Times Tables with a Counting Stick

times tables with the 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. 

26 Comments

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J Footer's picture

Wow.  I am impressed.  At the

Wow.  I am impressed.  At the start I thought no way but OMG even I can remember my 17 times tables.  Looking forward to trying something more simple with the 2x very soon.  All I need is to find a stick.
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bones's picture

That is truly amazing. What a

That is truly amazing. What a fabulous teaching tool. I have never seen this before. This is an inspirational moment for me. I can't wait to practice and try it out. Thank you for sharing such high quality resources.
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clarejmoody's picture

 i aim to be this good at

 i aim to be this good at teaching maths!
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johdu's picture

Yes, I agree. This is

Yes, I agree. This is maths teaching at its best. Certainly something to aspire to.
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blagsie's picture

 I showed this to my very

 I showed this to my very clever year 4 girl and she was inspired to learn the 17 x table by heart!!  
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johdu's picture

That's simply brilliant. 

That's simply brilliant. 

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nmsunsetangel's picture

I love this!  It would be

I love this!  It would be perfect for my 3rd grade SPED class to learn how to associate mneumonic devices for thier basic facts.  It will take me a while to practice it and be confident myself and I'm thinking of just using numbers with magnets on my whiteboard with a line drawn instead of the "stick".  Thanks for giving me another strategy to help my students!
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johdu's picture

It is a great maths teaching

It is a great maths teaching strategy and undoubtedly a bit of a classic. You are right though, it does take some practice, even with those 'simple' times tables we (adults) know so well... the rhythm and the timing are important, and you can see just how positive Jill is with the 'learners'. They feel like they've had a great time, even if they haven't fully grasped everything. No fail maths.
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Doodlesq's picture

I agree with MarionSh -

I agree with MarionSh - saying the times table fact rather than just counting is definitely the way to go with this. However it is a wonderful idea and the children loved doing it - and were all involved rather than the half hearted chanting that I usually get. I am intending to show this at a staff meeting looking at mental maths skills - unless I dare try it with the teachers that is!
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MrsMeow's picture

Genius! Will try the 13 times

Genius! Will try the 13 times table with my smartypants year 5's!
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naomicope's picture

Great! I have been looking

Great! I have been looking for a video of this for ages. I was shown this in an INSET once and really wanted to be able to see it again. Going to be using this with my class now.
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malcolmbellamy's picture

I have just done a blog post

I have just done a blog post about this and I did mention where I first found it but the link didn't work! (I was hoping to pick up a point or two for this). It is a great video and an excellent resource and the post has been favourably received so far... so thank you. To see the post please go to: malbell.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/how-to-learn-the-times-tables-3/
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johdu's picture

 Thanks for the feedback.

 Thanks for the feedback. That's a great looking blog. Sorry the referral link didin't work for you... maybe wordpress removes additional details from the hyperlinks - but I'm not sure.
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auntbessie's picture

This is a fun idea and one I

This is a fun idea and one I will be trying out in class (after a lot of practice!). However, like another comment, I am concerned that the children are just learning numbers in sequence rather than number facts. I will therefore be using it alongside other times table activities to ensure the children can recognise and apply their knowledge out of context and within problem solving.
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oldschoolteacher's picture

A tremendous learning tool

A tremendous learning tool for all senses. Kudos. Thank you.
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This is really brilliant! Who

This is really brilliant! Who would ever have thought I'd know my 17x table! I think this would work for all abilities too because it addresses different learning styles in a great fun way. Thanks for posting it, I'm off to start having a go....
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johdu's picture

Yes, it takes a bit of

Yes, it takes a bit of practice to work through it smoothly (with any times table), but it's certainly worth the effort. Thanks for the comment.
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MichLea's picture

Wow! The kids will love this

Wow! The kids will love this but I think I will need a lot of practice before attempting it with them.
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MarionSh's picture

Inspiring! I followed Jill's

Inspiring! I followed Jill's example and used this to teach 4 times table to my support Year 3 group - they loved it - their reactions were just like the trainee teachers. My only adaption was that rather than just teach them to count (in 4s not 17) I taught them to say each times table fact: two 4s are 8 etc. Many of them then used these facts in their work on farctions which followed in the lesson. Thank you - and Jill - for the inspiration.
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johdu's picture

That sounds like an

That sounds like an excellent, and very worthwhile adaptation - thank you for sharing.
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MarionSh's picture

Great video - shows what

Great video - shows what teaching should be like. One questions - isn't this teaching how to count in 17s rather that teaching the 17 times table? At the end how many in the audience could say what 7 x 17 is? I have children who can count in 2s and 5s but can't recall times table facts - they resort to counting, OK but slow, and doesn't help them spot when a times table fact could be useful.
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nmsunsetangel's picture

We don't want students to

We don't want students to rely on having to carry around a times table all of the time though.  Take a away the stick and a pen and napkin could even be used with these tricks.
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eronleec's picture

I think this is

I think this is amazing....love her way. Im going to start practicing!
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hellyweg's picture

Have you got any tips for

Have you got any tips for learning it or is this just a case of standing in front of the mirror with a stick? I'm really keen to try this out with my class.
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Tina09's picture

Amazing! Fantastic way to

Amazing! Fantastic way to make learning tables fun & memorable. Just off for a bit of practice...
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johdu's picture

Yeah, Jill really cracked it

Yeah, Jill really cracked it with this one. The pace is just right, and the occasional drop of humour helps... but practice is certainly needed to make it flow well and to handle everything with confidence.
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