Times Tables with a Counting Stick
This is a wonderful example of teaching techniques using a counting stick. This video, taken from a lecture at Bath Spa University, shows Jill Mansergh helping a group of trainee teachers learn the 17 times table. The 17 times table is demonstrated to ensure that the trainees are outside their 'comfort zone' and go through the learning process, in a similar fashion to most children.
Jill says she hopes the following points come out clearly in her demonstration:
- The positivity – trainees are left in no doubt that they are going to be able to do this
- The ethos – its perfectly okay to go wrong
- The enjoyment – everyone is part of a group that is succeeding
- The repetitive nature of the ‘patter’
- The key-links (doubling and halving) make offer key staging-posts through the table
- The visual, auditory and kinaesthetic nature of the exercise
- Constant visual reference - my left hand doesn’t move from the middle of the counting stick
- The pace is clear, but fairly brisk – is there any advantage in going slower?
This method works so well due to its repetitive nature. Children rely on the information in the previous step. This technique (and the questions) will work for all times tables. Each times table will have a series of key-links that can be doubled and tripled.
It wil be useful to practice the method fully before using it with children. Clearly, its important you are indicating the correct place on the counting stick when you ask the questions. The whole process, just like Jill's demonstration, should only take about 10 minutes in total. The technique makes a great mental oral starter to any maths lesson.