Are you ready for the Year 4 Multiplication Tables Check?

Who? What? Why?

Or: My Kids Do What I Tell Them If I'm A Recorded Message (but not if I'm a real live human)

Hello! I'm Jenn - founder, developer and voice of Talking Times Tables.

This is the tale of how times tables woes, a flash of inspiration, and lots of cool tech, brought Talking Times Tables into existence.

And all the benefits that brought my younger children - especially when compared to the eldest.

They 'Do Maths' in School... Or Do They?

I have four children, so I faced teaching the times tables, four times over.

The tables themselves were never going to be a problem - I still remember them from my own school runs in the 1980s! - but getting the kids to cooperate, and then remembering to practice was a lot more difficult than I'd anticipated!

Thinking back to the chaos of our lives when my eldest child hit her 'times tables years', it's not that surprising.

My kids were 7, 5, 3 and 1 at the time. If we managed two bouts of Biff and Chip and some pre-school phonics, I thought we'd all suffered enough for one day...

So I convinced myself that, as children were taught maths in school, we could leave the times tables up to them and focus on 'life skills' - like not biting your siblings, and remembering where you left your shoes.

I was wrong about that.

Schools Test The Times Tables, Parents Teach Them

At school they didn't learn the times tables, they only tested them.

No recitation. No repetition. No attempt at all to drum those numbers into the kids until they could answer without thinking.

For two years, as we sped through daily life, I vaguely hoped my daughter's tables would 'pick up soon'... but of course they didn't - because they weren't learning them in school at all.

Oh, For a Bit of Consistency!

Reciting times tables is essentially a mental habit - and to establish a habit requires consistency and repetition.

Once I realised I'd need to coordinate that myself (not my strong suit!), we got cracking...

We set up a 'times tables street' on our school run, and that's where we practiced. Every day.

By which I mean: whenever I remembered, and no-one was in imminent danger of being run over / losing their shoes / treading in dog muck / trying to tell me something vitally important about the child they sit next to in topic etc. And the times-tables-learner wasn't having a meltdown / refusing to co-operate / racing off ahead out of ear shot.

Which makes for quite an irregular schedule. Not actually 'every day' at all... And there-in lies the problem.

Learning: hard. Reciting: easy!

Due to our haphazard schedule, the learning phase was not as swift and simple as it should have been!

But my mum's old method was still going strong:

Sing-Song Chant for every table.
Same street every school run.
The faster you do it, the quicker it's over.

I noticed that getting my 9 year old to learn the tables was like pulling teeth, but once she knew a times table, she would happily recite it to me.

So we persevered through the horrors of learning and the comparative ease of practicing and she got there in the end.

Unfortunately she was already at a disadvantage in school. Year 5 maths is a whole lot easier if you recognise your multiples.

Child 2: Here We Go Again.

Suddenly child 2 was in Year 4 and needed to learn her times tables too.

You'd think, that having established the pattern with her sister, getting her to learn them would be simple... but you would be wrong.

Just like her sister, she hated learning a new times table, but, again, once the hard work was done, she rather enjoyed reciting what she already knew.

Pity The Poor Neighbours

Oh the 'times tables street' drama!

I decided to spare the neighbours and teach her the times tables inside the house. Then we could save the practising for the school run.

By now the girls were 10, 8, 6 and 4. Mornings were already chaotic and were never improved by shoe-horning in a times table - especially when I was trying to catch up for missed days by doing too much at once...

We progressed in fits (mostly hers) and starts (mostly mine), and by the end of Year 4 she was whistling through them like a pro.

Then came the rewards - and it was definitely worth the effort! She was able to grasp tables based concepts (like fractions and 'the bus stop method' for division) when they were first introduced and she spent Year 5 flying in maths rather than floundering.

My Kids Do What I Tell Them If I'm A Recorded Message (but not if I'm a real live human)

We were on a roll!

But I wasn't looking forward to going through it all again, twice, with kids 3 and 4.

So I outsourced the learning phase - the source of all protests (kids) and memory failures (me) - to <drum roll please> Recorded Me!

I recorded myself teaching those sing-song times tables chants - jauntily and patiently, and without breaking off in the middle to break up a fight.

Then, with a bit of tech wizardry, I had Recorded Me phone our house every morning and teach the times tables in place of Real Me.

And the children loved it! They couldn't get enough of it!

When Recorded Me rang them up, they raced for the phone and hung on my every word!

Real Me, the real live person standing in the kitchen, could say exactly the same things as the Recorded Me on the phone, and be faced with a force 10 melt down, but Recorded Me could do no wrong.

It was brilliant!

Not least because Recorded Me remembered to phone us every day, so the lessons were incremental, my daughter could 'learn by not forgetting' and progress was oh so smoooooth.

My Memory is Far Worse Than I Thought

And I'll tell you something else remarkable about those phone calls - which happened at the same time every school-day morning - 4 out of 5 times a week they took me completely by surprise!

I'd written the system. I was trialling it with friends' kids. I'd probably checked the logs at least twice before breakfast, yet at 10 past 8 when the phone rang I had no idea it was coming.

Ring Ring! Gah! I'm supposed to be teaching you your times tables!!

Nevermind! Recorded Me, do your thing!

"Hello! This is Jenn from Talking Times Tables! Can I speak to..."

And so child 3 learned her times tables over breakfast without a single table related tantrum, and (mostly) happily recited all the tables she knew as we walked down 'times tables street' on the school run.

The neighbours didn't have to call social services, and fractions made sense from the day they were introduced. Win-win!

By the end of Year 3 she could rattle through each table in 10 seconds flat.

Last Time For Us - But Now You Can Join In!

Time marches on, and now it's child 4 who gets the daily phone call.

She also completes the (easy!) daily worksheets.

The worksheets help enormously with the learning phase, and prepare children to 'sing the sum' when they see a written multiplication question.

Our school run 'times tables street' is still going strong.

And I've set up this website so that Recorded Me can teach your children too! (But you'll need to set up a times tables street for yourself ;) )

Schedule a few phone calls and see how you get on!