# Manipulatives for Teaching Times Tables

Times tables are the basic facts involved in every multiplication problem, regardless of how many digits are in each number. Knowing those tables not only aids in multiplication, but also it helps make division an easier process. Of course, the trick for most teachers is finding ways to help the students actually learn those tables. Grouping

Before you begin teaching your students times tables, be sure they understand grouping. Grouping is the foundation of multiplication. Without it, times tables are memorized facts that have little meaning. A student who has trouble memorizing times tables can still figure out a multiplication problem if they understand grouping.

Use egg carton math. Egg cartons are a wonderful way to teach grouping. Have students bring in egg cartons and some type of small objects. Objects could be buttons, beads, pom-poms, or even macaroni. Explain that the multiplication sign means “groups of,” as in 5 x 4 means “5 groups of 4.” Use the pockets of the egg cartons to hold groups. Give the students a simple problem, like 2 x 3, and show them how to make 2 groups of 3. They count the objects to answer the problem.

Be sure to show students that 2 groups of 3 and 3 groups of 2 are the same thing. This will help them understand that 2 x 3 and 3 x 2 are the same thing.

Making sure students understand groups and grouping will help when you begin teaching division. Dividing into groups will make sense.

Another method of teaching grouping can be done with a dice game. Divide students into pairs. Give each pair one die. The first person rolls the die. The number they roll is the number of circles they draw on their paper. If they roll 3, for example, they draw 3 circles. They roll the die a second time. The number they roll is how many dots they put in each circle. So, if they roll a 4, they put 4 dots in each circle. This gives them 3 groups of 4 dots. They count the dots, and that’s their score for the round. Each student plays 4 rounds. The highest score wins.

Times Tables

Once your students understand grouping, they are ready for times tables. While the old method of rote learning, repeating the tables over and over until they are memorized, can still be used, many students learn better if you use methods that engage their minds and the rest of their senses.

Play a memory matching game. Make a deck of cards with the problems being learned, such as the 3s from the multiplication table, and turn these face down on one side of the play area. Make a second deck of cards with the answers, and turn these face down on the other side of the play area. The student flips over a card from the problem side, then goes to the answer side and flips a card. If the answer is the right card, then both are left face up and the student gets another turn. If not, then both are turned back over and the next student gets a turn.

This game can be used in any size classroom. Just divide the students into teams and give each team the needed cards.

As the students learn more of the times table, problems and answers can have more variety, allowing them to practice more than one set at a time.

Word games. There are several types of word games that can help students learn times tables.

Rhymes – Try to rhyme the facts. “I’m sure there’s tricks to be plenty sure that 4 times 6 is 24.” Sure rhymes with 4, tricks rhymes with 6, and plenty sure rhymes with 24. Some facts rhyme on their own, like 6 times 8 is 48.

Mnemonics – Use stories to remember facts. “The family of 4 went to dinner at 8 on 32nd street.”

Cadence – A cadence is the rhythm that soldiers use when marching. The students can come up with their own for time tables. For example, “6 times 6 is 36, eating oysters makes me sick; 6 times 7 is 42, better stop and tie my shoe.” You can even have the students march around the classroom or the playground while reciting their cadence.

Times table bingo. This works like regular bingo, except the caller calls out multiplication problems instead of numbers. The students mark the space on their card that is the answer to the problem called. This is another game that grows as the students learn more tables, with more problems and answers being added as students progress.

As you are teaching times tables, remember to show students examples of how this information applies to the real world. Knowing how they will need this increases the student’s interest in learning. In addition, keep in mind that you are teaching them facts they will need for every math class they will ever have once they leave your classroom. Take the time to make sure the students understand. That is more important than whether you stick to a certain schedule. Most of all, have fun and let them have fun, too.

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