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Multiplication tables -- alternatives to flash cards

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
X-posted in learning at school
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Dd's math teacher has requested that all students purchase/have flash cards for multiplication and division and that they review them as often as possible. While dd is doing well with the school work and homework, understands both math functions and always gets 100% on the tests, she isn't particularly speedy in completing the problems b/c she doesn't have all of the times tables memorized. I believe that the reason for the flash cards is to develop automatic recall of the times tables. (Dd is in 3rd grade, btw).

I have to admit that I don't like flash cards and dd has a real block about them after a bad experience in first grade with a teacher who insisted that kids review sight word flash cards and addition facts flash cards (hundreds of cards btwn math and words) every night and required the kids to sign a contract agreeing to do so or she would keep them in at recess if they refused to sign it. Even if they knew all of the info, they were required to continue reviewing the same flash cards every night. Anyways, that's another story.

I am wondering if any of you know of any different ways of memorizing the times tables for a child who doesn't necessarily learn well with flash cards and who shuts down with excessive repetition. As it is, she has over 400 math problems to do each week (the packet comes home on Monday and is due on Friday). I am loath to add more repetitive work on top of that. Dd is amazing at seeing abstract connections btwn items and is very visual but is not someone who does well when asked to just sit there and memorize a series of random facts. She needs to see the overall connection or pattern, not just memorize unrelated facts.

Thank you :-)
post #2 of 26
Quarter Mile math, Times Tales (story based way to memorize facts), Rainbow Rock (Singapore math), Wrap Ups
post #3 of 26
We use MathBlaster Ages 7-9 (computer program) and RightStart games. We almost got a Flashmaster, or a Math Shark, but they're basically just electronic flash cards... though some kids seem to like them.

Oh, and multiplication.com.
post #4 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Terabith View Post
Times Tales (story based way to memorize facts),
I really like the idea of this. In the Oak Meadow curriculum I read some stories to teach multiplication tables and they were exactly the sort of thing that would have really helped me as a kid. I've also read the suggestion to include a physical element that might be jump roping to a rhyme, tossing a ball back and forth while quizzing each other on the tables, etc. My guess is if this child hasn't learned well with flash cards and worksheets up to this point, adding a verbal or physical element might help.
post #5 of 26
And ya know, sometimes no matter how much a teacher wants to force the math facts into their brains, they won't stick, because they're totally boring to the child. And no amount of fancy dressup or songs will make it stick. If she really wanted to learn it, she would.

(speaking as one who knows)

There are alternate strategies - i.e. for the 9x tables, I do 10x and subtract the number. It's not superfast, but I don't seem to suffer as a social pariah for not knowing my times tables automatically. Here is an example for the 12s: http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/64565.html

How about making her a printed-out multiplication chart to help with speed while doing homework. Perhaps with more exposure (i.e. looking up 5x5 so many times) she will remember. That is a whole lotta homework. Could the teacher do a trade off with you - less problems, but more indepth analysis?
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
She does know the 1s (of course), 2s, 3s, 5s, 9s, and 10s quickly and easily. She really isn't having trouble learning them; the teacher has just started asking that the kids commit the whole times tables to memory and I am trying to head off this turning into a misery b/c I can already see that she is going to be pretty unhappy if I start drilling her with flash cards every night.

I'm not opposed to her knowing the other #s by heart, but I'd rather she not know them automatically and also not feel badly about math rather than commit it to memory and have it turn into something she hates. The teacher is not very open to the idea of reducing the homework for one kid. She did agree to this once earlier in the year, but then marked dd down for every problem that she didn't do (despite saying that she didn't need to do them all). I'd honestly rather do some of her homework for her myself and I may do so if I can find a better way for her to learn the facts than lots of homework.

I'm thinking that we (dd#1, the kiddo in question here, and dd#2, her younger sister, and myself) may just sit on the wood floors with a bouncy ball and practice bouncing it to each other while skip counting -- I bounce it to dd#1 and say "3," she bounces it to dd#2 and says "6," dd#2 bounces it to me and says "9," etc. That may be more worthwhile, not to mention, fun than tons of flashcards or written problems.
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Dd is amazing at seeing abstract connections btwn items and is very visual but is not someone who does well when asked to just sit there and memorize a series of random facts. She needs to see the overall connection or pattern, not just memorize unrelated facts.
A couple of things come to mind. You could try giving her a multiplication chart to use, with numbers 1-10 across the top and down the side, with the products filled in. Lots of connections to be made there and patterns to notice, seeing all of those products together in a symmetrical space.

Another idea is to show her visual representations of numbers using dots or something similar arranged in two rows of three (for 2x3.) Playing cards are useful in that they have numbers arranged visually in this way, and you can also play with them! I play multiplication war with one of my students, (I tutor math) which is similar to normal war, but each player lays down 2 cards and finds their product. Highest (or lowest) product wins. This makes it fun and takes the focus off of learning and rote memorization, but provides repetition.
Quote:
While dd is doing well with the school work and homework, understands both math functions and always gets 100% on the tests, she isn't particularly speedy in completing the problems b/c she doesn't have all of the times tables memorized.
I also think that if she can figure out multiplication without having them memorized, because she understands the concept, she's going to do great in math if everyone allows her to learn it in the way that's best for her.

