Multiplication.com is a classic. The site is packed with well-organized, brain-friendly content. And virtually all of it is free. There are five basic sections: student games, four blogs, student assessment and specific fact practice (LEARN), teacher resources for using stories and pictures to learn times tables (TEACH), and resources for teachers to purchase.
Let’s start with the teacher resources. Videos and step-by-step instructions describe the process of helping kids memorize times tables through a picture/story process. Alan Walker is a long-time educator (I would call him a “braniac!”) who created a language-based approach for memorizing times tables. His work was researched in the article: When Multiplication Facts Won’t Stick: Could a Language/Story Approach Work? I can’t describe this methodology better than the site:
- The system uses current brain research to maximize memory. It taps the underlying way the brain remembers. The brain’s cataloging system has a difficult time categorizing numbers because they are abstract. Yet pictures, being concrete, are relatively simple for the brain to store and retrieve effectively.
- Each number is represented by a picture (2 = shoe, 3 = tree, 4 = door). The answer is another picture based on the two pictures in the problem. It sounds confusing, but it is very easy.
- Here is a quick example. Let’s take 3 x 4 = 12.
- 3 = tree
- 4 = door
- 12 = elf
- When a student sees the problem 3 x 4 they ‘picture’ a tree (3) and a door (4). The answer will be a picture based on a tree and a door. The picture they remember for tree and door is elf. They visualize an elf (12) peeking from behind the door (4) in the tree (3).
Alan Walker also addresses the first question that has already popped into your head: Doesn’t this just confuse kids? His answer is obviously “no”; in fact, his own success with this program seems to be replicated by parents and teachers who use his method. I have used similar strategies successfully for helping students memorize “instant” words which cannot be sounded out.
The student games section is fantastic. There are multiplayer and single player games for addition and subtraction facts as well as multiplication. My all-time favorite for learning times tables is Sketch’s World. It’s a single player game with seven levels of play. Students may select their choice of facts to practice; they must complete ten correct responses to start a level. The game has catchy music, an adorable character, and dreaded erasers who may knock you out of action. One excellent feature is that the answers for each fact appear in the same place every time. That does not reduce the challenge of getting correct answers but does provide a visual cue for improved accuracy. Like all the games, the related curriculum standards are listed, along with clear directions for play.
Students select the facts they want to learn and then follow the sequence listed below, using Walker’s methodology. The section on blogs is equally robust. Four writers contribute ideas, resources, and abundant freebies for readers.
Finally, Walker’s materials are available for sale, with inexpensive downloads of student materials as well as additional teaching tips and activities. I am going to start Walker’s method next week with a student who has not been able to memorize ANY facts in over a year’s time. I will keep you posted!