A month ago we were summering in Richmond Upon Thames, London and my two boys were spending a lot of time with the two boys downstairs. As they discussed the finer points of Pokemon Go in the garden below my window, I overheard the conversation below. This is a post about how we, as homeschoolers, learned times tables.
” You don’t go to school?”
“What’s six eights ?”
Boo replied ” I don’t know, but I know what six sixes are.”
Not a bad answer, but I wished I’d primed him.
We Didn’t Want to Memorise Times Tables
The correct answer would be something along the lines of, “As homeschoolers we are not required to memorise times tables like a parrot to regurgitate on cue with zero thought process. Just give me a second and I’ll work it out for you if you don’t know. Don’t you have a calculator on that phone if you’re stuck?”
And really, why do people ask homeschooling kids such dumb questions? A hairdresser once asked my son who the Queen of England was. Really? We’re British, she’s the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Not England. I said nothing just inwardly judged her. But back to homeschooling times tables.
Times tables are actually pretty simple if you do the maths rather than memorising them. I was forced into memorisation in school and never understood the things. They were something you had to produce on command, not think about and we all just accepted that.
From 3 or 4 years old we had to stand in class and chant. I didn’t know why. I just knew I had to memorise this song. That is not learning. It is not understanding
I’ve never really known my times tables nor needed them, despite being one of those people we were told absolutely needed to be proficient in maths. I was a professional scientist and I have a BSc in science. I’ve never needed to know what seven eights is in my entire life.
Let’s move forward a month. Little Boo and I have been plodding through this homeschool workbook, little by little. We just finished it and he now knows enough of the times tables to satisfy anyone because he understands the stupid things. I now know them better than I ever have in any point in my life too. And I finally understand them.
How We Learned Times Tables as Homeschoolers
This is the book we’ve used.
( affiliate link, it costs you nothing, we make a tiny commission.)
You just need to give the kids the tools to work them out.
2x is easy, doubles.
3x also easy, triples, just add it in your head.
4x is double doubles.
5x is half of what 10x would be.
9x is easy, each answer starts with a digit one less than the factor your multiplying by 9. The 2 digits add up to 9. Or subtract from 10x. Simple.
10x is easy, add a zero.
11x is super easy.
12x involves mental gymnastics with 6s or 10x plus 2x.
It’s only really 6,7 and 8 that gets a bit tricky. But if you know what 5x ,9x and 10x is and most kids remember that 6×6=36, it’s easy to count up or down in moments.
So we’re done, that’s times tables in the bag with no memorisation. He started on them at 10 years old and was done with them one month later.
Funny isn’t it, that the things schools push, like spelling lists or any sort of repetitive memorisation, are totally not necessary when kids get their education outside of institutions and at the age that suits them, not the system.
So we’re done now, off to Thailand for 6 weeks because travel is the best education. Schools out!
How do you handle times tables? Do you have to write a maths report or curriculum? Obviously there is no one right way to homeschool and different methods work for different kids. I can only tell you how my kids learned their times tables as homeschoolers and thankfully it worked.
I can also tell you that those ” Learn Your Times Tables To Music” CDs that we used to play in the car did not work at all. They made homeschooling suck. They were boring, awful and nap-inducing. Make homeschooling easier on everyone by keeping it fun for all involved. Scratch those CDs off your homeschool resources list!
UPDATE: Fast forward a couple of years to the high school years, homeschooling a 12 year old and young teen. Both kids are doing Khan Academy maths, neither have ever memorised times tables like a performing parrot. By assimilation and alchemy,they know a lot of the answers to multiplication questions, instantly. Both have just completed a full year of Khan maths in 2 weeks and found it easy. If they meet maths head on when they are older, it’s a lot easier for them than trying to force an immature brain to deal with it. And that’s our proven results, not supposition. We’re very pleased with how maths is going round here.
HELEN GWYN JONES says
I think I’ll have to get that book, A – for me! I was ok on times tables in Lower School but siting next to you in Miss Jenking’s class, her rapid fire quizzes frightened them out of me. Maths was never my thing because I’ve never understood it. My phone is my saviour when needed but I’d like to have a better working knowledge of simple arithmetic.
Alyson Long says
I’ve never known them Helen, because I never understood them. The 9x was a revelation when I figured it out a couple of years ago. I always thought I was really bad at maths but nobody ever explained it, we just did it ” because that’s the way it’s done”
I don’t homeschool – but you are not alone in thinking that memorising timestables isn’t important – the school my children attend don’t do them either 🙂 So there you are – it’s not just a homeschooling thing and it’s not weird!
Alyson Long says
Which country Isa? In the UK they have all sorts of rules about tables and what age they should be memorized by.
New Zealand. Most schools still do, but not ours. Although we have a school curriculum, schools are pretty much free to choose how that is delivered. We also have no homework, the new entrant area is play-based rather than structured, my 8 year old gets to play in the bush every Monday morning, no school speeches, and the stuff taught is based on whatever the child is passionate about. There are a few things I would change, but generally it’s a cool approach and much nicer than what I had as a kid!
Alyson Long says
Sounds like a huge improvement on what my son endured for a short period Isa. Go the kiwis!
Deanne Hancock says
We’ve moved away from memorization here in Canada too. My daughter is seven and is coming home with all these different strategies tricks for using numbers with real world problems. I recognize it as “pre-multiplication” type work but she doesn’t because they haven’t seen a times symbol yet. I’ve even learned a few things by looking at what she’s doing in class! Education sure has changed since my school days and it’s great to see.
Sally Jayne says
Or if you are a homeschooling kiddo with special needs, who is unable to conceptualize numbers regardless of any strategy used, learn how to use the calculator on your phone, like a boss, and move on with your life! 😉
Alyson Long says
Absolutely! And more power to you Sally Jane!