Notes from an Inspector's Notebook: August 2021

John registered for updates from Maths At Home when we began that division of our site in March 2020 to support learning from home during the C19 pandemic. He often sent short messages when new activities were mounted. When Times Tables Torture was released it sent him back to the notebook from his first year of teaching in 1964!

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  • John claims there are only 36 times tables that need to be remembered. Explain.
Y9 bottom set, my first year of teaching: to prove that I could get them all to recall all table facts up to 9 x 9. I introduced table flash cards so that for 3 x 4 = 12 the paired card would have 12 in a middle circle and 3 in top right hand corner and 4 in bottom left.

The four facts associated with the card were discussed and a few cards were introduced at the beginning of each lesson. After a few weeks the group were tested. A question on each card at random, ie: 12 4, 4 x 3, 12 3 or 3 x 4. The test was scored for each pupil and recorded on a personal table. Every lesson started with a test prepared on paper and pupils were given the time taken. Results were recorded and individual graphs drawn up are displayed.

We stopped when everyone had 100% success rate. Tested twice at each successive term showed no long lasting effects. Kids good at the start remained good and so on.

As a footnote I did not have instant recall of my tables until I started teaching and even then I was not reliable, but I was always able to work them out!

P. S.
You rightly asked if I would do it again. Yes, as a bit of fun. I used the flash cards with our daughter! And she chose to teach maths rather than be a chemical engineer.
  • What I like is that 6, 7 and 42 become linked and that 6 x 7 and 7 x 6 is not learnt twice. It cuts the times tables in half.
  • What I like with your technique is that kids work in pairs, they create their own slides and in fact work as mathematicians.
Testing to encourage personal best was planned into John's trials from the beginning. Students keeping their own records was key.

Other teachers using this type of approach also collect scores (anonymously) and calculate and publicise the class average on a daily or weekly basis. Everyone is on the same team when it comes to lifting that average.

  • Times Tables Torture gives you 121 times tables slides, which, of course, include John's 36.
  • Pairs of students choose the slides they want to learn, make a slide show and play it at their chosen 'seconds per slide' rate.
  • Some slide-show-making software provides a timing function.
  • If that isn't available, one student times the other, then they correct, record and swap roles.
  • So you can trial the concept, a video version of a Times Tables Torture is provided at a 4 seconds per slide rate.

Green Line
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