Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, your 2nd or 3rd grader will begin to learn times tables. Some naturally take to multiplication, while others struggle with the concept. Frequently, teachers depend upon parents to reinforce and help children practice these skills at home.
Learning times tables is important. It is rather like learning to walk before running. Running builds on what one already knows about walking, incorporating the ideas of balance, weight shifting and moving the feet forward. From the moment these tables begin to be taught, multiplication and division material are incorporated frequently in mathematics. It is pretty hard to perform two-digit multiplication, unless you can understand and know how to perform single digit multiplication. The ability to easily perform multiplication also is the building block for learning division. A child without good multiplication skills will be stumped when long division makes its appearance in 4th or 5th grade.
Essentially then, learning one’s times tables prepares one for performing the more difficult tasks ahead in more advanced math. Failing to really grasp and have memorized at least the times tables from 1-10, will make future math much harder than it needs to be.
As well as the application of times tables in schools, we often use multiplication in our lives. We might need it to double the recipe of a cake, figure out the discount on a sale item, or decide how many tables we need for a sit down party. The ease with which this can be accomplished for someone who knows their multiplication is far better than the person who must sit down and really think this through; these simple jobs can be performed with rapidity and waste less of our time.
Of course, these arguments may not wash with a child having difficulty learning times tables. In some cases, inability to memorize may suggest learning difficulties. If you have consistently worked with a child to help them memorize multiplication facts and they still can’t, it’s a good idea to have a talk with the teacher about possible testing for learning challenges or disabilities. Another thing to keep in mind, when supporting your child in their education is that negative emotions reduce learning. Stress, conflict, or anxiety can actually prevent new information from being memorized. For this reason, it is important to support your child rather than chastize them, and encourage them rather than criticize.
Some children respond to games that incorporate multiplication. These can also be bonding moments with a child rather than a struggle to get the child to learn. Some teachers suggest times tables war. Instead of laying down one card, the players each lay down two. The highest product takes all the cards. Another fun and easy way to practice is to have a child roll two dice, and calculate the product of the numbers that come up. Other children enjoy the many software programs that help with times tables memorization, often aided by cute animals or favorite TV characters. Of course, there are also old-fashoned flash cards, that can be used alone or in company to reinforce and memorize multiplication facts.