Mnemonic helps for multiplication tables?

Someone once wrote to me,
...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. Say you have a phone number; you divide it to 2-digit numbers. Or maybe you remember it has successive numbers, or doubles, etc.

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

Concerning Times Tales: it is a fine program in itself. It associates a silly story and a picture with each "difficult" upper times tables fact. For an example, let's say you will ask 8 x 7 a child who has successfully used Times Tales. In his mind he will suddenly see the silly picture of lady Eight and the character Seven driving in a car, and he will remember "It's 56" based on the storyline that they're going over the speed limit, which is 55 mph.

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

Now, Times Tales may not work for children who don't easily remember the silly stories, and then it can cause frustration. Also, some children simply may not enjoy the silly stories.

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.

Also, I do believe that learning the multiplication tables both "forwards and backwards" at the same time is BETTER than learning the tables with mnemonic helps. That is the approach I explain in this article of mine on the multiplication tables.
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