Article Summary: "Studies have found that rote
memory might be the best tactic for learning. Rote memory involves repeating
a concept or idea over and over again until you remember it. This concept
can be repeated orally or written out. The problem is that most teachers
think that this is a good teaching method but studies disagree."
Multiplication is introduced early in elementary school. It is a concept that all children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Most teachers and instructors teach multiplication through rote memory. Studies have found that this might be the best tactic for learning. Rote memory involves repeating a concept or idea over and over again until you remember it. This concept can be repeated orally or through writing. The problem is that most teachers think that this is a good teaching method, but studies disagree. In fact, studies have indicated that rote memorization takes way too much time. It is also one of the least effective ways of memorizing concepts.
So then which methods are best for teaching multiplication? Most agree that incorporating some fun into learning times tables will always bare the most fruit. Research has shown that pictures are easier to remember than numbers. Maybe because pictures are more fun than numbers are. Pictures help draw emotion from us which, in turn, is a marker for our brain to remember things. Some teachers like to teach times tables with music. This has been shown to be successful for the most part. Some children do not learn well this way. Most students enjoy singing along with the tape or CD and this method works much better than rote memory. On the down side, teaching multiplication based on music can have the same result in the long run that it did with the ABC's. How many people still sing the ABC song in their head to determine where a letter falls in the alphabet?
Multiplication is a "shortcut" to adding. Multiplication is just adding the same number up that many times and when that is explained to children early on, they seem to have an easier time with it. Some of the kids are only comfortable doing multiplication by writing out 9 + 9 + 9 and adding it to get the answer. Clearly it is easier to start with counting by 5s or 10s, so the kids get used to the concept. Then if they forget, they can go back to counting 5s or 10s and then apply that to other numbers also. The old saying that "practice makes perfect' stands true even with multiplication because if you practice something enough, it becomes easier. So if you find ways to calculate the multiplications, instead of using passive memorization, you will be more successful. The simplest way to calculate your multiplications is to do the exact operation that it is, which namely repeated addition is. In other words 6 x 4 becomes 4+4+4+4+4+4.
People in general but especially children always have a tendency to work better when there is an incentive surrounding the final outcome. Offer the children some candy or a trinket from the dollar store if they can get 20 multiplication problems correct in one minute or something along those lines. It is not even as much about what they won as it is that they won something, which makes them feel smart and special. This makes students stop counting on their fingers because they don't have time in one minute. Some other fun ways to learn multiplication are to use card games such as War or dice games. Multiplication bingo is another very fun way to teach the times tables but which ever route you choose the most important thing is to offer an incentive. Incentives always get people's attention, kids and adults alike.
There are a lot of interactive games on the computer that teach multiplication too. Kids love to play games and they also welcome every opportunity to use a computer. Often it is difficult to allow all children to use the computer but working something out where the children who do the best with their multiplication tables are allowed to test on the computer. This is another way of offering incentives.