post.