Age: 6.5
Fall semester our Gap Year, Astroboy expressed an interest in multiplication. When we came home, I dug out my multiplication card game out of my closet and we played games for a few months.
I tell people this is how Astroboy learned his multiplication. Though that is not quite true, but that’s the next post. However, I think this was a huge part of how he memorized multiplication table painlessly.
The game is called Speed! Multiplication. It’s a skip counting game. I love the cards because it is almost like a Montessori material with its bead chains printed on each hard. If it were made in the same Montessori colors, it would be perfect.
You may say, “I want the kids to memorize the multiplication table, like the Chinese 9×9 乘法表, not memorize skip counting.” But, at least with Astroboy, all our efforts with memorizing the numbers in multiplication table is almost the same thing as memorizing 9×9 乘法表. In fact, I would say that knowing the multiples of a number is actually more important than memorizing the table.
He knows, through his skip counting exercises, the numbers in a series. It helps him recall what comes next in the series when he’s memorizing. In addition, when we’re learning fraction, he is able to quickly see fraction equivalences. I imagine it will also come very much in handy when we start learning Least Common Multiples (LCM) and Greatest Common Factor (GCF).
Thumper did not go through these exercises and she is having a hard time learning GCF and LCM. But Astroboy has always had an affinity to numbers since he was 4 and his sister was a guinea pig in trying out our homeschooling curriculums. I sometime wish I could go back in time, knowing what I know now. Maybe she wouldn’t be so frustrated with math.
How We Used It
Astroboy loves games. For a few months, we played this every day during our work period. It takes about 1015 minutes, or until I can’t stand it anymore. Each time we’d work on 2 numbers. So multiples of 1,2 this week, then multiples of 2, 3. We advance to the next number when he’s beaten me 23 times.
Playing games is a good way for kids to learn good sportsmanship. Of course he lost the first few times and was unhappy. I try to put in a good, though not best effort in the beginning so he could be very close to winning and insisted that we shake hands and say “Good Game” after each round.
But the boy loves games and after a few rounds, I had to really be on my toes. If I didn’t pay enough attention, he would win!
What I was most surprised at is how he really did learn his skip counting and was able to keep various multiples in his head fairly quickly.
How to Play

 Choose a deck. Let’s say, 3.
 Deal each player 4 cards that they can look at, split the rest eventually into 2 draw piles, and leave 2 out as the start of the discard pile.
 Each person flips the discard pile. Now try to put down either a multiple below or above that number as fast as possible. Supposing the first card is 6, you can put down 3 or 6. If the child doesn’t know, they can look at the card itself for help.
 You can stack your cards. For example, if you had 12, 18, 60, 30 in your hand, you can put down 12 and 18 one after another.
 Always keep 4 cards in your hands.
 When you can’t continue, flip over a card from your draw pile. When you’ve used your draw pile, shuffle the discard pile and pick a card.
 The first person to use up all their draw pile wins.
The instructions here plays it a bit differently. They actually play the “Speed” part of the game, where when the two discard piles have the same number, you yell “Speed!”, and the slower person keeps all the discards as their draw pile.
Variation #1: Though I don’t insist on it every time, when it appears he’s almost familiar with a number, I asked him to say the number as he’s putting it down. Sometimes I modeled to get him to do it. I was trying to tie in speech and physical action as I’ve heard that it helps with memorization.
Variation #2: Once he’s very familiar with a multiple, I also asked him to start reciting the multiplication table. For example, as he puts down each card, he could say, “三一得三，三二得六“, or recite the whole table after the fact. I also did not make him do it every time lest he loses interest.
Variation #3: We mixed together 2 stacks, like 2 & 4, or 3 & 4 once or twice. It’s a bit hard when the numbers are high because there aren’t many common multiples. But this is one way to introduce the concept.
I really love this card game. Even though in the Montessori classroom kids don’t “memorize” the multiplication table in the traditional Chinese way using 九九乘法表, I had a hard time believing that kids could learn it the traditional Montessori method. As an adult I have definitely found it super useful to have memorized it. Plus there is the fact that memorizing the table in Chinese is much easier given that each number is only one syllable. So that is how Thumper learned.
But Astroboy showed me there is a different way that may accomplish the same thing without force. Now that he is mostly familiar with skip counting, I will go back and have him memorize the chart the Chinese way. He has been doing it off and on and it’s not the painful memorization that poor Thumper had to go through.
Where To Buy It: Amazon
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