© 2017 by Homeschool4Real

Minute Maths

May 23, 2018

Hands up if you, like me, have a child who struggles with their times tables. I was very spoilt with my oldest son who has amazing memory retention. This lulled me into a false sense of security where I thought teaching the times tables was easy. You just recite them a few times and presto, you know your times tables. Boy, was I wrong! 


It soon came time to teach son number 2. This is where home education really comes into its own. Keep him active, make it fun and he will learn.  I had to come up with a method to suit him, yet was easy enough to do daily. While rote learning and daily drills have their merits,  they do not have to be boring. And quite frankly, as a busy Mum (or Dad), do you really want to listen to it? I would like to share with you a very simple method I use. We call it Minute Maths and all three of my boys enjoyed it. 


Minute Maths is simply a daily drill of multiplication sums of the same set (for example the 4 x tables, 0 to 12). They must be in random order. The number of sums on the page is not terribly important. I use 14 because that works out to be half a page in their Maths notepad. At one stage I created an Excel Spreadsheet of all the times tables and printed them off as needed. Not only was that time consuming, but it was using up my paper and ink with the printing. Now, I just write them into his Math notepad on the day.


Now the fun part.  First I get to repeat my annoying catch phrase: Let’s do Minute Maths, it will only take a minute, and yes, the boys groan. You simply set your phone timer to 1 minute, the child uncovers the page and away they go. They must stop as soon as the timer goes off. You may be thinking, Where is the fun? I did too. First of all it is a race against time, never against another sibling. Over time the child will see their progress. Today they may of only answered 5 sums in the 1 minute, next week it could be 10 sums answered correctly and so forth until they consistently answer every one correctly. Only then do I move on to a new set of tables.


I always mark the correct answers with a red tick, never cross any wrong answers or ones unanswered. I do not ask the boys to write in any wrong answers or fill in blanks; this must be a positive experience. The number correct and percentage, eg 5/14 = 36% is recorded on the page. This is how the child knows they are progressing. I choose 2 wrong sums and write them in large print to be kept in a prominent place, somewhere the child will see many times throughout the day. I have a white board in our family room for this purpose. Throughout the day at random times I will ask those sums. The child is not allowed to give a wrong answer, no guessing. If he does not know the answer he must check it first before answering. 


Should you wish to give this method a go, please start out with an easy set, like the 2’s or even the 1’s. You want to build confidence and keep the experience positive. The child will learn strategies on how to complete it as quick as possible (or you may have to prompt them), but before you know it they will soon apply the strategies themselves. By this I mean they will look for the ones they already know and answer them first, then spend their time going back over the ones they need a bit more time to work out. This is a valuable strategy to learn for Math exams in higher grades. One more thing, I never teach the times tables in sequential order. 


Back to my oldest son with the amazing memory retention: he whipped through the times tables and soon became board, so of course I used this to my advantage.  I taught him Excel spreadsheets and how to graph his results. He loved seeing the flat line when he consistently hit 100%. 


 How does this help a kinesthetic learner? Although it is not a true physical activity, it is fast, positive and relatively painless. Remember; it will only take a minute.




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