Memorization is not math. Understanding the concepts (especially the basic mathematical concepts, which are often far more complex than higher mathematical concepts,) being able to problem solve and thinking in a logical and analytical way...these are the real tools of math, and your daughter is using REAL math when she's figuring out the answer rather than recalling a memorized fact.
post #8 of 26
I actually memorized the times tables by reading one of those big tables with 1-12 on it. It was a lot easier for me than flash cards, which involved more manual dexterity than I was comfortable with.

Other than that, the only way that I can think of to memorize multiplication facts is to work with them oftem, so that they become automatic. You can memorize the quadratic formula all you like, but until you start solving problems with it again and again, it's going to be utterly meaningless. Eventually, though, it will become second nature just to write it all down. When I see four groups of three, I don't think "3 X 4 = 12," I see and think "12" and divide it up afterwards-- 4 by 3, 3, by 4, 2 by 6 and 6 by 2. It's sort of like the difference between learning to read phonetically and actually reading fluently (sans decoding). It morphs into something different.

If she's getting 100% on the tests, though, what does it really matter that she hasn't memorized the times tables? She understands the concepts of multiplication, and that's what's important.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy View Post
IIf she's getting 100% on the tests, though, what does it really matter that she hasn't memorized the times tables? She understands the concepts of multiplication, and that's what's important.
This made me laugh ! I have said that same thing in different ways more times than I can count -- 'if she already knows how to read, what is the purpose of making her review sight word flash cards,' 'if she knows how to spell the words, why does she have to write each word 10 times, etc.' 'if she's met the learning objective what is the point of practicing _____'

Most teachers don't seem to agree with me unfortunately. There is so much focus on the process that the means seem to matter more than the end.
post #10 of 26
I remember as a child I really liked making my own chart. My dad had brought home graph paper from work for me (not for this purpose, but just for me to have fun with) and I filled in all the squares with the tables 1-12.

I was able to see all the connections between the numbers, and I have to confess that I don't think I ever memorized them, but I'm still quick with them because I understand those connections. Just things like seeing for myself that all the results for the 9 tables actually add up to 9 (27, 36, 45, etc.) really interested me, and make it easy for me to compute the answer when necessary.

Anyway, other posters have suggested this already, but I wanted to add my experience with it - since I think it's a really good alternative to flash cards.
post #11 of 26
Oh yeah! I STILL have that big grid from the front of my third grade classroom burned in my memory...whenever I need to recall a figure from the "TABLE" between 1 and 12 I just go to that image in my mind.

I always hated the times tables because it felt really stupid to me as well...I mean how many times in a average day do I REALLY need to know how much 11X12 is in 0.002 seconds? Never!

Anyway...I was thinking maybe a shopping spree would help...that is probably when I do my most math, at the grocery store...I look at my ever-brimming basket and think....hmmmm 3X$5 + 4X$1.20 (which is really 4 times 12 isn't it?) + 6 x $0.90...and then I add it all up in my head before I get to the register to make sure I haven't over spent.

So...maybe you could set up a play super market in your house and get her to estimate the bill depending on how many of each item she has bought. You could give her different shopping lists and she could go from stall to stall figuring out the prices of each item...six eggs at 12 cents, seven apples at 3 cents each, 11 pencils 9 cents each...you get the drift. If she writes the prices down in a little budget book (you can get graph paper notebooks at most school supplies stores I think) she could maybe more easily recall...six eggs at 12 cents each equals 72 cents, etc.

Maybe if she sees the connection to a real life skill, it would help her not only recall it for the robot-like...errrr I mean rote-like teacher and the quizzes, but also help her to RETAIN the skill...without some horrid mathematical grid haunting her the rest of her life.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
Just things like seeing for myself that all the results for the 9 tables actually add up to 9 (27, 36, 45, etc.) really interested me, and make it easy for me to compute the answer when necessary.
I always used (and sometimes still do) the finger trick for 9 times tables...you know, hold all ten out in front of you, fold down the number you want to multiply by 9 and all those numbers to the left represent 10s and all those to the right represent 1s...

I always felt a little like it was cheating and would hide my fingers under my desk during the tests.
post #13 of 26
When I taught 2nd grade, we used to have some "Schoolhouse Rock" cds that kind of rapped the math facts in a catchy, rhyming way. The students loved listening to them and learned them quickly and accurately.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy View Post
If she's getting 100% on the tests, though, what does it really matter that she hasn't memorized the times tables? She understands the concepts of multiplication, and that's what's important.
I agree as long as she's comfortable with multiplying (and other basic math functions). She might be computing the right answer but taking a lot of time (and stress) to do so.

