7 Jan 2009

Mastering multiplication musically

Rote learning was big when I was at schoool in the 70's. Every morning we'd chant our times tables out loud. Our eyes would glaze over; the time would drag; the naughty kids down the back would play up - but at least we would learn. I remember that in later years we would have tables competitions. The teacher would write a multiplication fact to start at, and we would see who could write out the most equations from that point on. I often won...I always was a quick writer.

When I was in grade 5 we went on our first overseas trip. I learned far more than I missed during my time away from school, but one thing I never covered was my 8 times tables. I can do all the other tables to this day; I still can't do my 8's!!

Whether you approve of the method or not, most kids my age knew their tables - most kids now don't. I don't know how they survive without even basic mental maths skills.

Now that Jemimah is midway through MEP 2b, multiplication is becoming a daily activity in my life once again. I was keen to make her times tables less painful for her than it was for me, but equally, I was keen that she know them - and know them well.

Rhymes and songs draw on auditory memory. I have found them particularly useful for Jemimah, who seems to learn tunes, songs, and poems easily. All parts of the song - rhythm, repetition, melody and rhyme can all aid memory in their own way. I knew that from learning the Psalms as a child, and it has been reaffirmed by Jemimah's knowledge of Scripture set to Colin Buchanan's catchy tunes. (I even remember learning the Kreb's Cycle in second year biochemistry by singing it to a familiar tune!) I was rather hopeful that a recording of the times tables might do the trick in the same way.

The problem was finding a recording that was palatable to both her and me...after all to learn it we both have to listen to the thing!!

I'm pleased to announce that I have finally found the perfect CD - perfect for its purpose, anyway!!

Musical Times Tables, by Playschool's Don Spencer and Terry Murray, is a compilation of fun songs for kids sung with an Aussie accent. Each song is merely the maths facts set to music, and each table is repeated three times in a row to aid memory. It has only taken Jemimah two days to get her 2s, 3s, and 4s straight! Pretty impressive I think.

We have been listening to the CD a couple of times a day this week, and I'm still not sick of the thing - high praise indeed from me!! Goodness...I may even learn my 8s...now that would be something to write home about!!

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