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Monday, April 25, 2011

School Bell: Pesky Multiplication Facts

Do you have a child still struggling to learn those blasted multiplication tables before the end of the year?  Maybe your child is just  beginning to learn the tables. Maybe they are stuck on one or two of the sets, like the 7s or the 6s. Here is a tip that is not a cure, but IS a good way to sneak in some extra practice AND some extra togetherness in a fun, enjoyable way.

For beginners or to make it easier start with just the facts tables for 1-3. Go to a local craft store and buy two small wooden cubes [about 25¢ each]. Number each of the six sides with 1, 2, or 3, making a pair of 1-3 dice. 

Pick out your child's favorite board game.  Pick one with a long trail [like Parcheesi, Sorry, etc.]. Announce that this time when you roll the dice you won't move the total of the two dice, but the product of the two dice. 

So what would have been a move of 6 spaces can change into a move of 8 [2x4], 9 [3x3] or only 5 [5x1]. At first it may slow down the turns a bit while the child figures the math, they will move around the board faster too.  For real beginners you can make the move in sets [2x4 means moving 4 twice] to discover the total move [in that case 8], or allow a multiplication table or calculator. If you have only a bit of time, choose any trail game, disregard all other rules, and just see who is first to get one playing piece all the way around the board and back to the start. 

For intermediates use facts tables for 1-6. Use a pair of regular 1-6 dot dice and multiply the two numbers of each roll. Skip all the other rules and sidetracks and just make it a race once or twice around the board.  The range of random dice rolls that cam mean moving anywhere from 1 space [1x1] to 36 [6x6] will keep it moving and exciting. And, when a roll that might have been 12 [6+6] becomes a whopping 36 [6x6] it is always anyone's game to "win." 

To make it harder use one 1-6 die and one of your 1-3 dice so that the game will review the facts tables from 1-9. 

If you have a real math whiz, you can even challenge them to use both 1-6 dice and roll them twice for each turn [one for the first number and one for the second] so that they learn the mental math for 1-12 multiplication! For the not-so-whiz maybe you allow a calculator for the 11s and 12s. 

If you are targeting a specific table [like the 7s or 9s or whatever the child is stuck on] focus on just that table. Roll the dice only once and multiply that by the number you are practicing.

Remember, these are not magic cures, but they usually offer more practice, and happier shared time than flashcard drills.  

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