There is one thing that is so very important for the success of a child in school and life. Without this, a child will be stuck on approximately the third grade level in math and not continue to progress. That child will be unable to manage money when he/she becomes an adult in spite of the fact that the desire may be there to do so.

What is that one thing? A child must know the multiplication tables!

It seems like such a “no-brainer” to say that children should learn their multiplication tables. However, during the 20+ years of teaching GED classes, I observed over and over that this vital part of the education of my students had not been fulfilled. I have had students from at least ten different school systems including out of state, and the story is the same. I have had nearly 1,000 students enroll in the classes I have taught, and probably 90 percent of them did not know their multiplication tables. Many of these students were on college level in reading, indicating that the ability to learn was certainly there.

What accounts for the fact that the times tables have not been learned? In my opinion, there are several reasons (or perhaps excuses). Parents often leave this kind of thing up to the teachers. The teachers are pressured to cover a certain amount of material in large classes where individual attention is not possible. Modern math, several years ago, promoted the philosophy that if a student understood math, drill was not necessary. Our trend for fast food and fast learning tends to cause a child to expect learning to be easy. Attitudes of “somebody owes me something,” and “I am not responsible for myself,” cause a child to believe that he/she can get by without knowing the times tables. Social promotion has fostered that idea further by letting the child know that he/she will go on to the next grade whether or not all the material has been mastered.

What kind of logic says that if a child can’t do third grade work, that child can do fourth grade work? Students grow up thinking they are dumb and just can’t “get it” simply because they have not been required to “get it." Some students go year after year in school, getting in deeper and deeper water and feeling more and more frustrated because they can’t handle the math that requires knowing the times tables.

In school, the multiplication tables are usually introduced at the end of second grade. In real life, we can begin working with children when they are toddlers to help them understand some number concepts.

When playing with small children, we can simply provide information by saying such things as, “Oh, I see two blue blocks here and two more blue blocks there. That makes four blocks. Two times two is four.” We need to constantly include such comments in conversation to help children become aware of numbers.

A great deal of math can be taught with a bag of M & M’s or a bag of jelly beans. They can be sorted into groups and counted to see how many groups of different numbers and colors can be made. When they have succeeded in learning some of the facts, they can be rewarded by allowing them to eat the candy.

We need to require older children to write the tables over and over. The more senses we use in learning, the faster we learn. By writing, the child is using touch and sight. If the child says them aloud while writing, that child is also using hearing.

Spanking a child to learn is not appropriate although it may be appropriate to spank a child to make that child take time to do homework and try to learn. Drill is appropriate. There are many ways and opportunities to help the children with this vital information. All of the thousands of dollars and all of the new programs for education do very little good with math if a child does not know these basic facts.

Parents, grandparents and teachers, it is so very important to make sure that your third and fourth graders learn their multiplication tables!