Being able to recall the multiplication times tables quickly is still a skill highly prized by many parents (and teachers). Maybe it's a concrete link between their rote learning chant of their school experiences and the mathematics that their child has to grapple with. And being in confident command of basic number facts does help in the solving of more complex equations and problems. But the job of getting my students to "learn their times tables" has been a hard sell especially for those kids who have to work hard to embed these numerical facts in their memory. At the Year Six level, I've never been completely happy with the way I've been tracking my students' progress in this area.
But last year I found a happy combination of resources and tools that has made multiplication times tables fun, challenging and easy to track. Here's what I do.
I stumbled on this website called Free Mathematics Worksheets which advertises itself as a repository of free downloadable worksheets in pdf format. In the Multiplication section, there are a series of sheets under the banner of Multiplication Five Minute Frenzies. I print these off, photocopy enough for the class and using the Timer Countdown tool on the Activboard, complete the Frenzy twice a week in the classroom. The Frenzy is a grid and I encourage the students to develop tactics to maximise success. Kids premark their sheet identifying their tables they know best to tackle first leaving the majority of their five minutes for the more challenging facts.
The part that seems to be the big motivator is the recording of these results in a class spreadsheet. These results build up time and it is very easy to create a line graph and show that up on the Activboard for analysis. Without fail, all students in 2007 regardless of initial result starting point had a jagged line of improvement and we used these as a discussion point in 3 way conferences with their parents. The students with high level recall hitting 100/100 with regularity also recorded the time taken by checking the countdown timer as they finish. The volunteers to show their graphs on the IWB always exceeds the time we have left in the lesson. This seems to be the most motivating way I've found to tackle the perennial times tables concerns.