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Using Music to Memorize Times Tables

Videos and thoughts on learning skip counting with songs and beanbags.

In our efforts at achieving times table memorization, we have tried many different things over the years.

The one strategy that stuck with us more than all the rest, for both of my very different kids, was singing. Stay with me here. No need to be a singer for this, all the tunes are ones you know well. It's akin to learning the ABC song to learn alphabetical order. I learned a few of these in my Waldorf training program, while others I made up with my kids as we decided we needed a tune for each of the tables we were learning. There is something about these, mixing well-known nursery rhyme melodies with the rhythmic numbers, that have really worked. We’ve recorded them for multiple friends throughout the years. It felt like gold every time I found one that clicked (most I found on You Tube did not), so I am happy to put them all down here for others who are so inclined.

The goal is that the tunes will get the skip counting into their system, and then, combined with written practice, will result in memorization. Results for us have been a mixed bag.

This progression worked like a charm for my daughter. She sang them for awhile, sang through them when she had written practice of her times tables, and gradually it faded into her having an instant grasp of all her times tables. It didn’t work that way for my son. He knows the songs, but has not memorized all the tables. Still, he uses the singing as a helpful tool to find the answers and does not use a 100s chart. The missing rote memorization part has not held him back, he can do long multiplication and division, has been working with fractions, geometry, and even some pre-algebra concepts. It just takes him a bit longer as he hums through the numbers. It’s pretty cute actually, and makes me feel so grateful for this homeschool life where there’s no hurry.

Tips for how to use these tunes:

  • Choose one table to learn to sing at a time, and learn the tune well yourself before sharing it with your child.

  • Begin with just doing a rhythmic movement (passing a beanbag, clapping, rhythm sticks, skipping, stomping) together while you sing.

  • Allow your child to start joining in on the singing when they are ready, don’t push it. This is just some routine math warm-up time and should be fun. Plan to just do a little every day.

  • Once they know the tune, expand by teaching them how to use it to find answers. For example, after singing through the threes ask, “what is 3 x 4?”. Show on your fingers how to skip count as you sing and end on the fourth finger (I will demonstrate this in the videos below). Doing many samples together aloud, modeling how to use this as a tool, will help them as they prepare to do this independently.

  • As they struggle to translate this learning onto paper, remind them that they can use this singing tool to help them find the answer.

Below is a video for each, with a possible bean bag or clapping movement like we often used as well. These are unedited, first takes, and not something you may necessarily want to share with your kids. I am just putting them down here in the hopes that some may find them as useful as we did. The clapping and bean bags are also just a jumping off point.

THREES - Frère Jacques

This is the only tune we sang backwards and forwards, and we only did it because it fit with the melody and was fun to try to learn.

FOURS - Row Row Row Your Boat

SIXES - Oh My Darlin’ Clementine

We added some filler words to this one, so I wrote it out below.

6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36, 42 and 48, 54, 60, 66, 72 now we know our sixes row, let us sing it once again so we’ll never let it go…

SEVENS - Mary Had a Little Lamb

I couldn’t find a way to get past seventy with this melody :)

EIGHTS - She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain

This is a favorite that I got from a Waldorf training years ago. Marching works better than bean bags for this one.

8, 16, 24, 32, 40! 48, 56, 64, 72! 80, 88, 96 ain’t that great? Now I know my 8 times 8s how ‘bout you? Yee Haw!

NINES - Hush Little Baby

9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63 and 72, 81 and 90, 99, 108 counting by nines is pretty great.

Wishing you good luck and fun learning with these!


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