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Learn Your Tables


One thing hasn't changed since we were at school: Children still need to LEARN their tables!  

Here is a tried and tested method which WORKS!  It is based on the fact that learning happens most effectively when taken in small steps with plenty of opportunity for repetition.

What's so special about this method of learning?

This method is based on three simple principles:

If we are anxious, we cannot learn.
Learning happens through repetition.
Learning happens in small steps.

When you are learning anything, there is a gap between what you know and what you don't know. This is called the learning gap. If this gap is small it is easier to cross. We achieve mastery quickly and our confidence increases.

Many children who have difficulty learning are struggling because the learning gap is too big. They are being asked to tackle things that are too challenging before they have mastered the earlier stages.

The secret is to break the learning down into manageable steps and, within each step, to arrange things so that the level of challenge is just right for learning.

To ensure your child's success, the four Games come with detailed instructions to help you to fine tune them exactly to the correct level.

Two of the games (The Counting Stick and Thigh, Clap, Snap, Snap) are well known in their basic form and are in use in Primary School classrooms up and down the country. I have added some additional features. The other two (The Counting Caterpillar and Tap, Say, Turn) are my own, developed through many years of working one-to-one with children, both privately and in the primary school classroom. There's nothing revolutionary about any of them.  But when used in combination, in just the right way, the effects can be very powerful.

Here's a summary of the games and how they fit together.


The tables learning process can be broken down into three steps:

  • Learn the stations of the multiplication table

  • Learn the tables facts in order

  • Learn to use the facts flexibly.

Step 1: Learn the Stations of the Multiplication Table

After learning to count in ones, most children will then be taught to count in twos, tens and fives. So the 2x, 5x and 10x tables are the ones that we learn first.

The Stations of the table are the numbers that you say when you go along the number line and count in twos, fives or tens etc.

The Stations of the 2x table:  0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and so on.
The Stations of the 5x table: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and so on.

Note that when we recite the stations we start at 0 (zero). Zero is a very important number, so it is introduced in Primary School mathematics from the earliest stages.


The Counting Caterpillar

The Counting Caterpillar is an excellent game for learning the stations for a particular table.  Explain the rules carefully, and encourage your child to sit down and play the game silently for five minutes several times a day. You will be amazed at how quickly learning happens.

Once your child has mastered each table then you can increase the challenge by suggesting counting backwards! 

This game is one that your child can play quietly alone, checking in with you every so often to let you see progress.


The Counting Stick

Once your child has learned to count with the Counting Caterpillar then you can begin playing with the counting stick.
You will need to make one of these, but it isn't difficult and it will give you hours of fun. Pop along to your local hardware store and get a strip of 3cm x 1cm wood. Use a hacksaw to cut it to a 1m length, draw a line across every ten centimetres and you are ready to go!  

The counting stick games, which you will play with your child, build on the skills your child has learned through playing the counting caterpillar, developing his or her awareness of where the stations of each table sit in relation to each other.  The games are great fun to play and can cause much hilarity.  The one called 'Night Time' is also excellent for learning to estimate.


Step 2: Learn the tables facts in order

Once the stations of a particular table have been learned, the next step is to learn the table facts. This is what many of us mean by 'learning our tables'. 

It's worth mentioning at this point that there is a difference between regions in the way that the tables have traditionally been learned. 

In some schools the 2x table is taught as follows:
2 x 1 = 2
2 x 2 = 4
2 x 3 = 6

The logic of this is that you are learning the '2 times table', so the facts all begin with 2 x.

In other schools you learn them this way::
1 x 2 = 2
2 x 2 = 4
3 x 2 = 6

This method fits better with the idea of counting in twos: - one lot of two, two lots of two, three lots of two etc.

Actually it doesn't much matter which way round you learn your tables, since both are correct. In fact many schools will now teach the facts both ways round and show the children the equivalence between them. 

To save your child becoming confused, check with your school to see if they have a preference, and then learn them the same way at home.

Thigh, clap, snap, snap

Thigh, clap, snap, snap is perfect for learning the tables facts.  It is another game that you play with your child.  Children love it, because it gets the whole body involved - much more fun than the tedious way many of us had to learn our tables when we were at school.


Step 3: Learn to use the tables facts flexibly

It's no good being able to chant your tables unless you can USE them! 

You need to be able to respond rapidly to questions like:

3 what's make 15?
4 times 3
16 divided by 4
Nine fours

and so on.

To be quick at mental maths, you need to know your tables back to front, upside down and inside out!

For this, you need to learn how to play Tap, Say, Turn.  This is another game which your child can play alone, sharing with you every so often how he or she is getting on.


And that's it!  Learning your tables sorted, in four easy games!

Parent Guide





Getting the 'App'

What you Need


The Online Activities

- Investigations & Quizzes

Deciding What To Do

- The Owls

- Tournaments, Triangles, Eggs

Colours & Stars

Points & Characters




Add & Subtract

Multiply & Divide






Tips for Helping with Maths at Home

Owls, Investigations, Quizzes & Tournaments: How to Help at Home

Guide to the Wise Owls

Success with Fractions

See All



Understanding Early Maths

Add & Subtract

Learn Your Tables


Maths Investigations - Challenging Children to Think about Maths