Learning multiplication facts can be very difficult for many children, and can pose a problem for parents trying to help them learn, who may have forgotten how they themselves learned. Nonetheless, a firm understanding of multiplication facts is crucial to a child’s ability to easily pick up later math skills which will build on these foundations.
There are many different techniques to teach multiplication facts, and it should be kept in mind that none are intended to be a catch-all approach. Different children learn in different ways, and what might seem easy to one child can be very difficult for another. One of the most important things you can do to help teach your child multiplication facts is to remain encouraging and open throughout the process. If one technique doesn’t seem to be working, experiment with others until you find something that clicks with your child.
One of the classic ways to begin to teach multiplication facts is to draw up a simple multiplication table. This gives your child an easy visual aid, and something to study to look for patterns. Most people have seen a multiplication table at some point, but if you haven’t, it’s quite simple to make one. First make a grid, then write each number from one to whatever you are going up to — ten or twelve are good numbers to start with — along the top, and then do the same down the left side. Now write the products of each combination along the axis. So in the 2s row, for example, you would have 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24. This table will be a valuable resource for your child, and having them actually write it out themselves with your assistance may help them further, as writing things down aids many people in retaining information.
Another way to teach multiplication facts is to treat each row of that multiplication table as an entire set in and of itself. People often refer to this technique as “count skipping”, and it can be a great way for your child to familiarize themselves with multiples in more manageable chunks. For example, learning the 5s row would be a matter of learning the numbers 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. So rather than tackling the entire table, your child would first learn that 5 x 5 is 25, and that 5 x 8 is 40, and so on for each product.
These sorts of sets can be set to a tune, for an even more effective way to teach multiplication facts. Schoolhouse Rock has a popular multiplication song, but you can feel free to come up with your own tune to set the times tables to. Many children find things set to music are much easier to remember than things learned by reading or hearing as normal words. A tune gives the information a context for the child to grasp on to when trying to remember, and can be that extra boost the child needs for their multiplication facts to click into place.
Analyzing patterns and looking for interesting shortcuts is another good tactic for learning multiplication facts. Many children find learning their multiples of five particularly easy, because they alternate ending in a five and a zero. Others like multiples of elevens, since they are very common-sense for smaller numbers, being so closely related to multiples of ten. Understanding that multiples of nine increase by one in the ten’s place and decrease by one in the one’s place each column of the times table is another example of this sort of pattern finding. There are many, many small patterns like this, and encouraging your child to play with their multiplication table to find out some on their own can work wonders in learning multiplication facts.
The most important thing is to not give up. Everyone learns as their own pace, and in their own way. Although your child may struggle for a time, if you persevere and continue working to find the appropriate technique to teach them, the day will come when they have that first big breakthrough, and from then on things will seem to flow much more easily, and before you know it they will have a great understanding of basic multiplication facts.