Last week, the vast majority of my children proved to me that they were proficient with counting in multiples of 6. Brilliant. They were ready to go on. But a small group of 5 children just could not get the tables facts into their heads: they just couldn’t remember them, and it was taking them ages to work out simple 6x table questions. So, I needed a new idea.
In the past, we’ve tried games, interactive programmes, playing pairs, answering questions on a worksheet, tarsias and countless other ideas. All great for reinforcement for those children who know their tables, but it doesn’t help them to actually learn the facts. Today, we learned the 6x table using multilink cubes. So simple, yet so effective.
Each of the 5 children made a stack of 6 cubes and put them on the floor in front of them. One child held theirs up: how many cubes? Two children? Three? So far, so good. But they still had to work out the answer each time. The children put their cubes back on the floor, and I would pick up different amounts of sticks, so they would have to count the number of sticks and multiply them by 6. Very soon, they picked up speed and were calling out the answers almost instantly. Once the children were completely confident with going up to 5×6, I added in a stick of mulitilink for me; they worked out how much 6×6 was from the cubes they already had, and the “game” continued. Within minutes, we had added in a 7th and 8th stick, worked out how many cubes we had with a 9th stick, and then finally a 10th, 11th and 12th stick of cubes.
These 5 children had very little confidence in working out the 6x table at the start of the lesson, yet within a few minutes, they were hollering out answers (correctly!) at the top of their voices. We then briefly practised some written calculations – I would put the cubes on the floor as an array, before they wrote the corresponding number sentence on their whiteboard.
In the last few minutes of the lesson, the children rolled a 12 sided dice and wrote the multiplication sentence on their boards… all correctly! Who would have thought that such a simple idea would have had such a huge impact? I’m a HUGE fan of technology: I use it constantly. But today just goes to show that sometimes, low tech can be the way forward.