Why I No Longer Dread Teaching the Times Tables- Confessions of a School Teacher

As a third grade teacher, I think of the times tables much like flu season, it comes every year and stays much too long. It’s not that I have anything against teaching multiplication to my students because in fact, I rather enjoy teaching math to my class. What I dislike is that grasping the concept of multiplication is not enough to move on —most of the upper math facts can only be mastered purely by memorization. When a student gets stuck, the lower tables can be computed easily by reverting back to addition, but try adding seven groups of eight in your head, and Houston we’ve got a problem! To make matters worse, if the multiplication tables are not mastered, most students will struggle for years to come with math.

In the past, my usual course of action for teaching the times tables use to be what I called, the “boiled frog method”—start them easy, and slowly turn up the heat -the heat being those dreaded upper multiplication facts. For more than half of my class, this method was a success. As we moved from the lower times tables to the upper, many  students adapted to memorizing the higher times tables with ease. However, the other half of the class does not usually fair so well. This is the point I would call the “times tables road block”, you cannot pass until you’ve conquered mastering the memorization of the upper, most difficult times tables…and for many students, that turns into a multiplication nightmare. Unfortunately, the whole class is most often stuck at this road block together. At this point, the momentum stops and so does most of the enthusiasm or interest in learning about this new thing we call multiplication. It’s like being stuck in a ground hog day filled with endless flashcards and rote memorization. After repeated drills, students would blare out the correct answer, but the next day, that little bit of memorization had disappeared. It’s not fun for the teacher, and especially not for the students.

You know the saying about there not being a magic pill? Well, there actually IS a magic pill for the times tables--it’s called Times Tales! Boy, do I wish I discovered this years ago, I could have not only saved endless hours of classroom time but lots of frustration from both myself and my students! What’s this strange Times Tales you might ask? It’s a whole new, unconventional, yet super fun way for kids to quickly memorize their upper times tables.


This mnemonic system incorporates right-brain, visual images as a memory peg for the student to easily recall the math facts. The best thing is it actually, really, truly does deliver as promised! I don’t claim to be an expert on how the brain works, and have no idea why looking at a flashcard won’t make memorization stick, but turning a number into a silly story does make it stick. It really does!


For me, it has relieved stress and dread about teaching the times tables. For my students, they think it’s a super fun (more like a game) way to learn a subject that is otherwise dry, repetitive, and boring. The best part for the students, is that the whole class can easily master learning the times tables together. Since it works so effectively for all learners (even those with learning disabilities), there is usually no one that feels left out or left behind the rest of the class. It’s a win, win situation! After seeing how effective this method is for retaining information (not to mention fun), I’m always looking for ways to incorporate this amazing right-brain learning tool into other areas of teaching. In a nut shell, the more visual the information the higher chances of retention.


Here’s how the Times Tales multiplication program works:
The student is presented with six number symbol characters that will be in the Times Tales stories. For example, Mrs. Week looks like a seven and Mrs. Snowman looks like the number eight.


These characters are then presented in fun, quirky short stories that incorporates the answer to the math fact in the story. For example, Mrs. Week (looks like a seven) went to the Treehouse (looks like the number 9) and raked up 6 bags of leaves by 3 o’clock.


When the student sees the 7 x 9 their minds are triggered think of the story of Mrs. Week and the Treehouse, which there was only one story or “tale” for that number combination. Once they think of the story, they will know the answer. In this example the answer was in hidden in the story, Mrs. Week went to the Treehouse (7 x 9) to rake up 6 bags of leaves by 3 o’clock (= 63).


Trigger Memory Co. is the publisher of Times Tales and has several different classroom options ranging from a Small Group Program (designed for the special education teacher) to a Deluxe program complete with lots of teaching options that can be customized depending upon classroom needs. The best thing is Trigger Memory Co. has made Times Tales programs affordable with most of their products being non-consumable. One purchase of the Times Tales Classroom DVD can literally continue to teach for years to come as it is non-consumable.


So if you want a whole new, unconventional, fast way to teach the upper times tables to your classroom, try Times Tales! It’s fun and it works!


Linn Nye has a 20-year elementary teaching career. She is always on the hunt for new ways to make learning fun for her class. When she isn’t in the classroom she spends her time on the ski slopes, or writing freelance articles on the ups and downs of being a teacher.