This post originally appeared on the blog Planning Playtime.
When I look back to my elementary years, one of the most difficult things I was asked to do was memorize my multiplication tables. There were so many of them, and they seemed like strings of random numbers that I had to keep in order and in context with the numbers they were being multiplied by. I managed with the help of my retired teacher mother and some quality time with flash cards, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how critical the mastery of multiplication tables is.
Several years ago, I was trying to assist a couple of my neighbor girls who were in middle grade resource classes for failing math. They would come over with their math books and sit at my kitchen table. After a few minutes of watching them stare at the problems with a hopeless look in their eyes, I was shocked to realize the issue went well beyond the current material. They didn’t know how to multiply without counting it out. Somehow the multiplication tables they should have learned 4-5 years previously had evaded them, and they were essentially crippled in math.
The trouble doesn’t seem to be with the 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s. These tables have an obvious pattern and are much easier to learn, but 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, I’ve watched children decide that multiplication is way too hard, and math just 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.
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 second daughter, now 8-years-old, was asked to learn her 8’s this week. After singing the song just four times, she was already starting to skip count by herself. I’ve now started teaching them to my youngest children as early as kindergarten age because they love to sing, and it’s fun.
These songs have been a game changer for us, and we wanted to share them with parents and teachers around the world. My oldest daughter and I recorded the songs for you and created simple animated videos to help the children sing along. Since posting the videos, they have been used in tens of thousands of classrooms and homes across the globe, helping children master their multiplication tables. At the special request of teachers, I have also created simple sheet music that can be printed and sent home for extra practice. You can find the printable sheet music here.
*Photo Credit for the feature image goes to Poppies & Posies Photography! Check them out. They’re amazing!!
Amy Nielson is the education-obsessed mother of five who blogs at PlanningPlaytime.com. The daughter of a retired teacher mother, she learned at an early age an absolute love of learning, and she tries to bring a bit of joy and fun to everything she teaches. Having previously taught reading, preschool, and music, she is now at home full time teaching her preschooler to read and creating engaging, effective resources that her kids come home and fight over. Check out her work in her TpT store. You can also find her sharing great ideas on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.