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August 2008's Articles

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Tackle Those Tables

You'll need a friend for this.

To learn a multiplication table, write out each part on a different piece of paper - quite big and each one in a different colour (6x8=48, 4x8=32, 9x8=72).

Spread them round the room - on chairs, on the floor under tables, on the window sills and spend a few minutes talking about which one is where and what colour it is. Ask your friend to walk to 6x8 and tell you what colour it is and what the answer is. Get your friend to do the same with you.

When you both feel fairly confident, turn them over; try to remember which one was where, what colour it was and what the answer was. Always walk over to where you think the right answer is, give the answer and the colour and then turn it over to check. The act of moving about the room while you learn is important in this task. After a while, you can extend it further by asking "How many 8's in 48 and what colour is it?" and walking over to it.

The advantage of learning it like this is that you can have the skills to use the table as a tool to solve maths problems rather than just learning a number poem.

And it's fun!

Snapshot Spelling

This is a useful system for tricky spellings. Write the word about 5cms high, in different colours to highlight the difficult bits - for instance, beautiful. Draw a line around the outside, close to the letters so that you can see the shape of the word.

Now hold it up, above eye level, either to the left or the right; don't move your head to look at it, just move your eyes. For most people, it's better to have it up on the left, so try it that side to start with.

Look at the shape, which letters go up, which hang down, which are round and which are thin. Notice the colours you have used - how many letters of each colour, then take a snapshot of it with the camera in your head. (We all have a mental camera taking pictures of what we see all the time.)

Now find a spot high up on the wall, to the left if that is where you held it to look at it. Imagine that you have your snapshot up on the wall - see it there. Now, look carefully and think about the LAST letter. What colour was it? How many were there of that colour? Did they go up, hang down? Were they round or thin? Move from the last letters towards the front of the word, always looking at the spot high up on the wall. You will almost certainly find that you can 'see' the word, so you can even call out the letters backwards, so it's really easy doing it forwards.

Post-It Tricksters are wonderful!

So you're working really hard at learning for that upcoming test. You spend ages revising, you put your books away - and what happens? Your brain immediately starts trying to forget what you've been working so hard to put in.

The solution is to trick your brain into revising when it doesn't know it's revising. Place post-it notes of spellings/history dates/difficult multiplications (such as 8x8=64) all over the house (on the fridge door, by the bathroom mirror, on the wardrobe door, front door... everywhere), so that you can't help coming across them during the day. Use lots of colour and pictures wherever possible.

Every time you catch sight of one of these Post-It Tricksters, your brain will snap back to the revision session and reinforce the information.

Some kids feel that they don't want to do this, because they think they won't get a break from studying, but it doesn't work like that - you'll hardly be aware that you are reading these notes. It's just about as painless as revision can be.

Quick, go and buy some post-it notes and coloured pens.