There are lots of ways to teach times tables to your students. The best approach is one that engages them and doesn’t drown kids in mind-numbing repetition.
Teaching multiplication can be very time-consuming, and if you feel like you’re constantly drilling students and getting nowhere, don’t give up!
Take a deep breath. You’re not alone!
In this article, I’ll share why helping students memorize their tables is worth it. I’ll also explain why multiplication games are the new math worksheets that can help you fast track student progress and boost their motivation at the same time.
Why learning times tables is important
As a math teacher, you may be forgiven for asking yourself why you put so much effort into learning tables. Surely they’re not that important right?
Yes and no.
Learning math like building a house. The basic concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are the foundational building blocks that enable students to problem-solve and build more complicated mathematical skills.
Later on, when a student is faced with more complicated equations or algebraic expressions, they have more brain-space to devote to problem-solving if they have memorized their multiplication facts.
So while you could argue that memorization isn’t technically necessary, if a student has to double-check the correct answer for every multiplication along the way, it makes everything that much harder.
Imagine if a builder had to check each brick before they laid them, just because they weren’t quite sure if they were all the same size!? What a nightmare.
Multiplication is a critical math concept, as it underpins other math skills such as division, fractions, decimals, and algebra. Indeed, some schools see multiplication skills as so vital that they teach them all year long!
How can you teach multiplication quicker?
Memorizing multiplication facts is simply a matter of repetition and motivation. From chanting, to songs, to flashcards, to games – memorization strategies abound.
Not all multiplication practice methods are created equal though, and if you remember one thing, remember this – rewards are your secret weapon!
I still remember back when I was in middle school and my dad offered me a small amount of money, a book, and a magic trick if I memorized my times tables.
I had them pretty well nailed down within a month or two, I wanted to know how to do that trick so badly!
An extrinsic reward strategy like this is totally acceptable at this young age, as it’s very hard for young students to appreciate just how helpful it is to have times tables memorized.
Back then, it was all about the reward, but now looking back as an adult I am SO glad he made a point of challenging me in learning multiplication. Knowing my tables has turned out to be incredibly useful as an adult (even more so for me perhaps because I design board games!).
So rewards are effective, but if you’re a teacher of 30 kids though, you might not be able to afford money and books for every kid in your class! This is where game-based learning comes into play, because good games function as rewards!
How can a math game help students learn times tables?
Game-based learning is the most fun way to present multiplication problems, particularly for disengaged students.
Students also love it when teachers try new and creative ways to teach a concept.
While multiplication flashcards are probably the quickest way to learn (for a motivated student), they can also become very dry, and probably won’t appeal to most students.
The problem with tools like flashcards or methods like rote-learning is that the multiplication activity simply becomes too much of a chore.
On the other hand, well-designed multiplication games provide students with an engaging learning environment in which to practice their multiplication facts. It’s all about repetition, but if students actually WANT to do it, it makes all the difference!
What are the best multiplication games?
Overall, math games tend to be either dry work or fun and frothy. In other words, they tend to be not much fun or not much math!
Work and fun is a very tricky balance to get right, so it’s definitely worth trying out a few different resources and seeing which one your students connect with most.
Because so many teachers are doing distance learning, the most useful math lesson will tend to be online nowadays.
You want to look for digital math games that balance work and reward properly. There are lots of math activities online, but they tend to be a very mixed bag – there aren’t many games out there that challenge kids in a fun way.
A great starting point would be to collect some rewards to get your students motivated (or brush up on your magic trick skills!?) and then check out one of these free online math games:
On the other hand, if your students are not super engaged (or you can’t source rewards for all of them!) you might like to try our Math Maze puzzle games!
Each Maze is a fun math game that contains mind-mashing mazes filled with multiplication facts for every single multiplication table (from 1 to 12), as well as mixed times tables packs for helping students put all their knowledge together.
Play Math Maze 2 for FREE!
🧝♀️ Perfect for the classroom, home or distance learning!
Why are Math Maze puzzles effective?
It’s all about the challenge. As an educational game, Math Maze is the ultimate math practice in disguise, because each game is packaged as a series of challenges that get hard. Super hard!
Each maze pack guides your students through increasingly challenging mazes that get harder as they go. This means each puzzle is a bit like a magic trick – students want to know how to solve each one.
Each maze pack guides your students through increasingly challenging mazes that get harder as they go.
This means each puzzle is a bit like a magic trick – students want to know how to solve each one.
Of course, – and here’s where the magic happens – the only way they’re going to solve the puzzles is by practicing times tables.
Over and over.
They learn multiplication facts along the way, as they are trying to solve each maze.
Perhaps the best thing about Math Maze is that it’s an online game, which makes it the perfect alternative to a worksheet for distance learning.
If you’re familiar with BOOM cards, each game is basically a digital worksheet (with included audio narration!) that grades itself automatically.
You simply send students a link and then they’re good to go.
We’ve aligned the Mazes to the curriculum, so all you need to do is pick the one that’s appropriate for your class, and then each student can focus on a math problem that is suitable for their grade level.
So where does that leave us?
Multiplication is a critical math skill because it underpins the harder math that students learn later on.
There are also lots of different ways to teach them to students, but super effective strategies often involve some kind of reward (particularly if a student isn’t self-motivated yet).
If you are looking for a rewarding way to reinforce multiplication facts, online math games are a great place to start. A fun game can give your students a reason to practice skills while also giving teachers flexibility – you could use an online multiplication game to consolidate a skill in distance education, as a passion project for a fast finisher, or as a fun homework task.
So if you’re a math teacher wanting to help struggling students or you just want a new to teach multiplication this year, why not give multiplication games a try?
Thanks for reading!
How did you learn your times tables? What effective strategies have you found as a teacher?
Let me know in the comments below!