One of the challenges of elementary school math, usually around third grade, is learning multiplication tables. For numbers 5 and smaller, it's relatively easy for most children to just add to the last result as they learn their multiplication tables. The adding trick in reciting multiplication tables gets a bit more challenging when the child reaches the multiplication tables for 6, 7, 8 and 9. Then, even when he or she can recite the multiplication tables in order, can the child really answer the question, “what's seven times eight?" quickly. Success in being able to multiply quickly becomes critical in the later grades when the child is multiplying three and four digit numbers, and then learning division and using the same knowledge and processes in reverse. So what you can you do speed up your child's multiplication skills and reinforce their knowledge of the multiplication tables?
One idea I used with my own child was to find a set of twelve-side dice (or make your own with four regular dice, by just adding extra dots to two of them and rolling one 12-dot set at a time). We would play competitively, rolling one twelve-side die, and then the other, and giving the product of the two numbers rolled as quickly as possible. His goal was to become quick enough to beat me to the answer. Other times, he played a solo version with a timer in that he had to be able to do a certain number of throws and answer them all within a minute while I kept track of his answers.
For parents who don't have the time, there are several software programs for children which effectively incorporate the same types of multiplication games to speed up a child's computation skills. If you want to ensure that your child has the math skills and speed to do well later on in algebra and more advanced math, add games which reinforce math skills in a fun way to your curriculum. This is especially important for children who are not big fans of math textbooks. Make at least one day of math learning per week a day to let your child experience math as fun and not as tedious problems that need to be solved.
Linda Popolano is a homeschooling mom and an Independent Consultant for BRIGHT MINDS/The Critical Thinking Company at Home. You can visit her website at http://www.inspirethinking.com to learn more about BRIGHT MINDS fun books and software for teaching critical thinking in math, logic, reading, science, and more for children ages pre-K through Grade 12. You can also learn more about earning BRIGHT MINDS products FREE for your own family.