I've found that these skills are actually used throughout life a lot more than people seem to give credit for - I know this because my DH never memorized or even understood the multiplication tables (seriously... he would use a calculator to calculate even 1 x 4), and he completely freezes up with everyday concepts (such as figuring out what the best deal is at a grocery store). If DD is having a meltdown at a restaurant, I can't leave and let DH deal with the check since he would be so stressed figuring out the tip. Fact is, my DH is a really smart guy - and even understands the concepts behind advanced math (statistics, for example) - but completely shuts down if he's asked to compute ANYTHING. The man can't even add $4.23 plus $1.00 - not because he doesn't have it in him, but because it's so stressful to be asked to compute something, he can't even begin it.

Anyway, that's my biased view of why comfort with basic computations (not necessarily memorization... but at least near to it) is so important.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

Anyway, that's my biased view of why comfort with basic computations (not necessarily memorization... but at least near to it) is so important.
I agree, it is important. The problem is that you can't force a person to be comfortable with it, and even less so by insisting upon high-stakes "immediate" time-constrained computation. That's what always made me freeze up - the timed tests and pressure. The drill tests and homework. I hated it. Thankfully, real life is pretty much not like school at all...

Maybe your husband could read a little Marilyn Burns math theory to reacquaint himself with the pleasures of computation, arithmetic, and theoretical math. It helped me immensely. She also says the multiplication tables are important, but that there are many ways to learn them without drilling or stress.
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingspaghettimama View Post
I agree, it is important. The problem is that you can't force a person to be comfortable with it, and even less so by insisting upon high-stakes "immediate" time-constrained computation. That's what always made me freeze up - the timed tests and pressure. The drill tests and homework. I hated it. Thankfully, real life is pretty much not like school at all...

Maybe your husband could read a little Marilyn Burns math theory to reacquaint himself with the pleasures of computation, arithmetic, and theoretical math. It helped me immensely. She also says the multiplication tables are important, but that there are many ways to learn them without drilling or stress.
Oh, you're absolutely right, I think that trying to get my DH to memorize, and drill, and do timed tests is completely the reason why it messed him up. He absolutely HATES that stuff.

I just meant that helping a child to be comfortable with that stuff - truly comfortable in their OWN way, not through drilling and that crap (unless that's how they like learning...) - is important.

But I would definitely drop an issue like that rather than push it (since it's better to be a little hazy on multiplication tables than to hate them with a passion) - but hopefully there's a happy medium somewhere, that nobody bothered to try with my DH when he was a kid.

I think my DH is a lost cause on math, BTW, or I'd even try different things like the book you suggested. He's completely shut down and not interested, and we've already worked out ways for him to compensate (that is, I protect him from needing math).
post #17 of 26
DefinitelyFSM...I mean when's the last time anyone shouted at you while pointing accusingly..."SIX TIMES 13!?" and rolled their eyes disapprovingly when you accidently blurted out the answer for six time 12 instead?

ummmm lemme think lemme think...Oh yeah...Third grade!

It is really a weird thing to do to people. I never understood the need for math to be so rotely memorized...why the big rush? Why the deep desire to have such figures and computations at the tip of one's tongue, and why the rewarding pats on the head and smiles and congratulations for those who didn't get flustered by the red faced math teacher ferociously demanding the product of 4 times 9 as if the safety of the world was hanging in that nano-second between her asking you responding with the correct answer. Congratulations, you will never have to worry if you only have a solar calculator on a cloudy day. You are a human computer...good job!

Those must have been the most ill-gotten stickers in my 3rd grade albums.

What, in the future there won't be pens and pencils and we'll have to do arithmetic in our heads at light speed or risk being cheated by vendors or stiffing waitresses the rest of our days?

And they wonder why Barbie thinks "math is hard"...her fingers don't even separate for easy counting!:
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by hakeber View Post
And they wonder why Barbie thinks "math is hard"...her fingers don't even separate for easy counting!:

post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristaN View Post
Most teachers don't seem to agree with me unfortunately. There is so much focus on the process that the means seem to matter more than the end.
Reason #742 gifted children do poorly in school, right there. :

As to figuring out the best deal at the grocery store... around here, most stores have eliminated the need for math. The price tags have little orange squares that have the unit prices on them; so, brand X costs y, and then a unit price of a per ounce (or whatever), so comparing the price per ounce/pound/etc is easier than ever. All you have to do is read the numbers. :
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy View Post

As to figuring out the best deal at the grocery store... around here, most stores have eliminated the need for math. The price tags have little orange squares that have the unit prices on them; so, brand X costs y, and then a unit price of a per ounce (or whatever), so comparing the price per ounce/pound/etc is easier than ever. All you have to do is read the numbers. :
Sure but have you ever noticed how sometimes they change up the unit measurement amongst the same products just to mess with you...like one brand will be measured in units of Liters, and the next brand will be units of milliliters. Grams here, ounces there.

It's down right sneaky!

But anyway, that involves long division...they tackle that in 4TH grade, right?
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