Since realising that kids struggle to learn their time's tables all over the world and that this is not some rare phenomenon happening only in my class... That I don't have to be some kind of Super Teacher and solve this issue all by myself... I have been doing more and more reading online about how other people teach times tables, and the best ways to learn times tables.
In all the sources that I come across, they all seem to agree that learning basic facts (times tables) off by heart is essential to being a high achiever in maths. They also agree (sadly) that the best and most efficient way to memorise these facts off by heart is by rote learning them in some way.
- The Telegraph
- The School Run
- Mathmo Consulting
While all agree that boring old rote learning is best the way to memorise basic facts. They also suggest that fun and engaging times table games or activities will help provide incentive or motivation for learners, which should help counter the monotonous nature of the rote learning. See my post on Rob Wiseman's time's table rap for what I think is a great example of this.
Hesitant to play too many games such as 'Around the world' which I fear only helps the small number of high achievers grow in confidence, while detrimentally affecting the ones who could really use some motivation, I have looked at other types of "fun and engaging games" on the internet. I have come across a website called Math Playground. This is just one of 100's of websites claiming to be "maths games" however this is one of the better ones I have found, that has ACTUAL maths learning in the games.
Rather than give them a free-for-all access to the site, which I can imagine would naturally become a trolling session looking for the most entertaining game on the site. I have selected a game at the right level for each of my groups and restricted them to that game only for the week. I have explained to my class that these games are on trial basis and if we can't use them appropriately and do our other work as well, then I would remove them from our rotation.
For my target group, I found a times tables race car game. This game can be played against the computer or other real players (including each other) as they race their car around the track and to the finish. To propel your car forward you must answer the time's table questions on your screen. Get a question right and your car accelerates, get a question wrong and your car slows down. Rather than recalling the answers straight from their brain, the game gives you four answers to choose from, only one correct. This is a nice change from some of the other resources they use and helps them answer more rapidly (more fun!).
I have trialled the games this week, and they have been an absolute hit! However it is the first week back, and they are brand new, so I'm not getting my hopes up just yet. I think this is something I will bring back either every second week or something similar so that they don't lose their "cool factor" they have right now.