Times Tables—Do Kids Still Need to Learn Them?

Learning times tables is key to your child’s success in math. As students learn the multiplication tables, they will begin to recognize patterns, be able to handle more complex problems, and develop confidence during math lessons. As confidence in math class grows, it often spills into other aspects of a student’s life.

Though there are proven benefits to learning multiplication facts and many states require that kids learn the times tables, many educators still debate the value of memorizing multiplication facts.

Stanford University’s Jo Boaler, for instance, says teachers and parents should stop using math flash cards, stop drilling kids in addition and multiplication and especially stop forcing students to do calculations quickly under time pressure. According to Boaler, drilling without understanding is harmful.

“I’m not saying that math facts aren’t important. I’m saying that math facts are best learned when we understand them and use them in different situations.” 

In her 2015 paper, “Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts,” Boaler argues that many common math teaching tools — flash cards, math sprints and repetitive worksheets  — are not only unhelpful, but also “damaging.” 

Reducing Math Anxiety

There’s no question rote memorization and timed tests can fuel math anxiety. Nobody learns well under pressure.

Nonetheless, times tables are still a critical building block for learning other important math concepts, such as fractions and percentages.

“Elementary school multiplication is anything but elementary,” says Lynda Colgan, an educator in Ontario, Canada. Being able to recall basic facts efficiently is a necessary first step in the development of more advanced skills for computational fluency with larger numbers and algebraic expressions.

Kate Snow, founder of kateshomeschoolmath.com, agrees: “Can you imagine trying to find common denominators or equivalent fractions without knowing 5 × 6? Or trying to do long division when you’re not quite sure what 7 × 7 is? And don’t even get me started on factoring polynomials,” she says. 

“Without full mastery of the multiplication facts, kids struggle as they start to tackle division, fractions, and problems with larger numbers. They use so much of their working memory on simple calculations that they have little brain space left for understanding new concepts.” 

Everyday Math

Beyond using times tables to advance in math, being able to quickly calculate numbers makes everyday life more efficient, according to Lucy Hart in an article for doodlelearning.com.

“Think of how useful it is for a child to be able to calculate the cost of 3 comic books at $2 each. Simply calculate 3 x 2! Or how many chocolates are there in total if my 4 friends have 5 each? Work out 4 x 5! The possibilities are endless,” she says.

If times tables are critical for becoming proficient in math and for use in everyday life, what’s the best way to teach times tables without doing damage, as Boaler fears may happen when kids are forced to memorize math facts?

Teaching Times Tables the Fun Way

For starters, make learning math fun. Online Times Alive, based on the award-winning Times Tables the Fun Way Book for Kids, features movies, songs, and games to teach all the 0s-9s multiplication tables. Math lessons stick with our research-based and proven picture and story method. Animated stories, songs, and games make learning math lessons easy and fun.

When nothing else has helped in the past, kids with dyslexia and kids with ADHD and other learning differences are finding success learning times tables with our story-based methods because when the story clicks—the fact sticks. Learning Times Tables the Fun Way solidifies the multiplication tables so future math lessons on fractions, ratios, division, or algebra are more easily conquered

You can start a free trial of Online Times Alive for Macs and PCs (or Times Alive app for iPhones and iPads) today!

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