Why Stories Help Learning

Somebody said this about our Times Tables the Fun Way Book, “Its so much easier to remember the simple fact and answer than to remember a whole complicated story.” 

This may be true for some people, but not for most. Read what Jen had to say:

Returned it because I thought it was useless, kid proved me wrong.

My 4th grader (9 year old) was struggling with multiplication. She understood the concept, but couldn’t memorize the facts for timed tests. I ordered this book, and we looked at it for one night. We both thought it was ridiculous, and I returned it the next day. A couple days later we were drilling 7s and she knew several of them off the top of her head so I questioned her about why. She remembered and could picture the two stories we read one time each from the book the one night we had it! Wish I hadn’t been so quick to judge this book by its cover. I’m re-buying it now!
Amazon Customer

Why then, is it easier to remember a story than the simple fact? 

The answer is this: numbers are dry, they are abstract and have no feeling or visual image associated with them so it is difficult for many brains to find a storage place for easy retrieval. 

 The Flash Card Shuffle

Take 6×6=36 for instance. This is a simple multiplication fact. Your student might be able to recite the answer today with the use of flash cards. Especially if you flash 6×6 over and over. 36. The answer comes back. Good job. You think. Great!  One down and 45 to go. So you go on to the next one. 7×8. 56 your student says after you tell them a few times. Then you flash it again 7×8 and they remember 56. 

A few days later and you pick up the cards again 6×6? H….mmm… a blank look from your eager-to-learn student. How about 7×8?….. another blank look. So you tell them the answers and they remember for this sitting. Good. You think. Now they’ve got it.

A few days later is a repeat of last time. They forgot the answers. 

Does This Sound Familiar?

Instead of using flash cards, try telling your student the story of the thirsty sixes in the book, “Times Tables the Fun Way” 

Try the Picture and Story Method

Times Tables the Fun Way Book for Kids
  1. Read the story . 
  2. Show the picture. Point out that they look very thirsty don’t they?
  3. If your student likes artsy things, ask your student to draw the thirsty sixes in the desert. 
  4. Ask: Do you remember the answer to 6×6?   Chances are they will proudly say 36. I get it! They are triumphant and so pleased because they know this is one story they won’t forget.
  5. Ask the next day. Do you remember that story for 6×6? Eureka! Your student remembers. Ask your student to tell you the story. Voila 6×6 becomes unforgettable. Sure this might take more time than flashing cards but once the story clicks, the fact sticks.

Ask a few days later. 6×6. What was the story about? And they remember and they shout out 36. Now why would an involved story be easier to remember than the simple numbers? The answer is that the story for the twin sixes has plenty of clues and it makes brain-sense in story form. It fits into a spot in the brain with the picture of the sixes with their tongues hanging out. They go across the desert to visit cousins and they become super thirsty. There is a flow to the story that makes it easy to remember. Now it sits in the brain in a nice filing spot. The fact becomes unforgettable.

Times Tables the Fun Way Book for Kids was written 28 years ago and has been used by teachers and parents to help their kids since 1992. A few years ago, I received a letter from Lee Decker, she had learned Times Tables the Fun Way. Read this amazing letter that made my day.  

Helped me in a clearly miraculous way.

Judy, you don’t know me, but you have helped me in a clearly miraculous way to lessen the struggle of learning that has plagued my entire life. Specifically about math.
I can’t describe my anguish of standardized learning and mathematics in school, I cried every night and after every math class, and was always in remedial math classes. I admit, I’m not a shining mathematician, or even successful college graduate. I remember the day as clear as yesterday when my 3rd grade teacher taught us multiplication (an impossible task in my eyes) with your book. It was like a miracle, when my language-oriented and creative mind read the stories of the times tables personified, suddenly lightning stuck and I understood everything.
I am writing to you as a 23 year old now because my boyfriend and I were watching a TV show where a participant did their times tables by quick addition out loud. I shook my head and explained to my boyfriend how I learned: “Well, 3×8 is 24 because of the bat in the cave… and 6×6 is 36 because they’re thirsty…” realizing how delusional I sounded, I quickly searched for your books and then felt the desperate need to thank you. After all these years, the foundation of my adult life, paying bills, calculating gas or anything else, your pictures and stories dance in my mind. I am certain had it not been for you, I would yet remain entirely mathematically illiterate today. Thank you. You changed my life and saved me many sleepless nights.
Lee Decker
New York, New York


Times Alive Animated Stories Songs and Games to teach all the Times Tables 0s-9s

Our brains are hard-wired to think and express in terms of a beginning, middle and end. It’s how we understand the world. This is the beauty of the story.

How Stories Help All Learning Styles

Visual learners click with the mental images from the story. Auditory learners focus on the words and the sound of the reader in Times Alive. Kinesthetic learners remember the emotional connections and feelings from the story. Storytelling helps with learning because stories are easy to remember.

Leave a Comment