Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Times Tales and Clean 'n Flip Charts

There are some things, I believe, that you just have to know. Like how many quarter cups make a whole. How to tie your own shoes. Where you were born. How to dial 911. Your mom's real name. ("No, 'Mom,' doesn't count, sweetheart.") And, of course, how to multiply.

Let's be honest: there are some math operations that are fairly useless in most people's lives. I have yet to employ much of my higher-level mathematics courses in daily living, but I multiply several times a day. It's just a useful thing, that whole fast adding concept. Kudos to whoever came up with that.

Lower-level multiplication facts are easy. Most kids can pick up on them with little difficulty if they are taught to skip count not just by 2, 5 and 10, but by every number in between. This is one of the selling points to me of the Math-U-See program--they skip count like crazy from the beginning, which makes multiplying old hat by the time that your child gets around to mastering that skill.

Still, even with all that skip counting, my kiddos have sometimes tripped up on the upper level multiplication facts. Enter Times Tales.

I found this product two years ago when I met Dena Wood at a homeschool convention we were both working. She explained the concept behind Times Tales in a way that appealed to the writer in me: attach a story to each math fact, give it a personality, and bingo! It's memorized.

I knew that it would work with Jo, so I invested in the program and wasn't disappointed. Within just two sessions, Jo had cemented each fact flawlessly.

Jo was slightly older than most children are when they get around to multiplying, so I thought I'd try it out with someone on the younger end this time around: Logan. At 6, he's working in the Math-U-See Beta program and doing quite well. He grasps math concepts with ease, but he had never tackled formal multiplication. When I mentioned learning the facts, though, he was thrilled. Anything to be a big kid, ya' know.

I sat down with my boy, introduced him to the characters (such as "Mrs. Snowman" for an "8"), ran him through each story, asked him questions, showed him flashcards and BOOM ... no joke ... twenty-five minutes later, he had memorized all of the upper level facts. And that was it. You can ask him today what 9 times 9 is, and he'll tell you 81 without blinking.

As if you need to be sold on this product any further, let me share this with you: in the process of my working with Logan, ATTICUS overheard the lesson. Curious, he drew closer. Listened in. Joined in the conversation. And ... memorized his multiplication facts.

Incidentally. As in, without even trying.

I wish Mrs. Mormon, my 3rd grade teacher, had clued in to this method and spared me the time drills. Mrs. Snowman is a lot more fun than that darned ticking clock.

The brilliant minds behind Times Tales have also put their heads together to help kids process through chores. The Clean and Flip charts provide a systematic, straightforward approach to breaking big jobs into kid-sized pieces. Using illustrations as well as text, each duty (such as "Cleaning your bedroom") becomes a series of smaller, logical steps that lead to a completed project.

My children enjoyed using the Clean and Flip charts to tackle the bathroom and their bedrooms, but balked at the zone cleaning tips. Apparently, tidying the living room is just too elementary to even consult a chart over in their book. As for me, I really don't care HOW they get it done, just that it GETS DONE.

Because that's what it's all about, isn't it?


~ Angi :) said...

So, is it possible that Mrs. Snowman can teach me my times tables, too?

Emily said...

I used the original version where it had cards and such. (bought it a few years ago) I think that the flip chart would really be useful, as I've since lost a few cards.

I still remember a few little rhymes, so it does work!

mideastmom said...

Sold! My kids are pleased with the Schoolhouse Rock songs, much to my chagrin having invested in the Multiplication Vacation CD *and* DVD. I have to admit, though, the SHR songs are catchier. That said, I'd like them to have some reinforcement, so I'll be investing in Times Tales, as well.

I missed learning the multiplication tables when we moved to England for a semester in 3rd grade. They'd done them in England before I got there and did them in America while I was gone. Review in 5th grade where everyone had to pass the test before the class got a party was killer. Wish I'd had Mr. Snowman.

Liz said...

i just went and bought it ! thanks :)

mary grace said...

Yes, Madame Angi, I think Mrs. Snowman would be happy to help you. I just conjured her image in my own mind yesterday when I multiplied 8 and 7 and the answer seemed wrong. Turns out, I was correct ... they were going one mile over the speed limit! That, of course, will only make sense if you've used the program. LOL!