Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We've been having a really cool conversation on our local unschooling list about timestables.

It's been wonderful to hear of grown-up unschooled children never bothering with them, and yet able to work out the calculations in their own way.

It's also been good to consider why one would want a child to learn them if they weren't coming up in their ordinary lives anyway. I've always enjoyed reading on Sandra Dodd's website about timestables...because it was one thing I wondered how it would work. Mine had been learned by rote, and I did very well at timestables. Plenty of others didn't.

We used to have a Timestables ladder in our class. I never thought what it must be like to have your name at the bottom of that ladder for all to see (all day every day- it was in a very prominent place), beyond being glad it wasn't me.

The idea was that in front of the whole class, a child would challenge someone higher up than themselves, and the teacher would fire timestables at the children, and the winner was the one that answered (correctly) first. I was always at the top, but it stressed me out enormously...I remember lying awake at night imagining how embarrassing it would be if someone beat me- how much the other children would laugh and make a fuss. I had been told I was stupid in school, and to me that stupid ladder kinda proved I wasn't...but the pressure (from myself) to stay on top was horrible. Funny though, that now I can see that was a paltry worry compared to what it must have been like to be at the bottom.

Anyway...I was discussing these recent conversations with my best friend J, when Princess who had been listening in asked, "What are timestables anyway?"

I tried to give a simple definition, then thought it was better to show her. I made a grid, and we filled in the obvious timestables, with Princess noting that it was very boring.

This made J laugh, and said, "Yeah- but the silly thing is- at school you have to do them every day for years, and you've worked out more than half of them in a few minutes."

She lost interest pretty quickly, and maybe I should have thought of a more interesting way to describe them...but really a timestable grid is not interesting (unless you like to notice patterns).

It would be far more interesting to say something like ,"Gaia Cash is $10 ($20 actually in $NZ), if you wanted to buy 3 lots it would cost $30 ($NZ60).

J-Man used to like a particular type of Lego that was $7 a was easy for him to work out how many boxes he could get for the amount of money he could get, because it was interesting and important to him. Not so with 7x4.

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