Ho Math Chess Research and Articles > How to Teach Times Table (Multiplication Table or Facts)

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24 Jan 2008

How to Teach Times Table (Multiplication Table or Facts)

Frank Ho, Amanda Yang

Teachers at Ho Math and Chess


Recently we were studying the effect of teaching methods of times table on children's math ability a few years later after they have been taught. The reason is some teaching methods may appear very effective in teaching times table at the time when the children are learning but what happens after 2 or 3 years later? We have a few cases of which our former students learned basic computing skills through abacus but ended not use it at all a few years later because they did not continue use the technique they learned and also their day schools did not teach abacus. One boy is grade 5 and learned multiplication facts at grade 3 using fingers technique but had hard time to work backwards and do reverse thinking types of questions.

There are many different ways of teaching multiplications facts. For examples, see the following. Working as an international education franchiser, how do we come up with a teaching method which not only teaches times table to children with no pain but it also must be fun to do? We think we have found the solution and will explain later in this article. There are many ways of teaching times table and here are a few of them:

  • Use rhyme sentence, but not every one speaks the same language in the world, so this is not an universal way.
  • Use computer-based games but many children and schools can no afford hardware and software.
  • Use songs. Again not every one in the world speaks the same language.
  • Memorize it. This works for some children, but it is stressful for those children who can not remember easily and rote memorizing also boring.
  • Use finger method. This is almost like to use an external instrument to help children do the computing while we discourage primary students to use calculator. This also seems to be the source of problem that some children later can not do reverse calculations or the calculation speed is very slow in coming up with answers, gradually theses children lose their confidence. They can use fingers to do straight 2 times 3 computing etc. questions but ask them how many different sets of what 2 numbers multiplied together to get 6 then they have trouble to come up with answers.
  • Skip counting method is good in explaining concepts but ask children to use this sequential method to do multiplication all the time is not as powerful as the indexed method that is children are able to come up with answers immediately without doing sequential counting. Children having the multiplication facts stored in the memory and are able to tell answers directly (indexed retrieval of multiplication facts) much more confident than those children who rely on sequential retrieval method (skip counting).
  • Use tips or tricks. Again it is a good idea to use it for explaining concept but the indirect retrieval information and recall is much slower than the direct or indexed retrieval system.

    From our experience, we can use many different kinds of manipulative to help or to teach concepts but the bottom line is that students still need to work on math using pencil and paper and need to use the indexed method to retrieve the multiplication facts stored in the brain to do multiplication quickly and confidently without obvious hesitation. Only when this is achieved will they able to do problems, which require reversing thinking very well. Questions such as division, finding factors of 64, finding GCF or LCM, what 2 numbers adding together is 11 but multiplied together is 30, simplifying fractions, converting mixed fraction to improper fraction, cross multiplication etc. will become easier for those who have mastered the multiplication facts instead of relying on fingers to do the job.

    The problem with the tradition multiplication facts practice worksheet is they only provide the opportunity to drill on multiplication facts without providing opportunity to work on the interrelation between other operations such as addition, subtraction, or division. Without these interrelated and mixed operations provided while children are learning multiplication facts, they are not able to be assessed how effective the teaching method is. The other problem is the traditional multiplication worksheets provide no mental arithmetic training other than boring drill. The biggest headache that children encounter is that the traditional multiplication facts practice worksheets are boring with no fun. Children learn best when they have fun in learning.

    Being an international education franchise dedicated to teaching children math through fun-based game strategy, Ho Math and Chess has successfully integrated chess into math and created pencil and paper worksheets and they are fun to work with than the traditional worksheets. These worksheets teach children multiplication facts with no pain, no computer required and children like them because they are fun to work with. Old children who have not mastered the multiplication facts feel embarrassed when asked to work on the same worksheets which lower grades students are working so what to do with these old children who have not mastered the basics? Ho Math and Chess created High Power worksheets for old children to have another chance to master their missed opportunity and raised their math ability in a very short time, these worksheets also train children's mental computing ability. Ho Math and Chess worksheets do not provide training for all aspects of intelligence but definitely is strong in training children's intelligence in the following areas:

    1. Symbolic language (Linguistic)

    Children enjoy writing and reading Symbolic Chess Language and or doing chess and math integrated puzzles.

    2. Logical-Mathematical

    Children interested in patterns, sorting, classifying, matching, table-lookup and relationships between numerals.

    3. Spatial

    Children are fascinated with chess or chess mazes or puzzles.

    4. Interpersonal

    Children communicate to each other when playing chess.

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  • Frank Ho, Amanda Yang