As students are learning multiplication facts, many parents have likely heard the phrases “Why do I need to know this, I’ll just use a calculator” or “When will I ever need this in real life” from their child. And as a pre-teen, I’m sure I murmured the same words as I was looking at flash card after flash card trying to commit my times tables to memory. As adults we recognize how important it is to be able to recall multiplication facts, but how do you answer your student when they ask “Why do I need to know multiplication facts?” Here are 4 answers that may help you navigate that question.
1) Multiplication Facts Are a Stepping Stone in Mathematics
Much like building a house, to build math skills that will withstand the test of time you need a strong foundation. Along with addition and subtraction, multiplication is one of those foundational skill sets that needs to be secure prior to moving onto more complex math lessons. It’s not uncommon for students that are missing this strong foundational knowledge to begin struggling right around the time they are learning long division.
As we have discussed in other posts, math is sequential and concepts built upon one another. Without a solid knowledge base of foundational math facts, it becomes difficult to learn new concepts.
2) Memorizing Your Facts Is a Confidence Booster
As students progress to more complex math problems, those who have not mastered multiplication fact have an increasingly hard time completing these problems. If these facts are missing from their knowledgebase, the constant struggle and frustration can result in your student losing their confidence to learn and succeed with math.
Taking the time to ensure facts are committed to memory or pausing to address any gaps with multiplication fact mastery can help boost your student’s confidence. When your student is working on a complex problem and is able to pull the needed facts from memory to help them solve the problem, that moment is often a turning point for the wary math student.
3) Knowing Your Facts Helps You Stay Engaged
I think we can all relate to a situation where we are working on solving some complex problem and get to a point where we are just mentally exhausted and need to step away. Our mental energy has been spent and we are no longer engaged in solving the problem. Students can experience the same thing when working on new math concepts. As your student is working to solve a math problem they will often need to pause and reallocate their mental energy to calculate a fact. If, in order to calculate that fact, they need to skip count, consult a multiplication chart, use a calculator, or use some other strategy, they are increasing the possibility of errors and increasing the time spent on the problem. This increase in both the time and effort often leads to frustration.
By being able to immediately recall multiplication facts, your student’s mental energy can stay fully engaged on the problem at hand, and their mental energy is not consumed by switching back and forth to work on both math facts and the new concept.
4) Multiplication Is Used in Real Life
The earliest examples of multiplication tables can be traced back to over 4,000 years ago by the Babylonians, who utilized these tables to help them build and trade. Your student is likely not trading furs or using bricks to build a home, but there are a number of ways that they can use multiplication in everyday life.
• A common example is doubling or tripling, a recipe. How many cups or tablespoons will you need to make a double batch of brownies?
• Setting the table – each table can seat 6 people, you’ve set 6 tables. How many people will you be able to invite to sit?
• Chores & Screen time – for every chore completed you receive 5 minutes of screen time. On Wednesday you’ve completed 3 chores, how much screen time have you collected?
• Soccer practice snacks – There are 8 players on the soccer team, it’s your turn to bring a snack to practice. Each player will get a juice, a piece of fruit, and a sweet treat (3 items). How many items will you need to bring to practice?
Often multiplication facts are presented with drills for rote memorization, leading to those common questions of “why do I need this” from students. One of our focuses here at Demme Learning is to develop programs that not only focus on mastering concepts but build understanding. Our programs go beyond just memorization, to show how the concepts can be applied practically in real life.
We Are Here to Help
If your student is struggling to learn their multiplication facts, we are here to help! Our amazing Customer Success Team can help develop an individualized plan for your student’s needs.Get in Touch
Subscribe to the weekly Demme Learning newsletter for the latest blog posts, webinars, and more!
years ago, when my oldest (age 8) was in the Delta book, my 13-yo nephew came up for his spring break from Public school. I had him bring his schoolwork because my kids were not on spring break. The first day, I saw him struggling with his pre-algebra. When I finally diagnosed the problem, I discovered he did not know his 6,7,8,9 multiplication facts. And yet, he had “learned” them 5 years earlier, and no one had cared enough to understand his math problems; he was “just bad at math.”
I put his pre-algebra away for the week and taught him and drilled him and we listened to your skip counting songs over and over. By the end of the week, he knew them and knew them well. He even dreamed of multiplication. Knowing them made a huge difference in his school. Thanks
JAMES KINSEY says
Aaric, that was fantastic that you spent time with him like that. As a former middle school and high school math teacher, it was heartbreaking to try to teach upper level mathematics when a child did not know their facts ahead of time. Due to expectations of pacing, my students who fell into that category had a hard time keeping up.
My 6th and4th grade boys are both weak on their multiplication facts and we can see where this is holding them back – along with fractions. Is practice and repetition the answer?
JAMES KINSEY says
Yes, and helping them understand the meaning behind why multiplication and fractions work the way they do.