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 this conversation.
” 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.
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?”
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.
I’ve never really known them nor needed them, despite being one of those people we were told absolutely needed to be proficient. I was a professional scientist. I’ve never needed to know what seven eights is in my entire life.
Lets move forward a month. Little Boo and I have been plodding through this 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.
This is the book we’ve used.
Collins Times Tables Bumper Book ( 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. Schools out!
How do you handle times tables?
UPDATE: Fast forward a couple of years. Both kids are doing Khan Academy maths, neither have ever memorised times tables like a performing parrot. Both, by assimilation and alchemy, 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 that 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.