The dreaded four times table

Last week, my son absolutely refused to learn any of the four times table facts he had been given for his homework.  “But it’s too hard, Mum,” and, “I can’t do any of them,” were the responses when he was asked to look at them.  I tried to work with him to read through them but on that particular week, he was having none of it.  With tears beginning to form in his big, blue eyes, I decided not to push it too much.  He always seems to remember the particular times when he has been upset about something in the past and these instances stay with him.  Negative mental blocks are not what he needs.  Knowing my son, I knew that I had applied enough pressure (bearing in mind he is only six) and that he needed to understand the consequences of not learning these times table facts.  Usually, he would come home proudly telling me about his scores out of ten for his weekly tests but after not even agreeing to read through them at all, he kept his test book in his book bag.  It was obvious, from the disappointed look on his face when I found the test book, that he had realised the immediate consequences.  His score was the lowest he’d ever had and I think it shocked him a little.  We calmly discussed why it had gone so badly as well as how he felt during the test.  Deciding together that just reading them through was not working for this set of times tables facts, I tried to think of different ways that he could learn them in a way that was more interesting and personal to him.

Here are some of the ideas we tried:

Each week, I put times table and spelling homework on the wall in the kitchen for my son to look at as he is passing.
Each week, I put times table and spelling homework on the wall in the kitchen for my son to look at as he is passing.
We grouped bird sequins into lots of four.  My son then wrote, e.g. 2x4=8 and 4x2=8 to show the order it is written doesn't matter in times tables.
We grouped bird sequins into lots of four. My son then wrote, e.g. 2×4=8 and 4×2=8 to show the order it is written doesn’t matter in times tables.
We used the pears we picked from Great Grandma's tree to count up in groups of four to find 4x4.
We used the pears we picked from Great Grandma’s tree to count up in groups of four to find 4×4.
Five groups of four pears.
Five groups of four pears.
We used the smaller heart sequins as we ran out of pears!
We used the smaller heart sequins as we ran out of pears!
We discussed how to use which facts you already know to find facts you don't know.
We discussed how to use which facts you already know to find facts you don’t know.

These are just some of the ways I helped my son to explore the four times table.  He was more responsive to this and told me that it had helped him lots.  Maybe the four times table is not as difficult as he first thought.

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2 thoughts on “The dreaded four times table

  1. Hi there, Some great ideas. I especially like the ‘using known facts as clues’ one. I had a few kids struggle with 4s too, but as soon as I showed them it’s just ‘double-double’ it was a breeze. They can instanly recall their doubles-facts, therefore 2x tables so 6×4 for example is the same as ‘double 6 (12), double 12 (24)’ or 3×4 is ‘double 3 (66, double 6 (12)’. It made the often abstract nature of timestables real to them, but of course having a sound understanding of doubles is essential to this strategy.

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