# Change Up the Way You Teach the Times Tables

## Times Tables Make Sense

Times Tables like you’ve never seen before! I’ve written a graphic novel series with a new system for teaching the times tables.

The new system would be a good one for adult students–it teaches for understanding, the exercises match the method, and it allows for the fact that our students often are not good at rote memory work and timed tests.

## A kids’ book for adult students?

So how could you use this method with adult students, even though the book is written for 7-9 year olds?

Download Book 1 FREE from December 1 to December 5, 2022. Check it out here.

The ideal situation might be to work with a group of parents and guardians, and offer a mini course in helping their kids with the times tables, and carry on as I suggest below. Most instructors, however, won’t have that ideal situation. Still, many adult students have children in their lives who might be learning the times tables, or struggling with other math because they aren’t fluent or confident in their ability to remember the tables. Adults might be willing to learn a new method to help those kids.

# Marking for Confidence

• A student brings you a piece of writing and as you glance at it, you notice that he has problems with periods—many are missing, and a few are out of place.
• You are moving around the room as students work on a math assignment and as you sit down beside one student, you see that she has done some of the problems correctly.  When you look a little closer at the ones she got wrong, you see that she has made the same common error time after time.
• A student hands an assignment in and you see right away that he has missed the point entirely—he might have been on a different planet when you were teaching the material, because he has done everything wrong, and you don’t know where to begin correcting the assignment.

Teachers have passed down the method for handling these situations for centuries—mark the papers, pointing out the errors, and ask the student to correct the errors.  The teacher may look at the mistakes with the student and review the proper procedure, or may ask the student to refer to the textbook to find out how to do the work. In my experience, this approach works only with students who have got nearly all the answers right.

# Learners on the Teaching Team

This post is adapted from an article I wrote for WORLD EDUCATION • MAY 2008 23 Focus on Basics

Getting learners on the teaching team is my first order of business at the beginning of a new class. I like to put them on notice that my class is a little different, that I ask for unexpected things from students, that I expect them to participate in shaping the class.

Adult Basic Education students come with strong ideas about what school should look like, and they want me to stick to that program. When I ask them to do something unusual–an art project, for example, or the dreaded working in groups–they resist. They zone out, or grumble, or refuse to take part, and generally rain on my parade.

# Math Strategies in Context

A student demonstrates that 1/2 = 6/12, 3/6, 2/4 and 5/10

“EXPLAIN HOW YOU WOULD TEACH YOUR LEARNERS PLACE VALUE” and “Explain in detail how you teach ABET level 1 learners fractions” are two recent requests from readers of this blog. (ABET stands for “Adult Basic Education and Training” and is a term used in South Africa as well as other places.) Continue reading

# I’m not a counsellor. What can I do?

Yesterday I talked about how hard it is to be a “caring ear” for all the students who need one, and I propose today to outline my strategy for supporting students without being overwhelmed by their needs. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever perfected this strategy, but practicing has helped keep me on a more even keel, and given me more choice about when I choose to be the caring ear. Continue reading

# Fractions on Your Feet

When students can match 1/4 with 25% with .25, you know they have some understanding of the value of each.

When they go on to the much more difficult matching of 79/1000 with 7.9% and .079, you know their understanding has deepened.

When you ask for an explanation of their work and they don’t start and end with “Move the decimal to the left two spaces,” you know they are on to something!

Here’s a social math activity that extends the skill practice exercises in the workbook and online. A fuller explanation and all materials needed can be found on page 92 here in Changing the Way We Teach Math. Continue reading

Early in the term, I hand back their first writing assignment. I’ve made comments on what is effective in their pieces. No one pays much attention to the comments.

Instead, I hear a chorus of questions: “What’s my mark?” “How come there’s no grade here.” “What did I get?”

“I don’t give grades for writing,” I say.

When asked why, I give the real reason: I value my time and effort. Continue reading

# Matching Exercises: Off the Page

If you’re a kid who can’t sit still, you get into a lot of trouble in elementary school. Kids like that often drop out, or fail to graduate with the classes and grades required for further training. To catch themselves up, they come back to adult literacy, ABE and GED programs, but they are still people who have a hard time sitting still!

Unfortunately for them, and for us who teach them, the cheapest and most readily available material for adult students often requires a lot of sitting still in front of a workbook of some kind or in front of a screen. Continue reading

# Building Strong Relationships with Learners

For the past week or so, I’ve been writing about five strategies for developing stronger relationships with learners:

All five strategies are written up in one article published in the ELMO Review. (Click on the image.)

Any thoughts on these strategies as a whole? What’s your most useful strategy or habit for building strong relationships with adult learners?