Each week, three of my children bring home something from school that they are to memorize by Friday. We get the obvious sight words and spelling lists. Then, as they get older, they work into vocabulary and poetry. That being said, the Mount Everest of elementary school memorization at our house, is multiplication tables.
What it is about memorizing multiplication tables that make my kids throw their pencil across the room and shout, “I hate math?” It is because, unlike spelling or vocabulary, numbers don’t create pictures for us. Multiplication tables are strings of seemingly random numbers that our children are expected to not only remember, but keep in order and in context with the numbers they are multiplying by.
I have seen a lot of kids quickly pass off their 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s. These tables have an obvious pattern and are much easier to learn. Then there is a serious slow down as kids hit the 3’s, 4’s, and 6’s. By the time they get to the 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s they’ve decided that multiplication is way too hard, and math isn’t their thing.
Fortunately for me, a wonderful 3rd grade teacher gave us the solution. It helped that he was male, and my 8-year-old daughter had a major crush on him. She ate up every word that man said, so when he taught her to skip count to some familiar tunes she came home singing her math just for fun.
What is Skip Counting?
Skip counting is counting at intervals of whichever number you choose. For example, if I was to skip count by 7 I would count, 7, 14, 21… and so on. Using this method you can do single digit multiplication with ease. Say the teacher asks you to multiply 4 x 7 = __. You simply skip count 7’s, 4 times, 7, 14, 21, 28. The answer to 4 x 7 = 28.
That still leaves the problem of memorizing a string of numbers, and here’s where the magic is. Teach children to skip count to the tune of a simple song. Have you ever wondered why children can learn the lyrics to songs so easily? It is because music can be used as a Mnemonic device, that is a strategy to assist with memorization. If you can associate the numbers with the sounds in a song, the children will not only learn them faster, but retain them much longer than they would memorizing them exclusively through repetition.
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While there are several options out there for skip counting songs, my favorite are the skip counting songs to familiar children’s tunes. That way your child doesn’t have to worry about learning a tune, and can focus immediately on the numbers. My 8-year-old daughter was asked to learn her 8’s this week. After singing the song just 4 times she was already starting to skip count by herself and complete her homework on her own. I absolutely love it when my kids do homework on their own!!
So I’m sharing my secret, the one that will save you and your children many frustrating hours of memorization math homework. Here are the skip counting videos to music your kids already know. May your children become multiplication masters very soon!!
Photo Credit for the Head Photo goes to Poppies & Posies Photography! Check them out. They’re amazing!!