Whether their kids attend public school or homeschool, summer is a time many parents choose to have their children learn or practice math facts. And if your child struggles to learn "boring" math facts, I have three fantastic tools for you!
First, Our Story
My 9 year old daughter is a bright child...but when she thinks something is boring, it takes her for.ev.er to memorize or learn it. She's quick to understand how to do math problems, but memorizing math facts? It takes everything I have not to pull out all my hair trying to get her to memorize them. (In her defense, she comes by it honestly. I was the same way as a child.)
We took an extra year of homeschool to go over (and over and over and over and over...) addition and subtraction facts. So when it came time to learn multiplication facts, I wanted to explore more creative options. And boy, did it work! She's still memorizing some multiplication facts, but I have never seen her learn any math facts so quickly! She even thinks it's fun. (And trust me, "fun" is not a word she has ever associated with math facts before!)
Access to the Answers
First, I began by making sure my daughter knew how to skip count. Skip counting is an easy way to count in everyday life, but it also helps kids understand what multiplication is all about. The trouble was, some skip counting just didn't come easily to her. I'd tried using songs to teach her skip counting, but she had a lot of trouble memorizing those songs, too.
Then a friend gave me the Access to the Answers CD. It is skip counting set to music - but the important difference is that it uses songs my child already knew (like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Yankee Doodle"). Now she could focus on learning the numbers...and the learning came quickly and easily! (There was one song she didn't know: "Hurrah for the Red, White, and Blue;" it took her a bit longer to learn this one, but she did learn it.)
Incidentally, the CD doesn't teach 5s, 10s, or 11s, but most kids (including mine!) find these easy to memorize without music.
And when I told her that she now knew multiplication, you should have seen the excitement on her face! All that was left to do was memorize multiplication facts, since they are ultimately faster to use than skip counting, for most applications.
Unfortunately, the Access to the Answers CD isn't easy to find, but you can order it directly from the lady who makes them.
When I pulled out the Times Tales booklet and began reading the silly stories to my daughter, she laughed. Yeah, they are silly...and might even seem stupid on the surface. But they really work!
The Times Tales "kit" consists of a spiral booklet that explains the characters used in the stories, plus the stories themselves - which are memory triggers. There is also an instruction manual.
The characters in the stories are "disguised" numbers. For example, 3 is a butterfly; 7 is a school teacher; 4 is a chair; 8 is a snow woman ("Mrs. Snowman"). Each page features an illustration with these characters, plus a simple sentence or two to memorize. Once you child has memorized the easy stories, he knows what are considered the hardest math facts to memorize.
For example, one page shows Mrs. Snowman (the number 8) standing on a chair (the number 4), reaching for some items on a shelf. The text reads: "Mrs. Snowman stood on a chair to reach her 3 buttons and 2 mittens." In other words, 8 x 4 = 32.
My only complaint about Times Tales is that is doesn't teach all multiplication facts. It's such a great way to learn, I wish they'd expand the product! Incidentally, kids can also learn many division facts with Times Tales. I haven't done this yet with my daughter, but there are flash cards that come with the kit that simply ask the child what element is missing. For example, there is 32 / Mrs. Snowman. The child only has to recall the stories she's already learned to discover that 32 /8 = 4.
Medieval Math Battle
The final piece of the puzzle is always practice, practice, practice. Sure, my daughter does worksheets. But a much more fun way to practice math facts is with a game. We have tried about a gazillion of them. Some she likes less than worksheets. Others she likes enough to play a few times. But when I had her try Medieval Math Battle, I had to actually tell her to stop because she'd been playing too long. She's also consistently stayed interested in the game. (A winner!)
A bonus: This app lets your child practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You just set it to whichever type of math fact you want your child to practice. It's also really affordable. The app works on Kindle Fires, Android phones, or any device that can use an Android app.
NOTE: Some Christian parents may object to this game because it features magic potions and dragons.