May 16, 2007

Mnemonic helps for multiplication tables?

...regarding my third grader. We are still slogging through learning the times tables. To liven it up, I decided to order Times Tales (I ordered the deluxe version that includes division as well).

I have read different opinions about using mnemonic devices to learn math facts. Some say that mnemonic devices actually slow the student down, and one even went as far to say it was like counting on fingers. I don't want to use Times Tales if it's going to slow her down, and I do want to make sure she knows her math facts cold.

I, myself, remember I didn't know 8x8=64 in seventh grade, and I just figured it in my head, 8+8=16, 16+16=32, 32+32=64 -- 8x8=64. I did this until I realized how slow I was and decided to commit the facts I didn't know to memory. What do you think about Times Tales and other "helps" for math facts?


Mnemonic helps in themselves are not bad. We use them all the time, in everyday life situations. You have a phone number, you divide it to 2-digit numbers, maybe remember it has successive numbers, or doubles, etc.

I once memorized a certain 4-digit pin number by dividing it to two 2-digit numbers, and remembering that the latter was 9 less than the first... but after a while I remembered it without that.

On Times Tales. It's a fine program in itself. It associates a silly story and picture with each "difficult" upper times tables fact. You've probably seen samples. I don't think it is going to hinder... Basically, if it works for your kid, let's say you will show 8 x 7 to your your kid. He will see 8 x 7 and suddenly also see the silly picture of lady eight and the character 7 driving in a car, in his mind, and remember "It's 56."

It's not too much different from using a rhyme such as "5, 6, 7, 8, fifty-six is seven times 8."

Such a program can be a confidence booster as well.

Now, for some kids it doesn't work because they don't easily remember silly stories, and then it can cause frustration. Or, they're older and don't enjoy the silly stories anymore.

All these "helps" are fine in their place, but you have to be sensitive to your child so that the mnemonic "help" does not end up being an additional burden in itself... such as if the child cannot easily remember the stories or the song or whatever the "help" is.

So it's totally up to you. Try it first with the free sample they offer on their website... and see how your child reacts.

That program is an additional resource of course, and doesn't replace studying multiplication concept itself.
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