Frenzied Multiplication

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.


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9 thoughts on “Frenzied Multiplication

  1. Allanahk

    I like the graphing aspect of this idea so kids can see their progress.

    I have never seen a IWB used like this so this may well be a dumb question…

    How do you get the graph that the kids have made on to the interactive whiteboard for class viewing?

  2. Graham Wegner

    I was using Excel so I just used the graph function from within the spreadsheet – the IWB is like a giant touch screen computer so I create it in front of the class in a matter of seconds but I don’t usually save the graph. Does that make sense?

  3. Shaun Fletcher

    I really like the idea of using the spreadsheet as a motivational tool. It got me thinking that I could use my Senteo Responders and Smartboard in the same way. I could also motivate the students to help each other with their facts to achieve class mastery. If you computer access Timez Attack is a video game that students move through when mastery is achieved, it also reinforces multiplication as grouping sets of numbers.

  4. schoolspirit

    Great idea with the spreadsheet if you can find the time to input all the data. I think the kids would get right into it with images like that.

    What I’d never thought of was getting the kids to pre-mark the questions they thought were the easiest and quickest before these sort of tests were taken. I’ve told them to scan down once we start and complete the quick ones, but I might have to try the pre-marking.

    Thanks for the idea.

  5. Taylor

    This *is* a great idea for a motivator, but I’ve always questioned the reason we’re supposed to memorize those. I spent almost 2 whole school years trying to memorize multiplication tables, and it killed my self-confidence in math. It also lead to many unpleasant and traumatic memories of confrontations at home with dad. It also lead to the first of two times in my school career that I cheated.

    Why, in general, not in your classroom only, do we not teach the *concept* of multiplication, then paste the times tables to the desk for reference & go on? I think the memorizing would happen eventually.

    It always felt to me like memorizing disconnected facts was turning me into a machine.

    But since I’m not a math teacher, I don’t know if this has been tried, or what the other concerns are.

  6. Sally

    I like your idea and display my student’s progess in a chart with stickers that hangs in the room. It motivates them. I have had more trouble this year with students not catching on or not caring to learn their facts.

  7. jacksoncc

    I really liked this idea for practicing multiplication facts. I think the simplicity of the worksheet will be easy for my elementary school students to use and understand. I appreciate that the worksheet comes with a printable answer key – anything that helps to save time is much appreciated. I also like the idea of graphing the results as an individual motivational tool. I like to encourage my students to compete with themself – success can be found in making positive improvement from the time before (not just in comparison to their classmates). The idea of a graph is a wonderful visual tool for the students to note their progress. Thank you for the great website and ideas!

  8. leighnewton

    Thanks for the information. I’m going to give this a go in the dying weeks of the Northern Hemisphere calendar. My Grade 5 kids needs some revision on their time-tables and this will be perfect. I like the idea of showing volunteers’ graphs in front of the class. I have a data projector at least. (no IWB however).

    I’m thinking I might use the Addition Frenzy sheets next year with my new class of Grade 5s.


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